When I first started counting macros, I was shocked by how much more protein I would need to eat in order to meet the optimal protein requirement for my body, which by the way is between 0.8 g protein per kg body weight per day.
While my current numbers weren’t reflective of my goals, which were to lose weight and gain muscle, I knew I could optimize my diet to bump that number up to where it needed to be. And, the great news is that it didn’t mean I was doomed to eat endless amounts of bland chicken breast to get the job done.
I set out on a mission to try every protein bar I could get my hands on so that I could find the best options to help support weight loss and muscle growth. Great news: I succeeded!
The following 4 protein bar options made my list of my tried and trues. I eat most of these on a regular basis and they have helped me reach my goals with ease and without ever sacrificing taste. Today, I’m sharing that list with you so that you, too, can up your protein intake and find a product or two that you love.
Recommended Protein Bars for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain For Women (If you're in a hurry) Table
Can Protein Bars Help You Lose Weight and Gain Muscle?
For many women, losing weight can feel like an endless battle. So many of us were brought up thinking that we need to eat as little as possible in order to achieve the body of our dreams. Thankfully, the world is changing, education is increasing, and more and more resources are available for us to refer to in order to understand our bodies, our aesthetic goals, and what it really takes to achieve them.
One of the biggest myths that is currently in the process of being debunked in the women’s wellness world is that a focus on protein intake will result in us looking like bodybuilders. Protein is not just for those who want to look jacked, it’s for all of us, and it plays a critical role in our body composition. Most women, whether they recognize it or not, would like to lose fat and build muscle, we refer to this as body recomposition. But how do we achieve that?
Well, we all know that the equation for weight loss is calories in < calories out. What most of us don’t know, however, is that not all calories are created equal. When we dig into the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats, we understand that protein can be one of the most important nutrients at play in weight loss and muscle development.
Protein is actually one of the most important nutrients for weight loss, studies have shown. A diet higher in protein has been found to increase weight loss benefits for those looking to shed excess fat and gain muscle. Eating in a way that prioritizes protein leads to an increase in satiety (you’ll feel fuller for longer) and can also help to maintain and build lean muscle tissue, which is what we want to build a healthy, fit shape.
So, yes, protein bars can indeed help you to lose weight and build muscle, especially those that are high in quality protein and low in fats and carbs. Next, let’s take a look at the key considerations you should be thinking about as you select the right protein bars for you.
What to Look For in a Protein Bar
Not all protein bars are made alike. In fact, my first few experiences with protein bars left a bad taste in my mouth, literally. There’s no shortage of options out there, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: the ones you can get from the checkout line at your local grcoery store aren’t usually that great.
In a pinch, any protein bar will do when you need a satisfying snack that helps you reach your goals. But when you’re seeking bars that you can stock up on and make a staple in your diet, here are a few things to look for:
Taste is a big deal when it comes to protein bars. I mean who wants to choke down something that tastes like chalk? I promise you, there are bars out there that contain plenty of protein, but don’t taste as they do. You can find flavors that suit all different kinds of taste buds and occasions. The taste has to be great or you won’t eat them and enjoy them.
Following closely in taste’s footsteps is texture. Most protein bars have a gritty, chalky texture to them. So even if the taste isn’t half bad, the texture is hard to swallow. A good protein bar has a consistency that mirrors that of a regular granola or candy bar. It’s one that’s easy to chew and doesn’t make you want to gag.
Macro Breakdown and Calories
The first thing I do when considering a protein bar option is flip to the back of the bar and check the nutrition label. I look at how many calories it has and how much protein is in it first and foremost. Some bars that are higher in calories will also be higher in protein, which is just fine. However, a bar that’s high in calories but low in protein usually indicates that the fat and carb content is high, so make sure it’s in alignment with your nutrition goals.
Most protein bars use whey protein but if you’re vegan, plant-based, or sensitive to whey, you’re going to want to make sure that the option you choose is in alignment with your dietary needs.
The Four Best Protein Bars for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain for Women (And Why We Picked Them)
Alright, we made it to the good stuff. Below are my top 4 choices for protein bars that can help women with their weight loss and muscle gain goals. I have personal experience with all of these bars and am proud to stand behind each of these selections.
1. 1st Phorm Level-1 Bars
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1st Phorm’s Level-1 Bars come in at the top of my best list because they are made with the highest quality ingredients and integrity out there. In general, 1st Phorm has the best supplements, so I always recommend taking a look at what they have to offer to help you reach your goals. And their protein bars are no different (same with 1st Phorm protein powder).
With 20 g of low-temperature baked protein and a crave-worthy taste and texture, these bars are so easy to fall in love with. There are several flavor options to choose from, including several seasonal flavors that debut throughout the year.
Each Level-1 bar has around 260 calories, which is pretty consistent with most other protein bars out there. The Level-1 bar makes a great post-workout snack or grab-and-go option to have on hand when hunger inevitably strikes.
I find that these bars fill me up longer than most others, likely because of the quality of the protein source. Because these bars are low-temperature processed, the proteins are able to maintain their integrity, which means you get the most out of it.
Some Level-1 bars are a little chewier and others are a little more crunchy, depending on the flavor. Personally, my favorites are the Chocolate PB Pretzel and Birthday Cake. These two flavors always hit the spot!
Plus, this American company holds itself to extreme standards when it comes to the quality of their products and the level of customer service they provide, which makes you feel amazing about the entire experience.
2. G2G Bars
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If you’ve ever dreamt of a protein bar that tastes like a homemade cookie, you’re going to need to stop what you’re doing and immediately add a box or two (or three) of G2G Bars to your cart. I was blown away by G2G Bars the first time I tried them and the obsession hasn’t stopped since.
