The Great Protein Bar Showdown (Part I)

Posted: February 4, 2011 in Nutrition
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I have become more interested lately in workout nutrition as I am also starting to get to those longer distances where it nearly demands that you bring along a little something for that added little push at the end.  It’s more a case of simply needing the gas, or in this case, calories in the form of protein, carbohydrates and natural fats in the tank to keep the engine going, per se.  The whole fueling as you go thing is rather new to me as, before, there was well more than enough fat to go around and keep this chubby engine working for a quite a long time but now, well, not so much.

Weighing in now at 193 lbs. (20 lbs lighter than this time last year); I find that I need and appreciate those extra little nutritional sparks in the way of the odd protein or energy bar.  I always prefer simple fruit or nuts, or something more au naturel, if you will, but convenience deems it necessary to indulge from time to time.  But it also seems that the whole world has simply gone energy and protein bar crazy!  Nowadays, you can’t swing a bonking triathlete and not knock over some new brand of high-end protein or all natural energy bar.  So which one do you choose?

I have taken it upon myself then to do some market research for you.  And, with that, I offer you the first round of the Great Protein Bar Showdown!  Over the course of one week, while traveling in strange lands, I tried five different energy and protein bars for the purpose of providing you, dear reader, with these  detailed accounts of the…shall we say, experience?  Use this information wisely.


Monday, January 24th – First on deck in the triathletes belly is the plum and pomegranate flavored Seeds n’ Greens energy bar, boasting itself to be gluten free, and containing 10g of fiber, as well as providing a complete 4 servings of veggies and fruit.  Very impressive, given that the bar itself is only a 50g portion which, does absolutely nothing to fill one’s belly as I was still extremely hungry afterwards.  Besides, it is really a good idea to have the equivalent of 4 servings of veggies before you workout anyway?  Besides fruits and seeds, which are dangerous enough, this little bar also contains carrots, spinach, alfalfa, cabbage, broccoli, kale, celery, cauliflower, cucumber, beets, bell peppers, collards, watercress, bok choy, tomatoes, and date paste.  Holy shit!  I think I just shat myself reading this.  Hell, toss a small black coffee and a lighted match down my throat and I’d instantly turn into something infinitely more dangerous than anything you’d ever find buried in the Iraqi dessert.  And that’s pretty much what happened.  For the entire 45 minute easy run around the Chatham YMCA track it must have sounded like a flock of ducks had migrated into the ceiling boards.  Taste-wise, it tasted like a compost heap.  2/5


Tuesday, January 25th – Today’s bar du jour is the Simply Bar, which advertises itself as having “More Protein; Less Calories.” The wrapper looks auspiciously plain and ordinary not hinting at anything too promising, but perhaps that is just part of the whole “simple” based marketing ploy so I’m remaining on my guard.  I happen to have the lemon and coconut flavor, which sounded interesting.  Upon first inspection, the Simply Bar looks like a leftover Rice Krispie bar and has about the same texture and consistency.  In contrast to the Seeds n’ Greens complex list of ingredients, however, the Simply Bar has only 8 ingredients while claiming 17g of protein, only 140 calories, and is vegan-friendly, kosher, and milk and gluten free.   Taste-wise, well, it has little taste at all actually.  I can detect a slight hint of the lemon and coconut but for the most part is just kind of hangs there like a lemony fart in your mouth.  To its credit though, I did pedal my ass off rather solidly for 60 minutes or so, without feeling either hungry or that there was something heavy digesting in my stomach.  Maybe there is something to this simple marketing philosophy which, as it happens, is proudly printed on the back of the bar wrapper; if you’re not totally sweaty, heaving or not seeing straight enough to read at the point of consumption that is. 3/5


Wednesday, January 26th – Next up is the Caramel Nut Brownie flavored Luna bar.  I had high expectations for this bar as see them on store shelves nearly everywhere.  Besides, who doesn’t love caramel nut brownies?   Not this dwindling fat bastard, that’s for sure!  These high expectations were initially validated when I tore into the package to discover it looks like something your grandma would have lovingly baked herself; a deep, rich textured chocolate brownie with a smooth layer of caramel and chocolate drizzle with nuts on top for good measure.  Fuck me.  But then I put it in my mouth and it all came crashing in around me like a house of cards.  This seemingly delicious looking energy bar, somehow, tasted like stale Ex-lax.  My eyes had deceived me.  I felt cheated.  I scoured the wrapper for some explanation for the inherent raunchiness that had permeated my taste buds.  Lets see…70% organic…8g of protein…180 calories…then, I saw it:  “The Whole Nutrition Bar for Woman”Pardon? I know this doesn’t really help explain the questionable taste which, quite frankly, for a nutrition bar specifically marketed at women; I would have expected a whole lot more in the way of the flavor department.  Wait, what the fuck?  Am I going to grow boobs now?  Am I developing ovaries as I type?  And how come women get their own bar?  One can only imagine if we fella’s tried to launch our own line of male-specific protein bars.  It would be anarchy.  There would be riots that would make the streets of Egypt seem like a Disney parade. But, whatever, I say if this bar is anything to go by then we’re sure not missing out on anything guys.  By the way, I noticed no improvement to my workout whatsoever.  Have at ‘er, ladies.  2/5


Thursday, January 27th – I have begun to lose faith that any of these bars are going to provide me with anything that resembles anything of good taste while still refueling my body adequately, and I certainly didn’t hold out much hope for the Chocolate Chip flavored Organic Food Bar either.  I mean, really, they didn’t exactly consult a team of top marketing analysts’ before they decided to launch this particular bar, did they?  “The living energy of a delicious Organic Food Bar” on the wrapper could have been conceived by chimps to be perfectly honest.  Similarly, the bar itself looks like a small, flat, rectangular turd with mysterious dark dollops of unidentifiable stuff throughout it.  Before I put it in my mouth I tried to remind myself of what benefits I was trying to provide for myself: 12g of protein, 36g of carbohydrates, 300 calories, 100% vegetarian, gluten free, and no refined sugars (oh, great!).  I braced myself for the inevitable retching that was surely to follow, but, low and behold, it was absolutely lovely!  In fact, it was divine!  Those dark dollops of mystery turned out to be real chocolate chips which was a real treat, and helped give me a bit of an energy boost and helped stem off any further appetite for another few hours until dinner. Who am I kidding?  I could have had another of these for dinner.  4/5



Friday, January 28thMy weeks worth review of energy and protein bars culminates with one Pistachio flavored Halvah bar.  I had a good feeling about this bar since its vibrant green wrapper invoked childhood memories of the incredible French Chocolate Mint candy bars from Laura Secord.   What I should have done, however, is more research to discover that Halvah is actually a crumbly flour, nut (in this case, sesame seeds) or Tahini-based batter with which to bake, apparently, this stuff.  In other words, it looked like something that Rover might have passed weeks ago and tastes rather like sliding into home plate with your mouth open.  All I could do was reach for my water bottle in a futile effort to wash the evil from my mouth.  Who cares that it has no trans fat, cholesterol, and has only 140 calories; I’d rather eat the day old dog shit.  1/5

  1. Aquaman says:

    You forgot the most important part…how much does each one COST in comparison to its benefits?

  2. Excellent advise! I will update later today with that info.

  3. Shirley says:

    Haha really enjoyed your commentary! Just one small remark…the Halvah bar is not a protien bar–there’s only 3 grams of protien per serving–FYI there are 3 servings in that 85 gram package so the calorie count per bar is 420 not 140!!! It’s like a butter cookie ( in this case the fat content is from nuts not butter) very rich and more suited to having with tea or coffee not exercise.

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