Protein bars are offered at most grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and gyms. There are many brands to choose from and all sorts of variety in each brand, advertising health benefits galore! But you may wonder: Are protein bars good for you?

It depends on your fitness goals and dietary needs. Most importantly, I’d recommend reading the nutrition label before you purchase. Some choices pack more sugar and calories than candy bars and can replace a few meals in one “serving.”

Protein bars are really convenient. They don’t require a refrigerator or preparation. And they’re portable, allowing us to slip them in a purse, gym bag or car. They’re a quick source of calories and protein, better than skipping meals or being tempted to eat junk food.

When shopping for the healthiest option, decide whether you want a snack, meal replacement or post-workout supplement. Some bars can pack upwards of 500-plus calories per bar as well as 30 grams of sugar. Most humans don’t need 50 grams of protein in a sitting, so I’d suggest skipping over protein bars that boast large quantities. Look for bars with as few ingredients as possible and make sure you can actually pronounce the ingredients. If you’re watching your diet, opt for snack bars (approximately 150-250 calories) with fewer grams of sugar. If you need a meal replacement, find bars that offer a balanced macronutrient profile (healthy fats, carbs and protein) within a 350- to 450-calorie range. Lastly, look for protein bars that contain an adequate amount of branched chain amino acids to aid with muscle growth and repair.

The ABCs of Weight Loss Ebook