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Best protein bar 2023: The best-tasting protein bars from £12

Matt Breen Matt Reed
7 Mar 2023

Need a protein-rich snack post-workout? Look no further: here are the best protein bars you’ll find on the market

Protein, protein, protein: it’s everywhere. Gone are the days when it was only hardened gym-goers who you saw tucking into the stuff – nowadays, protein is available in both solid and liquid form on supermarket shelves. If your muscles are in need of replenishment after a workout, the best protein bars are a quick, easy way of stocking up on that much-needed macronutrient.

But you should look beyond any shiny packaging, as there are many protein bars out there that aren’t actually all that good for you. Lots of bars contain just as much sugar as protein, for instance – an ingredient that can easily add inches to your waistband rather than your muscles.

Luckily, we’ve put together this guide to finding the right protein bar, which includes a list of the best bars out there right now.

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How to choose the best protein bar for you

What should I look out for on the ingredients list?

Obviously, the main type of ingredient you’re interested in is protein, but you need to be on your guard for less healthy ingredients that might be hidden in the bar too. In particular, it’s a good idea to look for what’s known as “macronutrient composition” – the proportion of carbs, proteins and fats.

Most protein bars contain somewhere between 15g and 25g of protein and it’s important to know how much protein you’re getting per calorie. The majority of good bars contain about 200 calories for 15g of protein to around 250 calories for 25g of protein. Keep an eye out for fibre levels, too, since this roughage is something lots of people don’t get enough of in their diets. Five grams and above is a good amount.

What ingredients should be avoided?

If you’re working out, a certain amount of calories shouldn’t be a worry since you’ll quickly burn them off. (If you’re on a committed weight-loss fitness programme, though, you might be best off avoiding bars in favour of natural protein-rich foods such as eggs, nuts and lean meats.)

However, the important thing to watch out for is an abundance of carbs, since that means you’re looking at an energy bar, not a protein bar. These are great to snack on ahead of a workout session, or during endurance activities such as biking or hiking, but they won’t necessarily help you with exercise recovery and building muscle mass. Then there’s that old troublemaker: sugar. This is never a good thing and you’ll generally find more of it in cheaper bars.

What difference does the type of protein make?

You’ll find many different types of protein in the average protein bar. But you needn’t worry as much about the particulars as you would with protein powders because the rate of absorption is far slower in solid form and when paired with dietary fats and fibres.

How much should I spend on a protein bar?

The price of protein bars varies wildly and things can get costly if you’re eating them regularly. Avoid bars down at the very bottom of the price spectrum: not only do they taste pretty ghastly, but they’re made with poorer ingredients too. You won’t find any of these in our roundup below.

Of course, everyone has different amounts of cash to spend, but if you’re incorporating protein bars into your diet on a daily basis or several times a week, it’s a good idea to plan in terms of the long-term costs. Buying in bulk online, rather than one-off purchases from the vending machine at the gym will help significantly when it comes to getting value for money.

What else should you look out for in a protein bar?

Unfortunately, the final thing you ought to think about isn’t something you can determine from the label and that’s how tough they are on your teeth. Seriously, the sheer chewing involved with some protein bars amounts to a workout in itself.

Also, in lots of protein bars you’ll find that makers swap out natural sugars for sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol as they bring down the calorie count. These substances can cause an upset stomach for lots of people, so take a look at the ingredients list if your gut is particularly sensitive.

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The best protein bars to buy

1. Barebells Protein Bar: The best-tasting protein bar

Price: £23 for 12 bars | Buy now from Amazon

Barebells’ protein bars taste as good as they look, and given the eye-catching retro style of the packaging, that’s a big plus in our book. The range contains eight tasty flavours, with crunchy fudge and white chocolate almond being the standouts for us. That range also includes two delicious vegan options: salty peanut and hazelnut nougat.

That great taste would be for nought if Barebells hadn’t also nailed the texture of the bars as well, with each being just the right level of gooey to satisfy without straying into the annoyingly chewy category that many protein bars fall into.

