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Top Protein Bars Reviewed

After attending this year’s Arnold Expo, I had sampled I don’t know how many protein bars as I walked up and down the aisles visiting all the booths from the top supplement companies.  In turn I had collected an arsenal of bars which looked more like an Arnold Trick or Treat bag.  I gathered all the protein bars I had been given to try by the industry’s top supplement companies and mailed them to my home.

Now that I have quite the collection of protein bars, I decided to not only taste them all, but to also go behind the label to look at what these bars are made out of and their packaging claims.  Mind you, there is no scientific research to what I am doing. I’m not a sports nutrition scientist.  The bars I’m sampling are from some of the biggest names in the mainstream supplement industry that you can find in just about any supplement store or on line supplement store.

All I’m doing is tasting them, seeing how my body digests them and taking a close look at the ingredients and providing you with my assessment of which bars get the thumbs up, which ones get the thumbs down based on taste and nutritional quality (although is there really such thing as nutritional quality when it comes to Protein Bars?)

Quick, easy, convenient
As far as I’m concerned, Protein Bars, in general, have no nutritional value so keep in mind, like any other quick, easy, convenient “food”, for the amount of calories you are consuming per bar, you’re not feeding your body quality, nutrient-rich calories.  However, in the scheme of things, a protein bar is much better choice than a Big Mac.

Overall, I have never been an advocate of protein bars and for me, personally, they pretty much have been more of an exception than the rule.  I advocate and prefer a good quality protein shake over a Protein Bar any day of the week.  But, every now and then, they do come in handy and are great to have in times of what I call a “food emergency” and yes, I do carry one around with me in case of “emergency”.

Let’s face it, protein bars are quick, easy, and convenient when you’re on the go or can’t get to a post workout protein shake which is why they’re so popular.

So for those moments when a bar is the only way to go, I will provide an overview of which ones were the best of the bunch and which ones were the worst.  In other words, which bar would Shari eat and recommend?

In the ingredients listed for each product, I have highlighted all forms of sugar and sweeteners to give you an idea of why these bars are sooooo sweet, even when they claim no sugar, no sugar alcohols.

Protein Bars then and now
Protein Bars have certainly changed over the years since the first time I tried one over 10 years ago.  They certainly don’t taste like chalky saw dust anymore and have evolved more into glorified candy bars.  However, the supplement companies know that people are becoming more and more health conscious and are proudly displaying on their labels “no sugar alcohols”, “no trans fats”, “zero sugar”, “low sugar”, “high fiber” which is great, and some have added flax and probiotics to them.

What do I look for in a bar?

Taste:  Let’s face it, no matter how “good” a bar may be, it has to taste good.

Protein: Many of the bars are now higher in protein, 25 grams or more which is what you want, to help with your daily protein intake (which the average person doesn’t consume enough of as it is).

Sugar Alcohols: One of the reasons why I had stayed away from protein bars for many years was due to the sugar alcohols in them which used to make my stomach very bloated and gassy and left me feeling very hungry which is certainly not a good feeling.  Obviously, I want a bar that contains either very low sugar alcohols (less than 10g) or no sugar alcohols.

Sugar/Artificial Sweeteners: The other reason why I had stayed away from them is because some of them contained almost as much or just as much sugar as a candy bar.

While most of the bars I tried scored high marks in taste, several of them tasted so sweet that they sent “zingers” through my teeth despite their “low sugar” or “zero sugar” claims on the label.  I don’t have any cavities, but biting into some of them sure as heck made my teeth feel as if they did, so if they are really low in sugar or contain zero sugar, obviously they do contain a sweetener, more often than not is Sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener.  The question is, how much Sucralose are they using in the product to make it so darn sweet.

Honestly, I’d rather have a bar that has some “sugar” in it than it say low or no sugar.  Why you ask?  Sucralose.  I have to wonder just how much Sucralose is being used to make these low/no sugar products so darn sweet.  I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners.  Quite frankly, I question the long term affect it can have on one’s health.  There are some great articles in Natural Health News about artificial sweeteners if you want to learn more

Fiber: Some of the bars are now advertising that they contain fiber which is always a good thing considering most people are not getting enough fiber in their diet simply because they don’t consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables.

Digestion: Some bars can leave you feeling gassy and bloated if they have too much sugar alcohols, while others will leave an after taste from too many artificial sweeteners.  I want a bar that doesn’t leave me feeling gassy, bloated, repeating on me or have a lingering after taste.

Nutrient Timing:  Because most of these bars can be high in calories, I timed the consumption of these bars after my workout.

Without further ado, here is my assessment of some of the most popular protein bars in the industry.

