Updated: June 4, 2015
Protein and Energy Bar Reviews:Back in the late 1980's and early 90's I used to play a lot of tennis and actually traveled on the minor league tour with a friend. He was the first person that was totally into fitness that I met and he introduced me to Power Bars. At the time there wasn't a big selection when it came to energy and protein bars, we pretty much grew up on granola bars. PowerBar burst onto the scene and it seemed that all physical fitness enthusiasts were buying them. I must admit I liked the peanut butter ones but they were definitely hard to get down since they were too concentrated and not chewy enough. I used to deliberately put mine out in the sun to get them to turn into a substance resembling tangy taffy and then I could eat them. Today, the shelves of grocery and health food stores are lined with these energy and protein bars making selecting the best ones hard to do. You will find Balance bars, Luna Bars, Clif Bars, MET-RX bars, Larabars and many more. They all offer some kind of supplement in an easy to eat bar loaded with proteins, fiber, fruits, etc. Some contain too many sugars or carbs for certain diets, but the main point is to replace lost energy and nutrients from working out.
Body builders and avid weight lifters have been taking protein supplements for years, mostly in liquids that they mixed in with powders. I eat energy bars while playing golf, before a tennis match, and while I'm on the trail hiking. Others travel with them on airplanes to keep themselves going on long flights or consume them before a long bike ride. When I started researching energy and protein bars I found countless reviews and consumer opinions on sites ranging from backpacking, cycling, body building, and sports medicine. It seems everyone has an opinion on these bars and it was interesting to see why people chose a particular brand over another. The texture and flavors have definitely improved over the last decade making eating a protein bar an enjoyable experience. I used to get my water ready when eating the first PowerBars years ago since they were so dry and hard to swallow. I prefer the Clif Bars myself because they are very chewy and come in a variety of flavors like chocolate chip, peanut butter, maple nut, oatmeal raisin, apricot, and blueberry crisp. The Clif Bars are made with 70% organic ingredients and contain 23 vitamins and minerals which makes them a healthy alternative to junk foods. Fitness experts are quick to praise all these companies on giving Americans a healthy choice when it comes to eating a balance diet. Organic foods are very popular and most of the companies that specialize in making protein and energy bars realize their target market wants natural, healthy foods. The one thing I do notice is that some people are completely replacing a meal with a "replacement bar" which I think is crazy. All these energy and protein bars are meant for people living a healthy lifestyle and exercising on a regular basis. You should be eating these bars as a way to recover during training for races or tournaments. The main difference in energy bars versus protein bars is that energy bars are meant for athletes training for sports like long distance cycling or marathoners who requires increased bursts of energy. Protein bars tend to be marketed towards weight lifters who need that extra protein for building strong muscles. Not surprisingly, men and women differ on which bars they prefer simply because they are generally looking for different ingredients within the bar. We found two recent articles on Askmen.com and Mensjournal.com which surveyed men on which energy or protein bars they prefer. The Clif Bars came out on top for overall winners in the energy bar competition while the Biotest Grow! bar was another favorite for protein bars. The MET-RX protein bars had mixed reviews so we left them off the results. Too many reviews noted their ingredients and taste as not "that good" compared to the others. For the average person, MET-RX bars are probably over the top and not necessary. Leave them for the avid body builder who needs lots of protein supplements for their daily workouts. The top energy bars as listed on About.com in their Sports Medicine section rate the PowerBar Harvest as #1 followed by the Luna bar and Clif Bar. We did see some results for the Gatorade energy bar but not enough people rated it that high. As for meal replacement bars, we found lots of evidence that says the Snickers Marathon Protein Performance Bar with plenty of carbs and fiber as a solid choice. In some womens surveys we found the Gnu Foods Flavor and Fiber bars coming out on top as well as the Larabar Jocalat Chocolate flavored bars. Women wanted something more "palatable" and "yummy" versus men that were looking for a quick energy supplement and weren't as concerned with flavor. Watch for bars that are gluten free or low in fats if your diet calls for it. Most dieticians say you should limit your intake of these bars to a max of 1 a day and try to eat other foods like fruits and vegetables when giving the opportunity. These bars aren't cheap either, a typical 1.7 ounce Clif Bar will cost you at least a $1 and probably more like $1.30. Some bars are closer to $2 depending on their ingredients and dietary richness. You may pay more for the meal replacement bars since they tend to offer more. We found an excellent selection of energy and protein bars in stores like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Target, and even your local grocery store. For good in depth reviews check out sites like Backpackgeartest.com, Bikeforums.net, Realsimple.com, and Bodybuilding.com. The good news is that the bars are getting better every year with increased selection of flavors and the texture is definitely more palatable. Be sure to read the ingredients closely on the label since manufacturers can pack lots of protein, carbs, sugars, and fiber into a small bar. No need to take in more of a particular ingredient if you don't have to. You can browse the top selling energy and protein bars online here.