Should you eat protein bars?
Nowadays, using protein supplements is very common. In fact, between 30 and 50 % of people and athletes use protein supplements. However, do you know when you should consider protein supplements? (1,2).
In this brief guide, we will answer the query “Should you eat protein bars?” We will provide relevant information like what is the purpose and benefits of protein bars; moreover, the article also presents the general nutritional value of protein bars and how to incorporate them in a healthy diet.
Should you eat protein bars?
There is no clear answer if you should eat protein bars or not; however, you can include protein bars in your diet if you cannot fulfill your daily protein requirements. These are some possible reasons why you might not meet your protein intake (3,4,5):
- Low appetite
- Your diet has too much food to eat all of it
- You are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms like inflammation or discomfort due to high volume of food
- You do not have plenty of time to prepare your food and meet your daily protein intake
Please take into account that you should look for professional advice from a nutritionist before incorporating protein bars in your diet.
What is the Purpose of Protein Bars?
Protein bars were created with the purpose of increasing the protein and energy intake in athletes, and provided with a low portion of food (3,4,5).
Most times athletes need more than 3000 calories a day, which could be a lot of food. Eating too much food could cause gastrointestinal discomfort, abdominal inflammation, and even nausea; these gastrointestinal symptoms could reduce the athletes’ performance during training and competition (5).
Protein bars are made with a high concentration of nutrients, hence, they are an excellent option to introduce a high load of energy, proteins, and micronutrients (if added into the product) in a small portion of food (3,4,5).
Due to the high concentration of nutrients in a small portion, protein bars are less likely to produce abdominal discomfort and reduce performance in athletes (5).
What are the Benefits of Protein Bars?
Protein bars can offer benefits like help to weight management due to the high content of proteins, which usually stimulate your satiety sensation (2,5).
Most protein bars provide you with complete proteins, by using milk’s protein (Whey protein or Casein) or blends of vegetable proteins (legumes like soy, and cereals like rice or oatmeal) (2,5).
Complete proteins are those with all essential amino acids, needed for (2):
- Muscle hypertrophy
- Strong immune system
- Correct metabolism functions
- Create hormones and neurotransmitters
- Create enzymes for digestion and metabolic processes
Moreover, protein bars are added with vitamins and minerals which exert different functions like cognitive development, activate antioxidant pathways in your metabolism, and ensure the good function of your metabolism (6,7).
Is there any Risk of Eating Protein Bars?
As well as almost all foods, there are possible risks about eating protein bars. One of them is presenting an allergy to milk proteins; food allergies can be severe causing anaphylaxis and put your life at risk (8).
Another potential drawback of eating protein bars is the high content of sodium. Some protein bars may provide you with around 0.5 g of sodium each 100 g bar. Taking into account that the daily recommendation is 2.3 g, it could represent approximately 25 % of your recommended intake (5,9).
Unfortunately, the excessive sodium intake is associated with hypertension and higher risks of cardiovascular disease. A high consumption of sodium can increase the volume of your blood, forcing your body to exert more vessel effort to transport that blood (10).
What are Your Individual Protein Needs?
To know your exact protein needs you should consult with a nutrition specialist; he or she will adjust your carbs, fat, and protein requirements according to your activities and goals.
Generally, a healthy person should consume between 0.8 and 1 g per kilogram; while people who do moderate-heavy exercise could consume around 1.3 – 1.6 g per kilogram (2).
What is the Nutritional Content of Protein Bars?
There is no single formula for making protein bars, so the nutritional content may vary in different products. Usually, protein bars are made with the following nutrients (3,4,5):
|Carbohydrates||30 – 40 %|
|Fats||< 15 %|
|Protein||20 – 50 %|
|Micronutrients (B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, potassium)||< 20 % of the Recommended Daily Allowance for each micronutrient.|
Are Protein Bars good for Post-Workout Recovery?
Yes, protein bars can be a good option for post-workout recovery. After exercise, your body requires energy, carbohydrates, and proteins to create new muscle and refuel your energy storage (11).
Therefore, protein bars are an excellent option to ensure a good recovery after an exhaustive workout.
Nevertheless, take into account that you can use foods for post-workout recovery; animal derived foods and milk are excellent options due to their content of high-quality proteins. Check out this article if you want further information about whole foods as post-workout recovery.
How to Incorporate Protein Bars into a Healthy Diet?
The best way to incorporate protein bars into a healthy diet is to use it as a supplement and not a replacement for meals. Even though protein bars are supplemented with micronutrients, you will need other nutrients found in foods (12).
For example, milk and dairy products provide you with vitamin D, essential for a good immune system and good bone health; fruits are a source of vitamin C and fiber, the former is crucial for a strong immune system, and fiber can help regulate your digestion and prevent gastrointestinal diseases (12).
Hence, it is very important to use protein bars alongside a healthy diet with all food groups: dairy products, cereals, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (9).
In this brief guide, we answered the query “Should you eat protein bars?” We provided relevant information like what is the purpose and benefits of protein bars; moreover, the article also presented the general nutritional value of protein bars and how to incorporate them in a healthy diet.
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