Table of Contents
Every health-conscious person knows protein is an essential building block when it comes to both enhancing and recovering muscle. But we also know that some of the top protein bars hold their rank because of what’s in them, not because of how good they taste.
Fortunately, there are good tasting protein bars out there—finally protein bar brands have heard our plea and answered us with options that don’t taste like chalk or worse.
What’s the best protein bar for guys looking to bulk up? Here we’ll lay out the best tasting protein bars of 2019 plus discuss why the nutrient is so critical for weightlifters and gym goers.
Why Protein Matters for Building Muscle
Protein is a necessary component for all bodies, not just those of bodybuilders. Even if you’re not cutting or bulking, protein promotes biochemical reactions at the cellular level. Proteins handle bodily functions like digestion, energy production, blood clotting, and muscle contraction—important stuff no matter who you are.
also helps send messages throughout your body in the form of hormones. Testosterone is a steroid-based sex hormone that needs protein for production. Protein bars for men have a purpose beyond filling their bellies before a workout!
Protein is also beneficial for helping maintain your bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin and keeping everything flexible and supple. It delivers energy to your body—the same amount as carbs do—but doesn’t impede your weight loss progress.
Your body’s pH and fluid balances also depend on acceptable protein levels—so keep snacking on those high protein bars between workouts and hydration breaks.
Benefits & Uses of Protein Bars
Many popular protein bars combine candy bar-like flavors and high calories for an equally high-carb snack. And while carbs aren’t all bad, if you’re cutting, you won’t want to inundate your system with unnecessary bulk.
And the key benefit of protein bars is that you can cut out all the junk and only consume what your body needs for optimal function. Instead of extra sugar and other fillers, the best protein bars for weight loss and muscle gain contain only healthy and natural ingredients with a purpose.
According to experts, athletes need between 1.2 and 1.8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day.
If you’re having trouble reaching that target with healthy, low-fat foods like fish, chicken, turkey, milk, yogurt, eggs, or peanut butter, one of these new protein bars might help you meet your daily nutrition goals.
The best pre-workout protein bar will keep you satiated but not overfill you before a workout, while the best post workout protein bars contain other ingredients for replenishing your body’s nutrient stores and helping you recover.
Keep in mind, however, that even the best high protein bars aren’t always healthy when consumed daily. Check out the nutrition facts on your bar and make sure you’re enjoying a well-balanced diet, too.
Consuming tons of extra calories, fat, and sugar won’t help your body get more muscular—even if the bar packs a handful of protein alongside the empty calories. So, what are the best protein bars for bodybuilding? Read on for details.
Best High Protein Bars
Each Quest Protein Bar contains 21 grams of protein, 14 grams of fiber, and only four grams of net carbohydrates. A single bar clocks in at 200 calories and is kosher and certified gluten-free. Quest are some of the best-rated protein bars in terms of both taste and nutrition content.
With countless flavors—everything from Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to Birthday Cake to Maple Waffle to S’Mores—there’s something for everyone to enjoy without feeling too guilty about it.
Quest Protein bars are also one of the best whey protein bars, using a dairy-based protein blend plus soluble corn fiber, water, natural flavors, and erythritol sweetener in each flavor.
Sure, some flavors are more palatable than others, but many of the options are pretty tasty, especially considering the lack of sugar and “junk” fillers. That said, all the bars are satiating without being too heavy for a pre-workout snack.
Of course, if you shy away from sugar, many flavors may taste too sweet thanks to the erythritol and stevia blends in varying recipes. That said, Quest has been around a while and made the best protein bars list back in 2017 too.
California Gold protein bars come in a range of fruity, nutty, and chocolatey flavors to indulge everyone’s sweet tooth without overdoing it. Each bar tops out at around 190 calories with around eight grams of plant-based protein and two to five grams of fiber.
Naturally sweet ingredients like date paste, honey, raisins, and cane sugar help sweeten each bar and add to the flavor. To some of us, the flavor is closer to that of a candy bar or other treat, but some guys won’t like the excess sweetness. After all, this is a protein bar and not a wimpy granola bar.
That said, the price is right at about a dollar per bar, and you can’t argue with nut-based protein from peanuts, almonds, and other nuts. Fiber comes from chicory root inulin, and pea protein helps add some bulk and crunch to the formula.
Granola options help you feel like you’re munching on a standard snack bar rather than a dusty protein slab, so if that appeals to you, California Gold might be the best-rated protein bars in 2018. They’re also good protein bars for plant-based dieters.
BSN’s protein crisp bars are a heavy-duty protein option that’s one of the best protein bars for men looking to bulk up. Not only does each bar pack about 22 grams of protein, but they also top out at over 200 calories per bar—closer to 240 for most flavors.
Carbohydrates are relatively low at around 20 per bar, but there’s not much fiber to offset that figure, either. And for those who care about the details, the ingredients list is fairly extensive with fillers and modifiers like agar, soy lecithin, artificial color, and soy protein isolate.
Flavors like Strawberry Crunch, Mocha, and Vanilla Marshmallow might just convince you this is a candy bar and not a protein bar, and that’s likely because the dairy protein blend plus starches that make each bar crunchy.
Nothing dry or crumbly exists here—just fresh and crunchy with brown rice, tapioca starch, roasted coffee, and similarly whole-food yet delightfully crispy ingredients. That’s not to say those are the only ingredients, but they do help add to the bar’s flavor and texture appeal.
MusclePharm Combat Crunch bars offer boutique flavors (Birthday Cake, Double Stuffed Cookie Dough, White Chocolate Raspberry, or Cinnamon Twist anyone?) with 20 grams of protein and low carbohydrates. Net carbohydrates come in under 20 grams in most bars thanks to the high fiber content, and the bars are all gluten free.
The multi-layered protein bars are flavorful and have the consistency of a cookie rather than a wafer or block that requires gnawing. Calorie counts come in just over 200, which isn’t bad for a bar of this size. The price, however, isn’t cheap: each bar costs around $2.
Ingredients like the whey-based protein blend, chocolate liquor, and nuts create a palatable bar that doesn’t digest like a rock through your gut. Whether it’s pre- or post-workout, MusclePharm’s bars are one of our favorites.
For some consumers, though, the average of five grams of sugar per bar is a bit much. To most of us, though, it’s an acceptable tradeoff for a decently flavored protein bar that won’t break our teeth.
Pure Protein bars might be a bit trim for those of us looking to bulk up, but at under 200 calories and around 20 grams of protein, there’s not much to dislike about these bars. Low sugar and carbohydrates (under 20 grams of carbs) and a gluten-free recipe make them versatile.
Flavors are limited, but chocolate is a staple, so most consumers will appreciate the four flavor varieties. You might liken the flavor to that of a typical chocolate-dipped granola bar, which isn’t bad considering how much protein is in each bar.
At the same time, the ingredient list is pretty exhaustive, with everything from canola oil to glycerin to heavy cream. Five grams of fat per bar may not seem like much, but in combination with the ingredient list, we’d have to say the Pure Protein bars will always make the top 10 protein bars list, even if they’re not in the top slot. They’re not the healthiest protein bars of 2018, but they sure do taste good.
Pure Protein recommends drinking at least eight ounces of water or another liquid when you consume the bar. For some of us, that limits our ability to snack on these before a workout, though if you’re an athlete who always hydrates properly, you likely won’t experience any issues with that guideline.