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Best protein bars 2022: Boost your energy on-the-go

best protein bars
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With such a dizzying array of choices, finding the best protein bars can be an overwhelming task. Ideally, we would want a protein bar that’s tasty, inexpensive and beneficial for our health. In reality, we often spend a lot of money and end up with a snack that falls short of our expectations. So which protein bars will satisfy our taste buds and keep our wallet happy? Which brands make products that are best aligned with our health and fitness goals? And what should we look for in a great protein snack? To answer all of your questions, we personally tried and tested an array of products to compile a list of the best protein bars that will tick all of your boxes. 

But first, what is protein? Protein molecules are the building blocks of our bodies –  they are essential for growing and healing our tissues. Protein function is determined by the combination of amino acids in its structure. There are 26 different amino acids. Our bodies can produce most of them themselves, but nine amino acids can only be obtained from food, hence why they are dubbed as ‘essential’. If they’re missing from our diet, we may struggle to grow and maintain our muscles. 

What the experts say

“The benefits of protein bars are endless, but the most prominent is the convenience of them,” says David Stache, a nutritionist at Warrior (opens in new tab). “You can get up to 20g of protein in one bar that can be thrown into your bag or kept in your pocket for when you are on the go.”

That’s when protein supplements can come in handy. They’re designed to top up your intake with the right type and amount of amino acids. Many come in powder form and can be a great addition to milks or desserts. Check our guide to the best protein powder or the best vegan protein powder if you want to avoid animal-based products, for our top picks of those on the market. If you're a fan of a smoothie or shake, you can also check out the best protein shaker.

However, powders and drinks may not always be practical and that’s where the best protein bars can come in.  Here are the best protein bars available on the market right now, covering a wide range of budgets, dietary requirements and fitness goals.

How we tested

All of the protein bars in this guide have been tried and tested by the Live Science team. Firstly, we looked at the ingredients list and nutritional values, to judge who the bars would be suitable for in terms of health goals and dietary requirements, as well as any artificial ingredients or nasties. We then judged the taste and texture, including only those that passed out taste tests. We also looked at the size of the bar in terms of its value for money.

Best protein bars

Misfits Plant-Powered Protein Bar

misfits plant-based protein bar

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Misfits Plant-Powered Protein Bar

The best protein bars for vegans

Specifications

Bar size: 45g
Calories : 200
Protein: 15g
Carbs : 20g
Sugars: <1g
Fat: 9g
RRP: $2.50-$3.50, depending on the retailer/$28 for a box of 12
Available flavors: 11, including birthday cake, dark chocolate raspberry, peanut butter & jam and white chocolate cookie butter

Reasons to buy

+
Low sugar content
+
Outstanding taste
+
Perfect for vegans and vegetarians

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively expensive
-
Bar on the smaller side
-
Not suitable for people allergic to soy

Misfits focuses on producing protein snacks, protein powders and dietary supplements that are 100% vegan and planet-friendly. The company has recently undergone a rebranding process, revealing new flavors (including mint choc chip) and new, more sustainable packaging. 

Misfits protein bars come in 11 different flavors and boast a great nutritional value. A single serving contains nearly 5mg of iron (26% Daily Value) and 30mg of calcium (3% DV), as well as 12g of chicory root and beet fiber, both known for their great prebiotic properties. Taste wise, they are outstanding, and our favorite of all the protein bars in this guide. The chocolate brownie flavor in particular is deliciously rich, and so moreish we were tempted to tuck into another. The new mint choc chip flavor is also a must-try – even members of our team who aren’t keen on mint chocolate were won over.

Misfits bars could be a great choice for those who want to lose weight too. Not only are they low in calories and sugar, they are enriched with green tea extract, which may promote fat burning and aid weight maintenance, according to one Cochrane review. Though relatively small in size, each protein bar provides a 15g dose of pea and soy protein. The only downside to Misfits bars is the relatively high price tag. Also, many may not like the fact that they’re sweetened with xylitol and stevia, which can give a bit of a bitter aftertaste.   


ONE protein bars

One protein bars

(Image credit: Future)

ONE protein bars

The best budget protein bars

Specifications

Bar size: 60g
Calories: 230
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 23g
Sugars: 1g
Fat: 8g
RRP: $7.99 for a box of 4/$24.99 for a box of 12
Available flavors: 18, including almond bliss, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin pie, white chocolate truffle, cookies & cream and pecan butter

Reasons to buy

+
Gentle on stomach 
+
Small number of ingredients 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two available flavors 
-
Stevia flavor rather overpowering 

When you think of Hershey’s, the first thing that will come to your mind are its highly popular sugary snacks, rather than fitness supplements. But you may be surprised to find out that this company also makes protein bars.