The key stats are as impressive as the taste and texture too, with 20g of protein per 55g bar (15g protein in the vegan bars). The sugar content is low at 1.9g per bar, and each contains around 200 calories. As a bonus, you also get a solid amount of fibre, with some flavours containing over 4g per bar.

Key specs – Weight: 55g; Protein per bar: 20g; Flavours: 8

2. Optimum Nutrition Protein Crisp Bar: The best low-sugar protein bar

Price: From £15 for ten bars | Buy now from Amazon

These bars are almost unbelievably sweet and satisfying considering that there is a measly 1.8g of sugar in each 65g serving, and they do a great job of bringing to mind the Rice Krispies snacks that were a highlight of many childhoods. That nostalgia hit is achieved by Optimum Nutrition putting a layer of puffs on top of a chocolate base, and the combination of textures is a surefire winner.

The nutritional stats make for happy reading as well. Each bar has 20g of protein and just 215 calories. Another huge bonus is the massive 13g of fibre – that’s almost half of your recommended daily intake of 30g. Do be aware, however, that the lack of sugar is compensated for by a load of artificial sweeteners, which can cause stomach upset.

Key specs – Weight: 65g; Protein per bar: 20g; Flavours: Chocolate brownie, marshmallow, peanut butter

3. Kind Protein Bar: The best treat protein bar

Price: From £12 for 12 bars | Buy now from Amazon

The Kind Protein Bar definitely shouldn’t be your first choice if you really want to pack the protein in because there’s only 12g of it in each one. But the flip side is just how good it tastes. That’s what happens when you make a snack bar out of peanuts, almonds and dark chocolate – a fantastic respite to the often indistinct and synthesised gloop inside lots of protein bars. Also, what these bars lack in protein they make up for in fibre, with 4.9g in each one. Snack on these ones if you fancy a well-deserved treat after a workout.

Key specs – Weight: 50g; Protein per bar: 12g; Flavours: Crunchy peanut butter, double dark chocolate, toasted caramel nut

4. M&M’s Hi Protein Chocolate Bar: The best chocolate bar replacement

Price: £21 for 12 bars | Buy now on Amazon

If you’re stocking up on protein bars to use as healthier alternatives to traditional chocolate bars, you’ll be pleased to know that several big confectionary hitters have started to release high protein versions of their bars. Along with this M&M’s bar, there are also Mars and Snickers protein bars to consider if you’re worried about your overconsumption of the traditional chocolate snacks.

The M&M’s bar does a great job of capturing the flavour of the real chocolate sweets, and there are large M&M’s chunks in the bar itself. With 15g of sugar per bar, it’s not quite as healthy as the other protein bars on this list, but is a slight improvement over going for a regular chocolate treat and still tastes great. Each 51g bar contains 15g of protein and the peanut version is a little higher in calories at 207 compared to 182 for the chocolate M&M’s protein bar.

Key specs – Weight: 51g; Protein per bar: 15g; Flavours: Chocolate, peanut

5. Barebells Vegan Protein Bar: The best vegan protein bar

Price: £23 for 12 bars | Buy now from Amazon

Forget the cardboard-like consistency of other vegan protein bars, Barebells’ Vegan Salty Peanut variety provides something different: a delicate chew on a delicious, Snickers-esque bar that’ll have you devouring each in seconds.

You won’t find the high sugar content of a Snickers though, nor the dairy content, since it is kept to just 0.9g per serving – with a promise of ‘no added sugar’ beyond the naturally occurring bits – which is pretty impressive. Especially considering you get 15g of protein (soy, pea and rice) too; not the best numbers, but certainly top tier in the vegan world. Like sugar, calories are also kept to a minimum at an excellent 215 while still providing a sizable 6.3g of fibre for that all important roughage.

There’s 1g more of fat and 0.1g more of sugar in the equally tasty Vegan Hazelnut Nougat flavour, though we’d recommend sticking with Salty Peanut if you’re after the ultimate vegan bar experience.

Key specs – Weight: 55g; Protein per bar: 15g; Flavours: Salty Peanut, Hazelnut Nougat

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