The Worst Offenders!
I’m going to start off with the more popular bars on the market which get my vote for worst offenders.  Honestly, I’d rather starve before eating one of these.

BSN Syntha-6 Decadence – Peanut Butter Chocolate
I don’t have cavities and my teeth aren’t sensitive, but when I bit into this bar, it sent shock waves through my teeth.  Not only that, but taste wise, it was way too sweet.  Nutrient facts say that it has 12 grams of sugar which isn’t too bad. The 18 grams of Sugar Alcohol is a definite offender in my book.  Of course, it does contain Sucralose as most bars do.  Sucralose is an artificial sweetener and doesn’t count as sugar in the sugar content, however, Sucralose is what sweetens most of the bars out there and there’s no way of knowing just how much Sucralose they are using.  Considering that I found it to be too sweet leads me to believe there is a lot of Sucralose in this product.

Aside from it being too sweet, here are my other “deal breakers” for this bar.  This bar contains 42 grams of total carbohydrates which is a bit too high in my book.  It also has 18g of sugar alcohol.

Let’s go behind the label of BSN Syntha-6 Decadence.

The packaging makes no claims about being low in sugar, low in carbs, no trans fats, etc.

Here is some of the nutritional breakdown


Serving Size: 1 Bar (95g)
Calories 370
Calories From Fat 100
Total Fat 12g
Trans Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 42g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 12g
Sugar Alcohol 18g
Protein 30g

Ingredients: Protein Blend Consisting of: ([Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Milk Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Micellar Casein, Egg Albumen], Hydrolyzed Collagen, Soy Protein Isolate), Caramel Consisting of: (Malitol Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Heavy Cream, Glycerin, Butter, Salt, Natural Flavor, Disodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, and Soy Lecithin), Coating Consisting of: (Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Nonfat Dry Milk Solids, Peanut Oil, Salt, and Soy Lecithin (an Emulsifier)), Maltitol Syrup, Glycerin, Cookie Bits Consisting of: (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Alkalized Cocoa, Salt and Baking Soda), Water, Drizzle Coating Consisting of: (Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Cocoa Powder, Whey Powder, Nonfat Milk Powder, Soy Lecithin (an Emulsifier), and Natural Vanilla Flavor), Peanut Flour, Peanuts, Soy Crisps Consisting of: (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Peanut Butter, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sunflower Oil, Soy Lecithin, Palm Oil, Salt, Acesulfamate Potassium Salt, Sucralose, and Almond Meal.


Supreme Protein Bar – Peanut Butter Pretzel Twist
OK, I’m going to be honest and tell you that I didn’t even bother to take a bit out of this bar.  Once I took a look at the Nutrition Facts that was enough for me to know there was no way I would eat this bar.

Here are my “deal breakers” with this product based on just the nutrition facts.  If I am going to consume 410 calories, I certainly don’t want those 410 Calories being wasted on empty calories.  I can get 160 calories from healthier sources of fat that has nutritional value from nuts, seeds and avocadoes.  While 32g of carbohydrates is better than the 42g in the BSN Bar, that still is too much.  Although it is low in sugar, (6g), the ultimate deal breaker for me is the 22g of Sugar Alcohols which will make anyone feel like they’ve developed a gastro-intestinal problem.

The packaging says Carb Conscious and boasts 30 grams of protein.  Let’s take a look at the Nutrient Facts.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 bar (96 g)
Calories 410
Calories from Fat 160
Total Fat 18 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Total Carbohydrates 32g
Dietary Fiber 2
Sugars 6g
Sugar Alcohols 22g
Protein 30 g


There is the possibility that some of the ingredients in here may be used as a sweetener, but it will take be all day to look up every single ingredient.  I highlighted the ones which are obvious.


ISS Oh Yeah – Peanut Butter & Caramel
I have to admit that this bar was yummy, scored high on taste, and had to really control myself by eating only half the bar as I was very much aware of the calories, sugar alcohols, carbs, fat calories, etc.  Despite all of that,  I can say, yes, this tasted great.  One of the things you need to be careful with when eating some of the bars is that they don’t satiate you which I can honestly say, this bar this bar wont and, it stimulated my appetite wanting me to eat more.

My advice if you are going to eat this particular bar, to help with satiation and cut back on the calories and fat in one serving and get more real nutrients in you, I would recommend that you eat ½ a bar with an apple and handful of nuts.

This bar would be a winner or a contender in my book if it were lower in Sugar Alcohols and had less calories from fat and I didn’t see as many reference to Sucralose in the ingredients.