ONE protein bars come in an array of flavors, including rare gems like pumpkin pie, pecan butter and cinnamon rolls. Made with milk and whey protein isolate (which is easy on the stomach), they pack 20g of protein in a single bar, while keeping their sugar content very low. A single serving contains 3g of fiber and nearly 102mg of calcium (8% Daily Value). ONE protein bars are quite affordable and widely available in many stores across the country. The downside is the presence of artificial sweeteners: maltitol and sucralose.

Texture wise, ONE protein bars are very similar to Quest, in that the bar is one texture throughout, rather than having multiple different layers. However, they are coated (the birthday cake flavor even had sprinkles). They are surprisingly dense too. The flavors don’t quite live up to expectations – peanut butter was nutty enough, but lacked the ‘wow’ factor of other brands. But for the price and accessibility, ONE bars are a good option if you’re looking for a reliable, on-the-go snack that packs a protein punch.


Quest bar

Quest protein bars

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Quest bar

The best protein bars for post-workout

Specifications

Bar size: 60g
Calories: 200
Protein: 21g
Carbs: 21g
Sugars: 1g
Fat: 9g
RRP: $2 to $4 for a single bar (depending on retailer)/$29.98 for a box of 12
Available flavors: 16, including birthday cake, chocolate brownie, lemon cake, blueberry muffin and peanut butter brownie smash

Reasons to buy

+
High in fiber
+
Multiple flavors to choose from
+
Good bar size

Reasons to avoid

-
Contain artificial sweeteners
-
Relatively expensive
-
One texture throughout 

Quest Nutrition’s dizzying array of protein-enriched foods, from cookies to chips, are widely available in many stores across the country. The brand prides itself on catering to all needs and preferences and their protein bars are no different. They come in 16 flavors, including rare gems like lemon cake, blueberry muffin and chocolate sprinkled doughnut. All of their products are also free of gluten and artificial preservatives. They’re vegetarian, but not vegan.

Nutrition-wise, Quest bars are great all-rounders. A single serving contains less than 1g of sugar and packs nearly 21g of whey protein as well as 14g of fiber, making it suitable for both bodybuilding and weight loss purposes. On top of that, one Quest bar delivers nearly 120mg of calcium, which neatly covers almost 10% of your recommended Daily Value. However, to balance out the low sugar content, these protein bars are sweetened with several different sweeteners, such as stevia, erythritol and sucralose. Though safe to ingest, they may have laxative effects if eaten in excess.  

Texture wise, Quest bars are on the denser side. If you’re at home, you may like to heat the bar up in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it.They are one texture throughout, so if you want more of a chocolate-bar style snack with layers of caramel or ganache, this might not be for you. Having said this, their density makes them a great snack to keep in your bag, because you don’t have to worry about them getting squashed. Flavor wise, they’re really good – sweet without being too sickly. We liked the chunks of chocolate in the cookie dough flavor too. The bars are a good size, and left us feeling satisfied but not bloated. 


RXBAR

RXBAR protein bar

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RXBAR

The best natural protein bars

Specifications

Bar size: 52g
Calories: 210
Protein: 12g
Carbs: 24g
Sugars: 15g
Fat: 7g
RRP: $2.49 for a single bar/$6.89 for a box of 4/$25.99 for a box of 12
Available flavors: 12, including chocolate sea salt, blueberry, vanilla almond, peanut butter, mixed berry and banana chocolate walnut

Reasons to buy

+
Short ingredient list
+
No artificial additives,  preservatives or sweeteners 
+
Free from gluten and GMOs

Reasons to avoid

-
Low protein content
-
High in natural sugar
-
Very chewy

RXBAR’s mission statement is to make high quality products that only contain ingredients derived from real foods. All of their products are free from artificial additives, preservatives and sweeteners, easily making them the cleanest protein bars on our list. 

RXBAR protein bars come in 12 different flavors, including all-time classics like chocolate sea salt and peanut butter. For this review, we picked the blueberry flavor. Although made with just five main ingredients – dates, egg whites, almonds, cashews and blueberries – it’s a surprisingly filling and satisfying snack. Texture wise, we found it surprisingly chewy (note: don’t take a big bite, as this did get stuck to the roof of our mouths). We liked that the bar contained slices of nuts, rather than blending them all into the mixture. The dates sweeten the bar just the right amount too, with no synthetic taste that some protein bars can have.

