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It’s a Bar Fight!: Candy Bar vs Protein Bars

Some people will tell you that “real” food is the only way to build real muscle, while others swear that truly impressive gains are only possible through significant supplementation. I tend to believe that any argument taken to the extreme boarders on lunacy, so my feelings on the matter tend to lie somewhere between the two extremes.

I understand and support the necessity of making nutrient dense “real” food a part of your diet, but at the same time I know from personal experience how much more convenient grabbing a protein shake or bar can be. Many of the protein bars  and shakes I’ve tried pack a powerful protein punch, and actually taste pretty darn good.

Todd from PhitZone.com has a post titled “Top 5 Must-Have Supplements” that is informative, straight to the point, and for the most part reflects the amount of supplementation that I include in my fitness journey. The only supplement not mentioned in the post that I include in my journey is kre-alkalyn. Kre-Alkalyn is a patented form of creatine that comes in a capsule version, but it also has a few additional features that convince me chose it over it’s cousin, creatine monohydrate.

  • The directions on the majority of creatine monohydrate out there that I’ve seen includes a loading phase that requires you to take often 4 times the amount taken in the maintenance phase. In my experience this loading phase results in you burning through about half your container in the first week. Kre-Aalkyln requires no loading phase, no cycling, and requires a lower dosage than many other forms of creatine.
  • One of the number one complaints I’ve heard from those that have used creatine is that it makes them retain water and leaves their muscles feeling bloated . I’ve experienced this feeling myself with several different types of creatine. Kre-Alkalyn is bloat free.
  • A four month study by bodybuilding.com compared a group of subjects taking Kre-Alkalyn to a second group that took creatine monohydrate. An unexpected result of the study was that the subjects who took creatine monohydrate displayed elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels of the group that took Kre-Alkalyn actually decreased over the test period.

“A Snickers candy bar is just as good for you as a protein bar, they’re basically the same thing!”

I must have heard it about a thousand times this year, especially around holidays like Halloween. I usually just pass a comment like this off as someone who’s just trying to justify the fact they’re about to mow about a half dozen of the little fun size bad boys, but then I started to get curious. Are Snickers bars just as good for fit desk jockeys as many of the most popular protein bars on the market?

Of course for an accountant this means spreadsheet time!

And the Bar Fight Begins!

There are three things that I ALWAYS look at when I’m selecting a protein bar.

  1. High in Protein – Duh, right? The sad thing is that as you can see in the table above, even the second lowest bar has 3 times as much protein as the Snickers Bar, which had the lowest amount on our list. Eight of the protein bars reviewed were packed with over 30 grams of protein per bar, making Snickers’ 4 grams look rather minuscule.
  2. Low in sugar – Several protein bars and most candy bars alike are absolutely stuffed with this simple carbohydrate. As a simple carbohydrate, sugar is digested very quickly and makes it’s way into the blood stream rapidly. Excess sugar in the bloodstream is unhealthy, so the body’s natural response is to store the excess sugar as fat. So where did Snickers stand? Snickers came in second highest in this category, with a jittery 30 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to over 3 1/2 teaspoons of sugar!
  3. Low in sodium – Several of the protein bars that I’ve tried at one time or another contain significant amounts of sodium. The sodium content in the bars we reviewed as all over the board with some containing as little as 55 mg, while others contain over 500 mg of sodium. In this comparison Snickers actually comes in on the low end, relatively speaking, with 140 mg of sodium. The FDA recommends that people aim for a daily sodium intake right around 2,300 mg/day, not that we should base our goals strictly on the recommendation of government agencies. It’s a good starting point at any rate. If you’re an American Fit Desk jockey, according to the American Heart Association you likely have room for improvement. Their studies indicate that the average American sprinkles their way to 3,436 mg of sodium per day. Be mindful and be nutrition aware.

Sugar Alcohol Fit Facts

Many of the protein bars on the above list are made with sugar alcohol (aka polyol, polyhydric alcohol, or polyalcohol) instead of sugar. Sugar Alcohol tastes very similar to sucrose (table sugar), but is derived from various plant products including fruits and berries.

Sugar Alcohols taken as a group are less sweet than sucrose. For instance one type that’s commonly used, Maltitol, is about 75% to 90% as sweet as sucrose. Despite it’s name, sugar alcohol is not the same as the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

Sugar Alcohol Positives:

  1. Does not contribute to tooth decay
  2. Has a lower caloric content than sucrose
  3. Produces a significantly smaller increase in blood glucose levels

Sugar Alcohol Complaints/Negatives – Over-consumption may lead to:

  1. Bloating, Diarrhea, and/or Flatulence
  2. Weight gain
  3. Will NOT get you drunk – Hey, I’m sure that bothers someone, somewhere.

The Winner!

As the bar fight comes to a close, the dust settles and the protein bars stand victorious. Don’t get me wrong, I love Snickers! In fact if I ever had a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, my choice would most definitely be Snickers. It’s just that they don’t have enough protein and are a little too high in sugar and fat to be considered synonymous with a protein bar.

I’ve had the majority of the protein bars in the above list, but the two I buy the most are the , and the . One of the things that no list can quantify is people’s personal tastes. When choosing a protein bar I always start by looking at the nutrition label, but if it tastes like crap it’s not making it into my arsenal.

Sound Off!

Is your favorite protein bar on the list? Did your favorite bar not make the list?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.  Or say whatever pops your cork!
-Matt


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