OhYeah!® Peanut Butter & Caramel

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 85g (1 bar)
Servings Per Container: 1
Amount Per Serving % DV*
Calories 380
Calories from Fat 180
Total Fat 19g 30%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 5mg 1%
Sodium 115mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 10%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Sugars 8g
Sugar Alcohol 14g
Protein 27g 54%
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 10%
Iron 10%
*   Percent Daily Values Based On A 2,000 Calorie Diet.

Ingredients: Peanuts, Protein Blend [(OhYeah!® Blend Consisting of Whey Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Calcium Caseinate), Hydrolyzed Gelatin], Peanut Butter Coating [Maltitol, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Milk Protein Isolate, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Whey, Peanut Butter (Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Dextrose, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil {Rapeseed and Cottonseed Oil}, Salt), Salt, Soy Lecithin and Sucralose], Caramel (Sugar, Corn Syrup, Non Fat Dry Milk, Maltitol Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Corn Starch, Butter, Sucralose, Soy Lecithin, Natural and Artificial Flavor), Soy Nuts, Glycerine, Cocoa Powder, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Lecithin (an Emulsifier), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Salt, Sucralose and Potassium Sorbate Added as a Preservative.

Ultimate Flurry Protein Bar
The Flurry bars are made with candy.  Yes, candy.  They have several flavors, each one featuring a candy, such as M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces and Oreo Cookies.   Despite the fact that they are made with candy, they boast 32g of protein, 8 Net Carbs, Flax Oil and Probiotics.

Here’s the copy ANSI, who is the manufacturer of the protein bar, provides about the product on their website:

Say Goodbye to all those Old-fashioned Protein Bars…
Ultimate Flurry™ Hi-Protein Bars are hands down the best tasting high protein, low carb bar on the market today. When you bite into an Ultimate Flurry Hi-Protein Bar infused with your favorite candy / cookie pieces, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Each bar is loaded with 32 grams of premium protein like whey isolate, only 7-8 net carbs, contains healthy fats (including flax oil), probiotics and 0 grams trans fat. Ultimate Flurry Protein Bars come in three delicious flavors. So, Go ahead and indulge, We dare you!

• 32 grams of Whey Premium Protein Isolate
• Only 7-8 Net Carbs
• Low Sugar
• Flax Oil
• Probiotics
• Zero Trans Fat

Three delicious flavors:
• Cookie Lovers
• Double Chocolate
• Double Peanut Butter

Essentially, I’m looking to avoid candy and cookies, and the Flurry bars are infused with them.  Let’s take a look at the Nutrition Facts


Cookie Lovers Nutrition Facts – Serving Size 91g, Calories 330, Calories from fat 80, Total Fat 9g, Total Carbohydrates 37g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Sugars 4g, Other Carbohydrates 24g, Protein 32g

Carbohydrate Facts listed on their label: For those controlling their carb intake, subtract the dietary fiber (6g) and other carbs (24g), which has minimal impact on blood sugar, from the Total Carbs (37g) in the product, resulting in Net Effective Carbs (7g).

Unfortunately, I’m not able to copy their ingredients from the website, but here is the link for you to look at and see for yourself

Because their products are infused with candy, it does contain High Fructose Corn Syrup and artificial colorings, even if it is in trace amounts, I personally have an issue with that.  Of course it does have it’s usual sweetening code words that all the other bars have.  Yes, it has Mailtol, Glycerine and Sucrose, but, unlike the others, this one contains Sorbitol which is a sugar alcohol, although they don’t list Sugar Alcohols on the Nutrition Facts. It also contains dextrose which in essence, is glucose.

With all the ingredients listed, it is wise to have probiotics in the bar to help the body digest it.

As far as taste is concerned, it was OK.  Definitely not the best tasting bar.  I did notice that after I ate the bar I had an after taste that remained with me for several hours despite drinking lots of water.

The Contenders

The following bars are contenders either due to  ingredients, or nutritional information.

Quest Bar – Peanut Butter Supreme
The packaging on the Quest Bar says No Sugar or Sugar Alcohols Used, High Fiber, No Trans Fats

The Quest Bar didn’t score high marks with me on taste nor did I like how it felt in my mouth. It crumbled in my mouth, kind of like some artificial sugary substance would crumble in your mouth. Being that they are claiming No Sugars or Sugar Alcohols, yet, tasted too sweet for a “no sugar/sugar alcohol product” can mean only one thing, lots of artificial sweetener and, as we know by now, the most popular ingredient in all the bars is Sucralose.

According to the information sheet I got from them, Questbar is Gluten Free.

