Is your post-workout protein bar really that healthy?

And keep one eye on the amount of sugar hidden within each bar

Our habits are changing. If you’ve read our previous articles, you’ll have noticed that there is a trend towards healthier food products and supplements such as protein powders and other energy bars. We want to make sure we live longer, hit our goals harder and reduce weight, so naturally, seek out ‘healthy’ snacks between meals.

This modern sea-change has resulted in a boom in the ‘health’ foods market, to the extent that two-thirds of American’s eat snack bars from health food stores (including your regular supermarket). But, really, how healthy are these foods? According to a leading consumer reports group we need to make sure we read the label on each bar. Carefully.

Consumer Reports analysed 33 different bars and found that a healthy number of these bars (pun intended) does not actually live up to their ‘healthy’ billing. Just 6 of the 33 bars tested received a favourable rating for nutrition. As a guideline, the bars considered healthy are within a radius of between 150-200 calories, 3+ grams of fibre and 3-6 grams of protein, unless you do a lot of resistance training, of course. But for the sake of the consumer report, this is not included.

Of main concern was the quality of protein included. A lot of the added protein came from soy isolates, rice, or peas and added fibre content came in the form of chicory root or corn, which isn’t ideal as these ingredients are highly processed and do not contain vitamins, minerals and other healthy compounds you’d get from eating the actual foods.

One final concern is the amount of added sugar. When we look at the label we do not always see ‘sugar’ listed clearly, so other ingredients to look out for in addition to looking at the amount of sugar as well is agave syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose syrup, honey and tapioca syrup.

While some of these ingredients may seem healthy, such as honey, we still shouldn’t consume that much in our diet and can easily push us over our daily intake. If you’re going to plump for this, make sure they contain purely fruit and if you’re looking for added sugar, make sure it’s towards the end of the ingredients list and again, check the table to see how much sugar is in your bar in general. Try looking for a snack bar which has under 10g of sugar in total.

In keeping with general advice, whole foods are better and if you do a lot of resistance training or cardio then you may want to add extra protein or energy supplements, but again just check the ingredients to make sure you’re getting the right quality and amount of ingredients.

See the Consumer Reports findings in more detail.


About Author

Alex is a keen fitness and nutrition enthusiast, residing in the US, and contributes to travel, fitness and nutrition tips, news and other interesting tidbits.