Are Protein Bars Good For Weight Loss? A Dietitian Answers

By Ellen Landes

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There are so many different kinds of bars available these days, it can be hard to know which ones will support your weight loss goals.

For healthy weight loss, specifically fat loss, I recommend focusing on getting plenty of protein every day, which can get challenging for some. This is where supplements and protein bars can come in handy.

This article will review what to look for when choosing a protein bar, as well as our recommended picks. You can also navigate to our best protein bars for weight loss and muscle gain blog post, where we go into even more details with each bar.

What Makes Protein Bars Good For Weight Loss?

protein bars why they are good for weight loss

High protein diets (1.2-1.6 grams per kg of bodyweight per day, or even higher) have been found to be effective in improving body composition (1, 2, 3).

Eating more protein helps boost satiety from meals, which could lead to less instances of overeating. Additionally, protein also has a higher thermogenic effect than carbohydrates or fat, which means consuming protein boosts the metabolism a little more (4). 

Plus, protein is important for building and maintaining muscle in the body, which inherently raises the basal metabolic rate, or the calories burned at rest (4).

Getting enough protein to support healthy weight loss can be difficult for some. Protein bars are a quick, convenient way to get an extra 15-20 grams of protein, which can make a big difference in overall protein for the day.

What to Look for in a Protein Bar When Weight Loss is Your Goal

protein bar weight loss what to look for

Not all protein bars are created the same, and some can be loaded with added sugars and other unwanted ingredients.

Below are my recommendations for what to look for in a protein bar.

Calories

If weight loss is your goal, chances are you’re focusing on eating in a caloric deficit. For this reason, you’ll want to look for a protein bar that is low in calories, but the specific number of calories will vary from person to person.

If you are looking for a meal replacement bar, it’s okay to have a higher calorie bar, but if you’d prefer to enjoy the bar as a snack, you might opt for a lower calorie option, around 100-200 calories.

Protein

I recommend looking for bars that contain at least 15 grams of protein. A lot of bars on the market label themselves as protein bars, but only contain a small amount of protein, some as low as just 5 grams.

Be sure to read the label and if increasing your protein is your goal, try to find a bar that has at least 15 grams.

Ingredients

Ingredients are hugely important when it comes to any type of food or supplement. Protein bars especially can contain quite a few unwanted ingredients or ingredients that can cause bloating and upset stomach.

It should go without saying, but take the time to read the ingredients on your protein bar first. 

Ideally, the bar should contain a quality protein source like whey, or brown rice and pea protein if you are looking for a plant-based option.

Next, check out the sweeteners used in the bar. Some will be sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, which some individuals may prefer to avoid.

Many bars will also contain preservatives, additives, and other ingredients, which get a bad rap. However, processed foods that contain these ingredients can be a part of a healthy diet and there is no need to avoid these unless you know they do not sit well in your stomach, which can be the case with some ingredients, such as xanthan gum or sugar alcohols.

The bottom line when it comes to ingredients is to read the label and make informed choices!

Taste & Texture (Enjoyability)

taste texture protein bar weight loss

Of course you want to enjoy your protein bar too. Its purpose may be to help boost your protein intake and fill you up, but life’s too short to eat foods you don’t enjoy.

Texture will mostly be a personal preference. Many bars have a very chewy texture, while others may have more of a wafer consistency, and some have a crunchy component.

The taste of protein bars can vary quite a bit too. Lower quality bars may taste somewhat chalky and have an off putting aftertaste, while a good tasting bar might remind you of your favorite candy bar.

You might consider sampling different types of bars before determining which you like the best. To help you get started, below are our top 3 picks for protein bars.

Which Protein Bars Are Great for Weight Loss? Our Recommendations

great protein bars for weight loss

We chose the following protein bars based on their protein content, ingredients, and customer reviews.

Built Bars

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Built bars are a unique protein bar, in that they have a gooey texture, unlike other bars on the market. 

There are quite a few different flavors available, including Caramel Macchiato, Raspberry, Peanut Butter Brownie, Coconut Marshmallow, and more.

Let’s check out the nutrition information for the Caramel Macchiato Built Bar (specific nutrition varies a small amount depending on the flavor):

  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 3.5 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 18 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Sugar: 5 grams
  • Added Sugar: 4 grams
  • Sugar Alcohols: 7 grams
  • Protein: 17 grams

These bars are a great low calorie option for those who are looking to get the most protein bang for their buck.

However, they do contain erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol that is known to cause bloating and gas in some individuals. Not everyone will experience bloating from sugar alcohol, but if you are someone who does, these bars may not be the best choice for you.

