With endless brands and flavors of protein bars lining store shelves it’s easy to forget about real, fresh foods. Gone are the days of zip lock bags filled with baby carrots and mini boxes of raisins. Grabbing a protein bar or meal replacement bar throughout the day to curb hunger has become the norm.

Is the ease and efficiency of a perfectly wrapped bar worth starving your body of the real essential nutrients it craves?

Not all bars are created equal.

Every brand targets the same general audience; health conscious adults. By using slogans with words like, “healthy”, “fitness”, “sugar-free”, and “all-natural”, customers are essentially tricked into thinking these bars are healthy for everyday consumption.

The truth is, most of the protein bars, meal replacement bars, and granola bars you see on the shelf are full of artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and made up of lab-created ingredients. There is little to nothing that comes from a farmer or from the earth.

What to look out for!

To help you determine if the bar you are considering to purchase belongs in the thumbs up or thumbs down column, turn it over and check out the ingredient list. If it has dozens of ingredients that are unknown to you, or it contains any of the following ingredients, put it back.

  • Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMO)

    Considered a “fake fiber” because many companies opt for the cheapest route by creating their own IMOs in labs.

  • Sucralose

    An artificial sweetener linked to cancer risks and bowel disease.

  • Corn Syrups

    Whether it’s High Fructose or High Maltose, all corn syrups are used as a preservative in processed foods. Not to mention the sugar overload.

Thumbs up!

Minimal ingredient list. All ingredients are real, pronounceable foods.

  • That’s It Bars
  • Lara Bars
  • Clif Kit’s Organic Bars
  • Pure Bars

Thumbs down.

Made up mostly of artificial and processed ingredients.

  • Quest Bars
  • Nature Valley Bars
  • Fiber One Bars
  • Power Recovery Bars

Pre-workout snack ideas.

Fuel up for a workout by eating carbs, healthy sugars, and a little bit of protein.

  • Peanut butter and banana toast
  • Fresh fruit smoothie
  • Oatmeal
  • Sliced apple
  • Cottage cheese
  • Almonds

You want more pre-workout snack ideas? Head over to these posts on FitbodyHQ: 58 Easy Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Snacks. 4 Simple Pre-Workout Supplements for Women

Post-workout snack ideas.

After a workout, your body is in recovery mode and craving the nutrients it just lost. Feed it proteins with small amounts of carbs and sodium for best results.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chocolate milk
  • Bananas
  • Tuna fish
  • Eggs
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter

Also check out these posts on FitbodyHQ for some great alternatives: 10 Post-Workout Snack Must Haves. 58 Easy Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Snacks. 12 Delicious Post-Workout Protein Shakes

Everything in Moderation!

Throwing the occasional protein bar in your gym bag isn’t going to make or break your physique, but don’t underestimate the power of real, fresh, nutrient packed foods.

Micah Larsen

Micah is a traveling swim coach and personal trainer, depending on the season. She is also currently working on her Master of Science in Athletic Administration and Coaching. Micah loves to live an active lifestyle, whether she is competing in open water swims, running a road race, practicing yoga, or biking with her dogs. The main objective in her career is to... Read More

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