G2G Bars are hand-crafted in Utah and have the following brand motto: “better ingredients, better life.” These bars are rich in clean protein, healthy fats, and are naturally sweetened and gluten-free. The goal of these protein bars is to allow you to enjoy a decadent treat while helping to keep you full and satisfied throughout your day.
Each bar contains around 300 calories, which is definitely on the higher end, however, they have 18 g of high-quality protein and about 14 g of healthy, natural fats. One look at the ingredients label on G2G Bars will tell you that you’re eating a bar that’s full of healthy, natural ingredients that you can pronounce and trust.
Again, there are several flavor options to choose from, including options with peanut butter or an almond butter base. My favorite flavors are Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Almond Oatmeal Cookie, and my favorite way to enjoy them is with a hot cup of coffee post-workout, but these bars are awesome any time of the day! Quick note: G2G Bars need to be stored in the refrigerator but can be left at room temperature for a period of time without worry.
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3. Built Bars
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Rounding out my top 3 are Built Bars. These are another staple in my diet, especially when I am in a bit of a cutting phase (calorie deficit) because they have such incredible macros. Built Bars are a totally unique protein bar, offering more of a candy bar consistency than a protein bar. Think Three Muskateers and nougatt.
Each Built Bar has around just 150 calories and 17g of protein, which is incredible! Plus, they are very low in carbs and fat making them perfect for a macro-friendly diet. There are tons of flavor options to choose from and they are constantly releasing new ones.
Built Bars has gone through its share of growing pains, receiving criticism for inconsistency, however, they have really committed to turning things around. I’ll be honest, I have been a fan for years and am more than happy to stick with them because I love the product that much. There just isn’t anything else like Built Bars on the market!
My favorite flavors include Coconut Brownie Chunk, Cookie Dough, Cookies and Cream, and White Chocolate Birthday Cake. Each bar has a real chocolate coating and a soft, chewy, and creamy inside. I eat one of these every single night as my treat before bed, satisfying my sweet tooth without blowing my macros for the day.
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4. Aloha Bars
This one is for my plant-based friends. Aloha Bars are some of the best plant-based protein bars out there. There are a lot of plant-based bars out there, and most of them simply don’t cut it, in my opinion. But Aloha Bars are the real deal.
With around 14g of plant-based protein and an average of 230 calories, Aloha Bars are a great option for those looking to lose weight and build muscle. All Aloha products are organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and Certified B Corp making them an ideal choice for anyone who has food allergies and/or intolerances.
Of course, a protein bar can look great on paper but taste awful and not be worth it. Luckily, Aloha Bars are incredibly tasty. There are several flavor options to choose from, with seasonal favorites like Peppermint White Chocolate released during the holiday season.
Aloha Bars are perfect for on-the-go snacking and between-meal eating as they are high in protein to keep you feeling full and low in fats and carbs to help you make progress towards your weight loss goals.
Who Should Be Adding Protein Bars to Their Diet?
Protein bars aren’t just for bros at the gym looking for max muscle gains, they’re for us, too, ladies! We’ve been led to believe that protein will inevitably cause us to balloon up with big ‘ole shirt-splitting muscles. Of course, this is just a myth that’s been dispelled time and again by industry experts.
So, to answer who should be consuming protein bars: anyone who has a protein goal and isn’t able to hit it with whole foods along. I know that if I spoke with any of the RDs on my team, they would all tell me that they recommend a whole food first approach to nutrition, meaning if you can get all the nutrients you need from your diet, then you shouldn’t need any additional supplements.
However, they’re also aware that, for many, eating your body weight in protein each day can be difficult. I mean, there’s only so much chicken breast and greek yogurt a girl can eat in a day, amirite?
Protein bars are a tasty and effective way to sneak in the extra protein your body needs without needing to spend hours meal prepping each week or be stuck eating boiled chicken before bed each night to hit your intake goals. Instead, a protein bar or two per day can allow you to take your protein on the go, creating an easy way to help hit your mark while losing weight and building that lean muscle mass you desire.
What Are the Benefits?
The benefits of adding protein bars to your diet include:
- Convenience: Bars are easy to grab, easy to store, and simple to take just about anywhere.
- Taste: If you choose one of the top 4 protein bars I recommended here, then you’re definitely going to enjoy the taste aspect.
- Help hitting your goals: Whether your goal is to lose fat, gain muscle, or both, increased protein will help you achieve it.
Safety and Side Effects
In general, protein bars, especially those on this list, are considered safe for consumption by the general public. Of course, should you have any special dietary restrictions and/or health concerns, you should always consult with your doctor before adding protein bars to your diet plan.
One side effect that people who aren’t used to eating a lot of protein sometimes run into is gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating, and constipation. These side effects can be caused by the increased protein in and of itself, but it can also be an issue with the type of protein for some people. There’s a population of people who are sensitive to whey protein. If you find that whey gives you tummy issues, I recommend trying a plant-based option like Aloha Bars.
Losing weight (fat) and gaining muscle is a very common goal for many women. After all, this outcome leads to a better body composition which not only looks great aesthetically but is also conducive to us living a fitter and healthier life.
The four protein bars on my list represent my top choices based on years of trying seemingly every option on the market. For me, I put a high value on taste and consistency because I use protein bars as a “treat” in my diet, not something that I need to choke down just to hit my protein goal.
The 4 options I outlined above are my tried and trues and I’m super excited to share them with you! If you try any of these, be sure to come on over to our private FB Community and share your thoughts! Plus, we’ll keep you posted on any sales, deals, and new flavor launches!