Are Protein Bars Just Candy Bars?

protein bars
October 10, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are protein bars just candy bars?”. Many people believe that protein bars are incredibly healthy and some even binge on them.

However, protein bars are not as healthy as a lot of people believe. I will be exploring this topic in detail in this article. 

Are Protein Bars Just Candy Bars?

The truth is that protein bars are similar to candy bars but they have a far higher amount of protein. Every protein bar is different as well – some will have macros that are a lot more similar to candy bars than others.

Protein bars are a convenient way of getting in extra protein and carbs for people who have busy lifestyles and workout regularly.

When purchasing protein bars you should look for a high protein content and preferably a whey source. You should also look for low sugar and good healthy fats, with a decent amount of carbs as well. 

By making good choices with regards to which protein bar to consume, you will get much better nutrition that eating a candy bar. That said, whole unprocessed food choices are better than both candy bars and protein bars. 

Protein Bars Have Less Sugar And More Protein

Protein bars do have less sugar and more protein than candy bars. This is the big difference, however the sugar content and protein content of different brands vary.

Some protein bars may have higher sugar contents than others. The table below show the protein and sugar content for popular companies that sell protein bars. 
Name Of Protein Bar Sugar Content Per Gram Protein Content Per Gram Protein Source
Quest Nutrition 0.33g Whey Protein Isolate
Optimum Nutrition 0.03g 0.33g Whey Protein Isolate
Grenade 0.03g 0.33g Whey Protein Isolate
Barebells 0.03g 0.36g Milk Protein
MyProtein 0.03g 0.38g Soy Protein Isolate and Whey Concentrate

The leading brands are all similar in terms of nutritional information for their protein bars. My personal favourites are Quest bars and Grenada bars. These companies are very reputable and their protein bars taste very good.

In addition the macros are favourable -low sugar and high protein. Whey protein isolate also comprises the protein source. Whey protein is preferable to other forms of protein such as soya. I will discuss this later in the article. 

What Are Your Dietary Goals?

When assessing whether protein bars are right for you, it is important to be aware of your dietary goals. If you are someone that eats very healthy, only consumes natural foods and wants to know every ingredient that they are consuming, then protein bars may not be for you.  

Protein bars do contain a whole plethora of different ingredients. There are also some alcohol sugars in very small amounts. They are intended for people who need an additional boost of protein and carbs to meet physical demands.

If you don’t do much physical activity then protein bars would be unnecessary. Overall, good choices of protein bars are a lot healthier than candy bars. Protein bars are effectively a supplement and should not be used to replace whole food meals.

Soy vs Whey Study

Soy and whey are different protein sources. Some protein bars contain a whey protein in isolate or concentrate form, others contain soy protein. Whey is superior to soy and therefore you should stay away from protein bars containing soy as the predominant protein source.

I will now outline a study that concurs with this line of reasoning. There was a study in Nutrition Journal in 2004 comparing soy protein bars and whey protein bars for effectiveness in terms of lean body mass and antioxidant status.

Male subjects aged 19-25 were recruited for the study from the Ohio State University for the 9 week period. All subjects were experienced weightlifters with at least 1 year of more experience of strength training.

All subjects were put on a strength training program for the 9 weeks. Some were on workout 1 and others on workout 2. Both workouts were identical with the exception of the order of exercises. Halfway through the program subjects switched – those on program 1 moved on to program 2 and vice versa.

Subjects were assigned to either a soy, whey or control group. The results of the study showed that the subjects that had been assigned to either the soy or whey group experienced a significant increase in lean body mass.

The whey group had the biggest increases in lean body mass. 

study findings

Whole Unprocessed Foods Are Best

It is best to consume whole unprocessed foods instead of protein bars on a regular basis. Protein bars are great as a treat and supplement to your diet. They are also very convenient when you are on the move and hungry.

However, you shouldn’t become overly reliant on protein bars and derive too much of your protein from them. The same is also true with protein supplements like whey protein, casein protein or beef protein. 

Most of your protein should be coming from whole foods like meat, eggs, etc. 
In my case, I only consume protein bars on the days that I workout. I don’t eat any protein bars on days off from the gym.

Final Thoughts

Are protein bars just candy bars? To reiterate, some protein bars are indeed glorified candy bars with added protein. 

It is important to choose wisely, my personal favourites are Grenade and Quest. You simply cannot go wrong with these. The macros are favourable and they also taste great.

The research shows that for best results you should go for protein bars containing a whey protein source over soy protein bars. Whey is more effective than soy in terms of adding more lean mass to your frame.

Finally, be sure not to become overly reliant on protein bars. Like any other supplement, they are designed to provide a boost to your nutrition. Don’t consume protein bars instead of whole food choices. Just use them to supplement your protein and carb needs when you are very active.

If you have any comments on this topic, please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> RELATED: Optimum Nutrition Protein Powder


Brown, E.C., DiSilvestro, R.A., Babaknia, A. et al. Soy versus whey protein bars: Effects on exercise training impact on lean body mass and antioxidant status. Nutr J 3, 22 (2004).

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