The cost for Built Bars is $1.67 per bar, which is pretty affordable in comparison to other bars on the market.

G2G Bars

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G2G Bars are completely natural, gluten-free, preservative-free, and organic. They come in several different flavors, like Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Almond Mocha, and Peanut Butter & Jelly.

All of the bars are nut butter and whey-based, which gives them a soft, chewy texture.

One thing to note with G2G bars is that they should be refrigerated, so they may not be the best choice if you’re going to be out and about for extended periods of time.

As with others, specific nutrition can vary, but let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip G2G Bar:

  • Calories: 300
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Sugar: 15 grams
  • Added Sugar: 15 grams
  • Protein: 18 grams

These bars contain whey protein isolate and a solid 18 grams of protein total. You’ll notice they are higher in calories and fat because of their nut butter content. Don’t let this scare you! Nut butters are a healthy fat source that are low in saturated fats.

Instead of worrying about this bar being high in calories, consider it a more filling protein bar option.

That being said, these bars do contain a higher amount of added sugars, so it’s a good idea to focus on foods lower in added sugars throughout the rest of your day.

The cost for G2G bars is $2.75 per bar, which is fairly expensive compared to others.

1st Phorm Level-1 Bars

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1st Phorm Level-1 Bars contain the most protein out of all the bars on our list, with 20 grams total. The protein comes from a low-temperature processed whey protein.

There are a few different flavors available, including Peppermint Bark, Chocolate Mint Cookie, Peanut Butter Lover, and more. Some reviews mention that some of the flavors are a chewy texture that reminds them of a candy bar, while others are a bit crunchier.

Specific nutrition will vary by flavor, but let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for the Chocolate Mint Cookie Level-1 Bar:

  • Calories: 260
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 6 grams
  • Carbs: 19 grams
  • Fiber: 1 grams
  • Sugar: 4 grams
  • Added Sugar: 3 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams

These bars are in a mid-range in terms of calories, but again, contain more protein than the other bars on our list. They are also low in added sugars, which is a plus, but they do contain maltitol and sorbitol, which are sugar alcohols that could cause some gas and bloating for some.

These also have a bit more saturated fat than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy them. Because saturated fat is linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions, I just recommend keeping an eye on it throughout the rest of the day. 

The cost for Level-1 Bars is about $2.67. It’s important to note that you can only purchase these bars in quantities of 2, or a total of 30 bars per 2 boxes.

When’s the Best Time to Eat A Protein Bar?

protein bar best time to eat

There is really no right or wrong time to eat a protein bar. A good idea might be to plan to have it as a snack during a busy time of day, when you would otherwise not be able to get a good source of protein.

Protein post-workout is incredibly important for kickstarting the recovery process. However, I would not recommend a protein bar immediately post-workout, unless it’s your only option (in which case, go for it). Protein bars often contain fats and fiber, which can slow down digestion.  This is usually a good thing and it means you’ll stay fuller longer, but immediately post-workout, the goal is to get nutrients to your muscles as quickly as possible.

Is It Ok to Eat One Every Day?

You can absolutely eat a protein bar every day. However, whole-food protein is always going to be superior to any supplement or bar.

That being said, it’s not always realistic to prepare and eat another protein source. Consuming a protein bar every day is not going to hurt and if anything, it’ll help improve your overall protein intake, which can support your weight loss goals.

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Are There Any Potential Downsides to Eating Protein Bars for Weight Loss?

Again, in a perfect world, all of your nutrients would be coming from whole foods. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and we’re busy!

One downside, unrelated to nutrition, is that bars can get rather expensive. The bars on our list range from $1.67 to $2.75 per bar, which can add up quickly, especially if you are eating one every day.

Final Thoughts

A high protein diet has been shown to be effective in supporting weight loss and improved body composition. However, reaching the 1.2-1.6 g/kg of bodyweight recommendation every day can be difficult for some.

Protein bars can help bridge the gap by providing a convenient, satisfying snack that adds an extra 15-20 grams of protein to your day.

Protein Bar Tips From an RD

When looking for a protein bar, be sure to choose one that is low in added sugars and contains at least 15 grams of protein from a high quality source, like whey, brown rice, and pea protein.

Additionally, some will contain ingredients, like xanthan gum or sugar alcohols, that can cause bloating and gas in some individuals. If these types of ingredients tend to bother your stomach, look for bars that exclude them.

About the author 

Ellen Landes

Ellen Landes, MS, RDN, CPT is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, and university instructor. She holds bachelor and master's degrees in human nutrition and dietetics and is a certified personal trainer through ACSM. Her writing focuses on evidence-based nutrition, fitness, and other health topics.

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