In the earlier days of my own adventures in fitness, I feasted on protein bars like they were going out of style.
Keeping up with a balanced diet presents enough of a difficult challenge to busy adults; therefore, anything that simplifies this goal—such as a quick snack that’s incredibly high in protein—makes life drastically simpler.
Protein bars are undersized, conveniently portable, and can be left in a gym bag for weeks before passing their expiration dates.
Certainly, the ease with which protein bars can be incorporated into a working professional’s lifestyle makes them a popular choice amongst busy gym-goers, given that they pack lofty levels of protein and an assortment of other important nutrients into small packages.
In addition to the high protein they contain, however, some protein bars may conceal an even higher amount of sugar beneath their claims of nutritional value.
When consumed too frequently, these high sugar levels can produce immense spikes in blood pressure that ultimately cause more sugar cravings.
Keep on the lookout for bars containing dates, dried fruit, and chocolate; these ingredients contribute to the ingestion of unhealthy sugars, and are included only to improve taste.
Taste is an important factor in choosing a post-workout snack, but many popular protein bars use more of these ingredients than necessary.
While ingesting large amounts of sugar is never a healthy choice, some sugars are more harmful than others. The previously mentioned ingredients supply a hearty source of glucose, which is also known as blood sugar and is necessary for body function, but many unnecessarily sweet additives also include fructose and sucrose.
Fructose, which is the sugar found primarily in fruit, produces fat in the body as it is digested. Sucrose, meanwhile, is granulated table sugar. In the body, it splits into both fructose and glucose, which means the body is still getting a dose of harmful fructose when ingesting sucrose.
As an alternative to bars, homemade shakes enable you to control every aspect of a protein-rich snack. Simple recipes including almond butter, banana, and almond milk provide a delicious taste without added sugar.
If portability is a major concern, however, consider investing in some high-quality dried meats such as organic beef jerky. Sure, these snacks are less discreet, but they provide a protein boost along with little to no added ingredients.
As for choosing the healthiest protein bars, if you just can’t cut them out of your diet plan, keep in mind that products with less ingredients are almost always healthier than products with long-winded lists of artificial and unnecessary ingredients.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user jeffreyw.