Both protein bars and protein powder are quick, easy solutions to get that hit of protein you need, either before or after exercise, or just as a filling snack during the day.
But if you have ever looked into the various options, it can be a little overwhelming to know which the best one to choose is.
Do you go for protein powder (and then what sort, and what flavour?) or just pick up a protein bar?
We have put together this guide to help you decide which protein product is right for you.
Both protein powder and protein bars are super convenient ways to up your protein intake.You can pop a bar in your bag for a protein-rich snack when you need one. The bar can be left in your bag or in your desk drawer for as long as you want, as long as it is eaten before its use by date.
They do not need to be kept in a fridge so they are great for chucking in your backpack, if you need a boost whilst out hiking.By contrast, protein shakes should be consumed within a few minutes of making them otherwise they start to lose their freshness. Leaving a shake in your bag while you do you work out will leave the shaker smelling less than appetising!1
If you are thinking about making protein bars yourself at home, then it is easier to make protein shakes at home than to make your own high protein bars.
All you need for a shake is your protein powder, some fruit, vegetables or peanut butter and milk or a vegan alternative. Toss your ingredients in a blender and it is ready to drink within 30 seconds.
One of the big advantages to protein powder is that it is very versatile.
From berries to peanut butter and even pumpkin spice, you can make a variety of different flavours of shakes and smoothies with it just by switching up your ingredients.
Not only can you drink your protein powder in different flavoured smoothies but you can also add the powder to different foods and drinks to liven it up even more.You can also add protein powder to your overnight oats, make protein pancakes with it for breakfast and even add it to mashed potatoes for some extra nutrients at dinner time.2
Protein bars are less versatile, as they tend to be eaten, as they are, as a bar.
All protein bars and powder will differ with their nutritional content and so it is best to check the labels for more detailed information about their ingredients.
However, generally speaking, protein bars tend to offer a better balance of macronutrients than you get with protein powder.Protein powder usually has a lower fat and carbohydrate content than bars.3 Because of this, it may leave you feeling hungry sooner after drinking. Some protein bars have extra sugar and calories4 and so the best protein bars to get are low sugar protein bars.
It is thought that chewing foods, rather than getting them in a liquid form, increases physiological responses which lead to you feeling more satisfied.Whole foods are also digested more slowly than liquids.5 This means that eating protein bars may leave you satisfied and not reaching for the biscuit tin. Bars also tend to contain more fibre which again will help you to feel fuller for longer.6
If you have been working out, it is important that you consume enough protein to help support growth and maintenance of muscle mass.Some studies show that amino acids are transported into the bloodstream more quickly when they are consumed in liquid form7 which means that when you drink a protein shake, amino acids are more quickly available to help to rebuild your muscle tissue.
Traditional whey and casein protein comes from milk and is therefore not suitable for vegans.Instead, you will need to opt for plant-based protein powders. Vegan protein sources include legumes, grains and seeds.8
Protein bars and protein shakes both have their advantages and disadvantages so it is impossible to crown the winner.
Find what works best for you and ensure that whatever protein source you choose, that it is part of a healthy balanced diet and an active lifestyle.
You do not have to commit to one or the other – why not try a mix?
Protein shakes for when you are at home and can easily put one together and protein bars for when you are out and about and cannot get to a blender. The best of both worlds!Shop Sports Nutrition
Last updated: 5 January 2020
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.Bhupesh specialises in vitamins & minerals nutrition, health benefits & safety of botanicals and traditional herbal medicines. View Bhupesh's LinkedIn profile. In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.