Best protein bars 2020: fuel your fitness or power through paleo with these snacks
For big gains and paleo-friendly snacking
Finding the best protein bar can be a little difficult as 'protein bar' is a bit of a catch-all term. These days if you go into your local health food shop or supermarket you'll see there are lots of products touting their protein benefits – but it doesn't mean they taste good or are actually good for you.
UPDATE: Grenade has expanded its offering and you can now get a Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel variant. We've tried them and they taste great. We're still not sure how Grenade makes its bars so you don't get that doughy feeling when you eat them, but we reckon this flavour is one of their best yet. Given the explosion (pardon the pun) of Grenade products in shops, you will pretty much get the new bars anywhere - but head to Grenade's website for more information.
When it comes to the traditional protein bar, it is so protein-focused because they're used after workouts – protein is a great recovery food after all – but it doesn't end there.
Thanks to the popularity of paleo and keto diets, there's also a trend to buy protein bars as a snack instead of your usual carb-heavy choices – although it's always worth checking whether your new bar of choice is paleo and keto-friendly, just because it's high in protein doesn't mean it passes the test or that it's particularly low in calories.
In a sea of protein-packed foods we've found to of the best protein bars around, from the super high-protein and low-sugar gym-focused bars and the snacks you’ll substitute in for the chocolate you previously put on your desk at work.
All of the bars on this list have a substantial amount of protein – some as high as 20+ grams per serving, some a little less – and hopefully this encourages you to try one or two new ones.
Upvote your favourite protein bar. And add your own suggestions for this round-up at the bottom.
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Best protein bars 2020
RXBAR pride themselves on using simple ingredients to make their bars. There are only three or four ingredients in any of their bars: a combination of egg whites, dates and nuts. The minimal design makes this clear too, as the ingredients are listed in big font across the front of the bar, followed by the phrase “No B.S.”. In terms of flavours, you have the options of Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Sea Salt and Blueberry. They’re a little chewy, as you expect with a date bar, but not grainy, and a sprinkling of whole nuts in the bars is a welcomed addition. The bars are also gluten, dairy and soy free, so ideal for someone who eats a plant-based diet or avoids gluten.
2. Quest Bar
At 1g of sugar per 60g, Quest offers a bar super-low in sugar but packed full of protein (21g to be exact). They also offer a huge array of flavours including Cookies and Cream (our favourite), Blueberry Muffin and Mocha Choc Chip. The Cookies and Cream bar even has real pieces of cookies in, and decent amount of fibre (23g), too.
All Quest bars are also gluten and soy free, which is an added bonus for those of us who have to avoid them.
3. USN Trust Crunch Bar
USN’s Trust Crunch Bar is designed for athletes in mind. Each 60g bar has a whopping 20g of protein designed to help you “get over the finishing line”. Despite being low sugar, these bars are definitely for those with a sweet tooth. The soft centre is coated in a crunchy milk chocolate layer, and flavours include Fudge Brownie, Salted Caramel Peanut (our favourite), Triple Chocolate, White Chocolate Cookie Dough and Cookies and Cream. They’re also palm oil free, for those of us who want to eat more sustainably.
4. Fulfil Vitamin and Protein Bars
If you recognise Fulfil's protein and vitamin bars that's because they seem to have been slowly introduced into lots of new shops recently, including Marks & Spencer. They're another bar on the list that actually has really tasty flavours – you'll almost believe you're eating a regular ol' chocolate bar and not necessarily a protein-packed one. Boasting more protein and less calories than some of the other bars on the list, there are a huge range of flavours to choose from, including Cookies and Cream (our personal favourite), Chocolate Salted Caramel and Peanut Butter.
5. Clif Builder's Protein
There was a time when Clif bars were only available in the US, but fans of tasty protein bars rejoice: they're now available to buy on this side of the pond too. There are lots of different Clif bars available, including chocolate chip, peanut butter and chocolate almond and fudge flavours – all of which are classed as high protein energy bars. But, for a maximum helping of protein, we suggest taking a look at the 'builder's protein' version, which comes in some great-tasting flavours – like chocolate mint – and packs a huge 20g of protein.