Questbar claims to “have the best nutritional profile of any protein bar on the market – bar none. We’ve got 20g of protein, 4g non-fiber carbs, and no sugar alcohols or other junk. And most importantly, our bars taste better than any other bar.”

I can’t say that they taste better than any other bar.  Many of the bars I tried tasted much better than theirs.

Let’s check out the nutritional info and ingredients in this bar.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size 1 Bar 60g, Calories 220, Calories from Fat 100, Total Fat 11g, Total Carbohydrates 20g, Dietary Fiber 15g,  Sugar 3g, Protein 20g

Ingredients: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Chicory Root Fiber, Peanut Butter, Dry Roasted Almonds, Water, Raw Almonds, Peanuts, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Lo Han Guo, Sucralose.

Honestly, this bar would be a winner in my book if it tasted better, had more protein, and would be an even bigger winner without the Sucralose.  I’m not an advocate of artificial sweeteners and let’s face it, Sucralose is in just about every protein bar and protein powder on the market.  It would be better and probably taste better if they used natural honey or cane sugar to sweeten the bar, but then if they did, they wouldn’t be able to advertise no sugar.  Honestly, I don’t feel some sugar in the bars is so terrible, provided it came from Cane Sugar or Honey.  I’d be happier with that over the Sucralose.

I do have to give the Questbar high marks for not having a ton of ingredients you can’t understand like most bars do.  It’s also low in Calories and  Total Carbohydrates.

Larabar Chocolate Chip Brownie

I got to admit, that as a person who looks to eat as naturally as possible this bar is a winner!  It’s also Gluten-Free and contains no GMO’s.  However, it isn’t a protein bar.

Nutrition Facts: Serving 45g, Total Calories 200, Fat Cals 80, Total Carb. 31g, Fiber 5g, Sugars 23g, Protein, 4g

Ingredients: Dates, Almonds, Chocolate Chips, Walnuts, Coco Powder, Salt

I love that there’s no Sucralose or Artificial Sweeteners.  Although it is 23g sugar, the sugar is natural from the dates and also from the chocolate chips (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, coco butter and vanilla).  If you’re going to have sugar, this is the way to go.

Loved the taste and it wasn’t too sweet.  What would really rock my world with this bar and to me, be the most perfect, ultimate, protein bar, is if they added 25 or more grams of quality protein to this bar.

Personally, if I were to “plan” on having a Larabar, I would have it post workout with low fat Greek Yogurt or Eggs.

The Winner Is!!!

Eat Smart Protein Bar  – Chocolate Peanut Caramel Crunch
While not perfect (and again, is there really such a thing as a “perfect” protein bar), with all the mainstream choices out there Eat Smart Protein Bar gets my thumbs up.  This one scored very high on taste.  Yes, this bar is very yummy and what sets this bar apart from all the others is that it’s crisp with the right amount of crunch!  I love the texture of it.  Every other bar on the market is gooey and or chewy.

I found it to be very satiating and satisfying without making me feel bloated and not too sweet.

While many of the other products boast no sugar or low sugar, remember, there’s a lot of “garbage” in there to make these no sugar or low sugar products taste sweet and give them their gooey texture.  Remember how I mentioned previously that I wished some of the bars would use Natural Honey or Cane Sugar to sweeten their products instead of Sucralose?  Yes, Eat Smart has 15g of Sugar, and yes, they have all the usual suspects most of the other products have (sugar, malitol, glycerine, etc.) but here’s the kicker.  They’re using evaporated cane sugar!  Although it has Sucralose listed in the ingredients, I’m assuming that it doesn’t contain as much Sucralose as some of the other products have because I don’t taste that residual after taste I get from artificial sweeteners, and, it’s not as overly sweet tasting as many of the other products. Yes, it does contain Sugar Alcohol, but at only 6g, it’s not going to upset your digestive system like some of the other brands that have 15g or more.

Here are the Nutritional Facts for the Eat Smart Bar.

Nutritional Fact: Serving Size1Bar(80g), Calories 330, Calories From Fat 110, Total Fat12g,  Total Carbohydrate 33g, Dietary Fiber 5g, Sugars 15g, Sugar Alcohol 6g, Protein27g

Ingredients: Ingredients: EAT-SMART® Ultra-Premium Whey Protein Matrix™ [Whey Protein Crisp (Rice Flour, Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate), Whey Protein Hydrolysate], Soy Crisps (Isolated Soy Protein, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Reduced Sugar Dark Chocolate Flavored Coating [Maltitol, Palm Kernel Oil, Whey Protein Hydrolysate, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Cocoa Powder, Sugar, Palm Oil, Soy Lecithin (An Emulsifier), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Sucralose], Corn Syrup, Caramel [Glucose, Glucose-Fructose, Sugar, Skim Milk Powder, Modified Palm Kernel Oil, Water, Cream (Cream, Milk, Cellulose Gel, Milk Solids, Carrageenan, Natural Flavor), Modified Milk Ingredient, Glycerine, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Disodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Natural Flavor], Dry Roasted Peanuts, Glycerin, Gum Arabic, Evaporated Cane Juice Crystalline, Water, Peanut Oil, Inulin (Chicory), Peanut Oil, Soy Lecithin, EAT-SMART® Vitamin And Mineral Blend™ (L-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Riboflavine, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cyanocobalamin, Folic Acid, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite), Natural Flavor, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols, Sucralose.

Again, is this bar perfect?  No.  But it does meet most of my criteria.  My idea of the perfect bar would be the all natural ingredients in the Larabar combined with EAT-SMART® Ultra-Premium Whey Protein Matrix™.

Wrap Up
And there you have it.  My review of the most popular protein bars on the market.  After putting myself through this taste test, I don’t want to look at, smell or taste another protein bar for a while and hope you find this protein bar review helpful when choosing a bar.

At the end of the day, when it comes to nutrition, your best bet is to look to eat real, unprocessed, natural foods.

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  1. 10 Comment(s)

  2. By Tabby | Reply

    Have you tried the Luna Bars? They are great when you need to eat in a hurry plus they have natural ingredients. My nutritionist who is a doctor highly recommends this bar as well. I like the fact its not held together with Jello substitutes. Did you research this brand?


  3. By sharifitness | Reply

    I did not review the Luna Bar. I had about 30 different bars, all collected from the Arnold Expo which is the biggest one in this industry. Luna Bar was not there.

    I am looking at their site right now. They do have a “protein bar” but it does not meet one of my criteria for a “protein” bar. It only has 12g of protein and not the minimum 20g I look for. Ingredient wise, it does pass my test. If it had more than 12g of protein in it, it would be a winner in my book.

    Can’t comment on taste as I have not tried one and at this point, I don’t want to look at, smell or taste another bar for a long time. (LOL!)

    Tabby, thanks for the comment and the next time I seek out a bar to try, I’ll check out the Luna Bar to evaluate how it tastes.

  4. By Tom | Reply

    Good information Shari, thanks. I’m hoping Emerald Express will enter the bar market since it’s in desperate need of a whole food product with all natural and organic ingredients and a high quality protein content. For now, everyone will just have to settle for our premium protein powder.

  5. By Verne | Reply

    Have you tried the Bill Phillips protein bar? I am somewhat suspect in your winner since they seem to be the ones that advertise on your site (suspicious by nature)

  6. By sharifitness | Reply

    Hi Verne,
    No, I haven’t tried the Bill Phillips protein bar. What I did was try the 30 different bars I collected at the Arnold Expo by some of the biggest names in the sports supplement industry, so essentially, whoever had a booth at The Arnold that was giving away protein bars, I simply threw it in my bag. Hence, the Arnold Trick or Treat bag.

    Anyway, if Bill Phillips had been there, his bar would’ve been amongst the bars I tried.

    The winner, did not pay me to put their bar on my site, so no, it is NOT a paid advertisement. I merely got the graphic off of one of their ads and put it on my site, enabling you to link to it 🙂

  7. By don | Reply

    Hi Verne,

    Have tried many protein bars. Just found Pure Protein. 20g protein, 2g sugar, 6g sugar alcohol does have some Sucralose and Maltitol syrup(not sure how much) and protein blend inclues whey protein. Overall a great tasting bar with what seems to be limited bad guys.
    Thanks for your reviews.

  8. By Rob | Reply

    The new QUEST Bar has a 100% natural line where they have removed the Sucralose and replaced it with Stevia (natural sweetner). For me it without a doubt THE best natural protein bar on the market now. I think the various tastes are great, especially if you keep it in a bag and it gets warm(or 15sec in the microwave).. As an athlete, this is my #1 pick.
    Thanks for your article, very informative, V!

  9. By hard gainers | Reply

    whoah this blog is magnificent i love reading your posts.
    Stay up the good work! You realize, a lot of people are hunting around for this information, you could help them greatly.

  10. By sharifitness | Reply

    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed this blog and found value in it.

  11. By Mitch | Reply


    Lots of information, thanks. It’d be great if you could have a concise ranking of the bars, I think it would be very powerful for your readers to be able to refer to a “top ten” that helps shorten all of this information. To be honest, I liked the information but it was just too long and in-depth for me to finish reading!

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

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