Though marketed as a protein snack, a single RXBAR bar provides only 12g of protein. Due to the lack of sweeteners, it’s also very high in natural sugars. As a result, it may not be the most suitable option for those who want to lose weight. But with nearly 60mg of calcium (4% Daily Value), 460mg of potassium (10% Daily Value) and less than 1g of saturated fat per serving, it’s still a much healthier option than your regular snack bar.


Clif bar

clif protein bar

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Clif bar

The best protein bars for hiking

Specifications

Bar size: 68g
Calories: 260
Protein: 11g
Carbs: 40g
Sugars: 17g
Fat: 8g
RRP: $1.55 for a single bar, $16.99 for a box of 12
Available flavors: 17, including coconut chocolate chip, blueberry crisp, vanilla almond latte, mint chocolate and chocolate brownie

Reasons to buy

+
Organic ingredients and natural sweeteners 
+
High in prebiotic fiber
+
Good bar size

Reasons to avoid

-
High in sugar and calories
-
Low protein content

The company behind Clif bars made sustainability one of its primary objectives – and it shows. From a nutritional standpoint, there’s loads to praise these protein bars for. They’re free of GMOs, artificial sweeteners and unnecessary additives. Clif bars are made mostly with organic rolled oats, peanut butter and soy rice crisps, and they’re sweetened with a range of natural sugar syrups, including brown rice, tapioca and cane syrup. A single serving contains a whooping 2mg of iron (10% Daily Value) and nearly 5g of chicory fiber, which is a great prebiotic that benefits your good gut bacteria. 

Though Clif bar ingredients are of amazing quality, their macronutrient ratio may not be to everyone’s liking. Packing nearly 260 calories and 17g of sugar per bar, they may not be the best option for people whose primary goal is weight loss. What’s more, Clif bars are relatively low in protein –  only 11g per serving –  and because of that it’s probably more suitable to describe them as ‘energy bars’ rather than ‘protein bars’. This is why we think they’re a great option for those who enjoy a long hike, but don’t necessarily want to pack a load of bulky food with them. 

Clif bars come in a wide range of flavors and are available in two different sizes: regular and minis. We tried the regular size in peanut butter flavor, which really did taste like we’d just had a spoonful of the real thing. The texture is great too –  not too crumbly, but not too chewy. These are a great option for those who do a lot of endurance sports, and want a quick energy boost.


Grenade Carb Killa

Grenade carb killa protein bar

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Grenade Carb Killa

The best protein bars that taste like a regular chocolate bar

Specifications

Bar size: 60g
Calories: 226
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 20g
Sugars: 1.4g
Fat: 9.5g
RRP: $29.94 for a box of 12
Available flavors: 12, including fudge brownie, jaffa quake, peanut nutter, birthday cake and dark chocolate raspberry

Reasons to buy

+
Low in sugars
+
Good bar size
+
Multiple flavors to choose from

Reasons to avoid

-
Low fiber content
-
Not suitable for vegetarians
-
Artificial sweeteners

When it comes to the fitness industry, Grenade is widely known for its range of health foods and dietary supplements. Grenade protein bars, their flagship product, come in 12 flavors – and some of them sound rather intriguing, like peanut nutter or caramel chaos. For the purposes of this review, we tested their highly popular selection pack so we could trial a range of flavors.   

Grenade bars are great all-rounders. Each bar contains nearly 20g of whey and milk protein and only 1.4g of sugar, making it suitable for most types of physical activity. At the same time, a single serving provides only 2g of fiber and no additional vitamins, minerals or functional ingredients. It’s also artificially sweetened with maltitol and sucralose. 

If it’s a luxurious, dessert-like feel you’re after with your protein bar, Grenade delivers just this. We’d actually pick this bar over most traditional chocolate bars, because it delivers a variety of textures and a smooth chocolate coating on each bar. Out of all the flavors we tested, we liked the salted caramel and white chocolate cookie the most.

Frustratingly, it’s worth noting that Grenade bars are not suitable for vegetarians as they contain hydrolysed beef gelatine. 