6. Nature Valley Protein
Nature Valley might be better known for its regular range of cereal bars and nut butter snacks, but the Protein range hits similar levels to other health-focused brands. Think 10 or more grams of protein in each 40g bar, which might be lower than some brands who pride themselves on being workout accompaniments but remains high for the healthy snack crowd. Flavours include Salted Caramel Nut, Peanut & Chocolate and Coconut & Almond.
This is a great choice if you want a protein bar with a fairly normal taste and mouthfeel.
7. KIND Protein Bar
KIND bars are more on the general health side of things than the gym side, but there’s a reason you’ll often see them tucked away by runners after long-distance races. The Crunchy Peanut Butter bar, with smooth peanut butter and whole peanuts, clocks in at 12g of protein in a 50g bar, while you can also get Double Dark Chocolate and Toasted Caramel flavours with similar numbers.
These three are part of KIND's new "Protein" range. The standard bars have much less protein. Tasty as these bars are, they also have a decent amount of sugar.
8. Grenade Carb Killa
The Carb Killa bar comes in a range of flavours, from Birthday Cake to White Chocolate Salted Peanut. They are jack-of-all-trades bars that double as a post-workout bar or an alternative to less healthy snack chocolate bars. A 60g bar contains 20g or more of protein, while the sugar content is low – below 2g per bar for several of its flavours.
We're big fans of the Peanut Nutter flavour. Grenade's strength is a low-sugar sweetness that doesn't taste fake. Carb Killa bars are a real low-guilt indulgence. They also avoid the strange textures you get in some workout-style bars.
9. Prime Bar
Not all protein bars need to be sweet. The Prime Bar is made of beef, while still not skimping on the protein – every 40g bar in the Chilli & Red Pepper or Apricot & Sage ranges is at least a quarter protein. The natural ingredients include actual fruits and vegetables, including apricots, carrots and dates, and Prime’s bars remain suitable for paleo and keto diets.
10. PhD Protein Flapjack+
At 75g, the PhD Protein Flapjack is heftier than some of the others on this list, but its 19g protein content isn’t to be sniffed at. Just 2g of sugar per 75g is super-low, while the oat flapjack comes in the sort of flavours you’d expect from a standard oat flapjack – Forest Berries and Peanut Butter are among the options available – while the oat content offers a different sort of complex carbs to some more chocolate bar-like protein-heavy snacks.
This is a non-veggie-friendly snack. Rolled oats supply some of the protein here, and help provide a fairly "normal" texture. But PhD also uses a mix of whey and hydrolysed gelatine to bulk up the numbers.
11. MyProtein Carb Crusher
More than a third of these 60g bars is accounted for by protein (and just 2.7g of sugar), so it’s easy to see why they are aimed at the gym-goer market. The Carb Crusher bar comes in multiple flavours – including Caramel Nut, Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt or Strawberry Cheesecake – and each flavour contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals such as Magnesium and Vitamin B12.
The Carb Crusher has the familiar slightly odd protein bar texture, thanks to its blend of whey and gelatine hydrolysate. But the protein per calorie is sound. Bear in mind: these are not veggie-friendly.
12. MaxiMuscle Promax Lean
This lower-sugar take on Maximuscle’s Promax bars still make room for a hefty 20g of protein in each 55g snack. As the brand name suggests, the bar is marketed at those hitting the gym on a regular basis, and represent a quick way to get an extra hit of protein as part of your diet. Sugar content comes in at around 1g, while flavours include Rocky Road, Peanut Butter and Cookies & Cream.
13. Staxx Bar
Staxx Bars are aimed at the gym-going, muscle-building crowd, and clock in at a healthy 14g of protein while remaining chewy and crispy. The Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Caramel flavours come coated in real chocolate, yet the sugar count is still low at no more than 2.2g in each 60g bar.
We're fans of the combo of caramel and whey-based nougat. You get a less montone texture, making the bar more enjoyable to eat.
14. Pulsin Protein Boosters
Pulsin’s Protein Boosters weigh in at 50g, and are high in both protein and fibre, with ingredients across the range including chocolate chips and peanut butter. The full range is vegetarian, but you can also get hold of a number of vegan recipes including Mint choc chip (12.3g of protein per bar) and Maple & Peanut (12.8g of protein, and 7% natural maple syrup).
The entire Pulsin range is delicious, but the Mint Choc Chip stands out to us. Punchy peppermint oil and big dairy-free (not that you'd guess) chocolate chunks make the bar more of a taste burst than the average chocolate bar.