Are Protein Bars Really Healthy?
Gas stations, Convenience stores, Grocery stores, supplement shops, even local Ice rinks/ recreation centres have one thing in common, they supply local consumers with access to protein bars. Since the 'high protein diet' craze, it has become the societal norm to consume protein bars on throughout the day, when you're on the go and have no time for organized meals. The RDA for protein intake in an average individual is between 0.8-1.2g of protein/ kg bodyweight. This means that me at my weight of 92kg would have to consume on average 92g of protein per day. Since I am trying to cut my weight, I'm consuming closer to 2.2g/kg per day (Will go into more detail about why this is in a future post). Some days, especially the busy ones, this can feel like its almost impossible. You're running around and can't have a full meal with 20-30g of protein. Protein bars have found a way into the market by trying to solve this problem, by consuming protein bars, individuals are ensuring they're consume a higher intake of protein than they otherwise would.
This is good right? Well natural-activists might have opposing views about source of ingredients, due to lack of organic produce in most high-protein nutrition bars. On one hand they do have a point, protein bars in most cases, are not going to be high in the same variety of micronutrients as natural produce. We also have reason to believe that your body is less reactive in breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from these scientific innovations as opposed to whole foods.
"Gotcha, so that means protein bars are bad for me?"
Wrong. While I will not deny any of the above stated facts, much like with everything in nutrition, there are pros and cons but there are very few absolutes. In this case, protein bars were not created with the intent of replacing all wholesome meals, well kind of. Protein bars were actually first created in the 1960's as a nutritious meal option for astronauts to be able to consume something substantial with good flavour on the Apollo moon landing mission. Protein bars have changed a lot since their first introduction to the public market as "Space Food Sticks," including but not limited to their name and appearance. The original protein bars were presented as a perfect balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats which differs greatly from bars found in stores today with low fat, low carb, high protein formulas. While "Space Food Sticks" might not be the most attractive marketing, the premise of nutrition bars solve a lot of everyday nutrition problems including:
1. Packed with protein- which as you know helps with muscle protein synthesis and helps to keep you full throughout the day.
2. Very convenient packaging of protein bars allows for consumers to bring a bar with them, no refrigeration or freezing required, the bars will maintain their stiff, cylindrical structure.
3. Protein bars are a great vehicle for providing consumers a wide variety of flavours all while fitting into many diet-specific categories (i.e. low carb, high fibre, peanut-free, vegan etc.)
Protein Bars might be a great source of macronutrients for when you're on the go, however they aren't perfect. Protein bars usually don't have a wide spectrum of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) available to you. Furthermore, its incredibly important that when consuming protein bars, that water is often being introduced alongside it due in part to the fact that some bars might dehydrate your body, as opposed to fruits and vegetables which in most cases perform the opposite. That being said, Space food Sticks or protein bars, make for a great snack when on-the-go or when participating in many forms of exercise. Afterall, their uses now involve managing blood sugar levels, keeping energy level in balance, and maintaining hunger to prevent mood effects associated with hunger. By consuming high protein snacks you're able to maintain your level of physical and cognitive performance throughout the entirety of your day without the sugar crash! As always I hope you enjoy the read, planning to make some more informative content in the future across different mediums, as always, if you'd like I attached a few references to the bottom of this post for your perusal!
TL;DR-> Protein bars are a great convenience snacks and sources of nutrients that can fit every dietary pattern and help especially if you're an incredibly busy individual that doesn't have time to stop what you're doing and have a snack. They're not perfect, and we should always prioritize whole foods, however in a pinch protein bars are great and perfectly healthy for you!