MyProtein Layered Protein bar  

myprotein layered protein bar

(Image credit: Future)

MyProtein Layered Protein bar

The best protein bars

Specifications

Bar size: 60g
Calories: 220
Protein: 20g
Carbs : 19g
Sugars: 4g
Fat: 9g
RRP: $3.49 for a single bar / $36.99 for a box of 12
Flavors: 6: birthday cake, chocolate brownie, chocolate coconut, chocolate peanut butter, cookies and cream and peanut butter & jelly

Reasons to buy

+
Low in sugar
+
No artificial colors or preservatives 
+
High in fiber

Reasons to avoid

-
Not suitable for vegetarians
-
Expensive
-
Contain artificial sweeteners

MyProtein needs no introduction. A household name and a fitness retail giant, it sells everything from dietary supplements to exercise equipment. If you’ve ever set a foot in the gym, most likely you’ve come across their products in one way or another. Recently, MyProtein released a new series of layered protein bars and we decided to give them a thorough test. 

Layered protein bars come in six different flavors, including all-time classics like chocolate brownie and cookies & cream. Each bar contains nearly 20g of whey and milk protein, 4g of sugar and 9g of fiber, making it a perfect snack for those embarking on a weight loss journey. A single serving of MyProtein bar also provides nearly 171mg of calcium (15% Daily Value), 2mg of iron (10% Daily Value) and 179mg of potassium (4% Daily Value). 

Although these bars don’t contain any synthetic colors or preservatives, they are artificially sweetened with isomalt and sucralose. It’s also worth noting that MyProtein Layered bars have hydrolysed bovine collagen listed in their ingredients, which makes them unsuitable for vegetarians. Another downside is the price – they are one of the most expensive snacks on our list. However, a draw is that you can purchase individual bars, rather than having to commit to a pack of 12.


Pure Protein

pure protein bar

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Pure protein

The best protein bars for weight loss

Specifications

Bar size: 50g
Calories: 180
Protein: 21g
Carbs: 17g
Sugars: 3g
Fat: 4.5g
RRP: $1.99 for a single bar / $8.94 for a box of 6
Available flavors: 9, including chocolate peanut butter, chocolate salted caramel, lemon cake and marshmallow crispy treat

Reasons to buy

+
Low calorie content
+
Low in sugars
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Low in fiber
-
Not suitable for vegetarians
-
Contain artificial sweeteners

If you’re after a protein bar that has more than 20g of protein and less than 200 calories, look no further than the Pure Protein range. Made with whey and milk protein isolate, each bar contains 2g of fiber, 100mg of calcium (8% Daily Value) and 2mg of iron (10% Daily Value). Pure Protein bars are affordable and come in nine different flavors, including staples like chocolate peanut butter and chocolate salted caramel. However, the low sugar content is balanced out by the addition of several artificial sweeteners sucralose, maltitol and sucrose. Moreover, Pure Protein bars contain hydrolyzed collagen and therefore are not suitable for vegetarians. 

We felt that the Pure Protein bars were a little on the smaller side compared to others on the market. However, this does make them a good snack option for those embarking on a weight loss journey. Inside, the texture is fairly dense, but not as chewy as some of the other more budget-friendly bars. We did like that the chocolate deluxe flavor was coated in chocolate though, which made for a nice treat with our morning coffee.


Bulk Macro Munch

Bulk macro munch protein bar

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Bulk Macro Munch

The best protein bars

Specifications

Bar size: 62g
Calories: 224
Protein : 20
Carbs: 21
Sugars: 2.9
Fat: 8.4
RRP: $3.12 for a single bar/$31.26 for a box of 12
Flavors: 7, including millionaires shortbread, heavenly chocolate honeycomb and cherry bakewell

Reasons to buy

+
Good bar size
+
Relatively expensive
+
Great texture

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher in carbs
-
Relatively expensive

If varied texture is a must for you when it comes to the best protein bars, Bulk’s Macro Munch are triple layered and soft baked, without being excessively chewy either. We tried both the Millionaires Shortbread and Chocolate Honeycomb flavors, and liked that the coated outer layer came with sprinkles on top for added crunch. Despite being one of the largest protein bars we tested in terms of weight, we didn’t feel too full or bloated after snacking on one of these either. However, Bulk does label the Macro Munch as ‘gourmet’. While they’re definitely tasty, we felt this was a slight exaggeration 

Each bar contains 20g of protein (a combination of milk and soya), less than 4g of sugar and 6g of fiber. The good news for vegetarians is that the bars don’t contain hydrolyzed collagen, unlike some other brands. However, the ingredients list is quite extensive, so if you’re looking for a protein bar with minimal ingredients and very few added sweeteners, this might not be to your liking. 

As a company, Bulk is also committed to delivering products with minimal environmental impact, so it has transitioned 90% of its packaging to more sustainable alternatives. Plus, if you don’t eat dairy, they also offer a vegan protein bar that’s equally as tasty.

