As a traveler, on the go, starving most of the time... I sometimes reach for the pretty packaged bars at registers all over airports. The bars are packaged to be sold. They are always labeled with the good stuff like protein content and natural ingredients. But... How Good Are they really?
Sitting next to these bars are another very familiar bar. A candy bar. Though the wrappers are much more traditional, much of the nutrition facts seem to be quite similar. Lets explore... I researched the nutrition facts of a few popular protein bars against some candy bars on calorie count.com and found some similar facts.
First off, Protein content of the 'Protein' bars actually blew the candy bars away.. No surprise right. All bars contained 20g of protein and most Candy bars had only 3-5 g or less. So kinda good that at least you are getting that. But... how much are you absorbing ? WE will get to that in a second.
Fat. Saturated fat. That is really where Candy bars are stand out above most bars of the protein variety. Due to most ingredients in the Protein bars, the whey protein they use is low in fat compared to the oil content of the Candy bars.
Fiber... Yeah fiber. That good stuff that allows your gut to preform the way it should. You can eat all the protein you want but if there is no fiber in the Protein bar, it basically turns into a candy bar in the gut. Because most protein bars are built off whey protein with a high level of sucrose or fructose and not many contain a 'high-level' of fiber.. 5+ grams; The result is an insulin spike the same way Candy bars react in the body. So beware that the brand you buy may not be giving you any more than a candy bar does!
Vitamins and Minerals is another realm of Protein bars that set them apart from candy bars. Some are fortified with supplemental vitamins and minerals and some also (like KIND bars) are naturally higher in minerals than others. Circling back to the Fiber amount, little can be absorbed without fiber so... there we go again.
At the end of the day I always look at monetary value. Am I getting the most protein for the money. Simply. The answer is no. Candy bars and protein bars are different and yet very similar. Shitty thing is also they are both expensive in airports!! Yeah like 3+$$ for a bar. Couple that with a bottle of water and a generic piece of fruit (apple or banana) and you are looking at a 10 dollar meal. For 10 $ I have found that packaged lunch meats and a bag of nuts or a sandwich is relatively the same price and offers a closer resemblance to 'REAL' food. Protein bars are still a processed food product and should be treated as such.
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