How to choose the best protein bars

When choosing the best protein bars, most people tend to focus on two factors: flavor and price. And no wonder. Protein bars are definitely more expensive than regular snack bars. It’s also quite challenging to find a protein snack that doesn’t have the characteristic dry texture and flour-like aftertaste. At the end of a day, we want to enjoy our bar, just like we would any other snack. However, not all protein bars are healthy and a few more aspects need to be taken into account when assessing a protein bar. There are three more criteria to look into: the types of ingredients, the quality of the protein blend used, and the ratio of macronutrients in a single serving. 

It’s probably not surprising that the protein content is the key factor. The amount and type of this macronutrient will determine the quality of the bar. However, it’s worth noting that more does not necessarily mean better. Our bodies are limited in terms of how much protein they can utilize for muscle building purposes. According to a review published in The Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition (opens in new tab), eating more than 25g of protein in one sitting can be counterproductive as the excess will be either burned for energy or deposited as fat. At the same time, you don’t want a bar that’s high-protein only in the name. 

“A lot of brands will market themselves as ‘high protein’ but will not actually have much in them at all,” says Stache. So to get the best results, aim for bars that contain approximately 20g of protein per serving. 

woman eating a protein bar at her desk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another important aspect is the type of protein blend used. The vast majority of brands choose to enrich their products with whey protein and milk protein isolate, because these blends have a great amino acid profile and tend to absorb well in the stomach. On the other hand, consuming them in high doses can lead to abdominal cramps and digestive issues, particularly in sensitive individuals. At the same time, bars that are based on wholefood protein sources may be more stomach-friendly, but their amino acid profile may not be that great. 

Not keen on whey? Vegans and those intolerant to dairy may opt for plant-based protein sources. In this case, versatility is key. Pea, hemp or rice protein isolates on their own may not deliver the right type and amount of amino acids to effectively stimulate muscle growth, despite being excellent protein sources. However, a mix of several different plant-based sources will ensure a high quality protein profile that will be comparable to animal-based products.        

The next factor to consider is the bar’s calorie content and the amount of sugar in a single serving. The best protein bars contain no more than 5g of natural sugar and are sweetened with natural sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners will cut down on the calorie content, but they could also be harmful to your health if eaten in access, triggering digestive issues, particularly in individuals with a sensitive gut. Nevertheless, if you’re bulking and trying to grow some serious muscle, your body needs a lot of energy. In that case, protein bars with higher calorie and carbohydrate content may be more suitable to support your fitness goals.   

Finally, it’s best to avoid protein bars with multiple food additives and preservatives. Producers know how to hide them and it may not always be easy to spot the artificial components on the ingredients list. However, Dr Claire Shortt, nutritionist and scientist at FoodMarble, has a simple solution. 

“A rule of thumb is if it's hard to pronounce, it’s not likely to be natural, and more likely to be an additive or preservative,” she says. 

The benefits of using the best protein bars

Using protein bars is an easy way to help you grow and maintain your muscles, but that’s not the only health benefit to come with it. They can also assist with appetite control, weight loss and metabolism. 

“Protein bars help to make you feel full and this might help prevent frequent snacking due to a steady energy supply,” says Shortt. Multiple studies back this claim. According to a review published in Physiology & Behavior (opens in new tab), protein consumption can have a beneficial effect on several different hormones that regulate appetite and blood sugar levels. Furthermore, many protein bars have been specifically designed with dieters in mind. Low in calories and simple carbohydrates, they make a perfect snack for anyone who wants to lose weight and limit their sugar cravings. 

man sat eating one of the best protein bars

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What’s more, protein bars can be highly beneficial for our digestive health and immune system by acting like a prebiotic. “Protein bars can be a handy source of dietary fiber,” says Shortt. “They can also cause an increase in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These are a superior source of energy, protection, and maintenance for our gut and help our body to function properly. They also aid in fighting inflammation and improving glucose tolerance.” 

Not least, certain protein bars are enriched with additional compounds, such as minerals, vitamins, or herbal extracts. As a result, they can be considered as functional meal replacements - in a very convenient, compact form.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.

Anna Gora
Anna Gora

Anna Gora is a Health Writer for Future Plc, working across Coach, Fit&Well, LiveScience, T3, TechRadar and Tom's Guide. She is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach with nearly 10 years of professional experience. Anna holds a BSc degree in Nutrition from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, a Master’s degree in Nutrition, Physical Activity & Public Health from the University of Bristol, as well as various health coaching certificates. She is passionate about empowering people to live a healthy lifestyle and promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet.