It is hard to argue with the convenience of a protein bar for a post-workout hit of protein. However, so many commercial varieties sold in stores come with a host of undesirable ingredients. Cheap fillers, artificial sweeteners and poor quality protein blends tend to be the norm.
Some brands are better than others, and if you check the ingredient list with an eagle eye you can find some decent candidates. But if you want to know exactly what goes into your bar, making your own is a good idea.
It’s a lot easier than you may think. I regularly make my own and share the recipes on my healthy living website Real Food Healthy Body – to find them, just search for ‘protein bars’ using the search box. You can also search ‘protein balls’ for bite-sized variations. The bars can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and stored in the fridge for the week ahead. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to customise the flavours and additions to suit your personal taste.
Whey protein vs vegan protein
The base of each recipe starts with a protein powder. There are recipes on Real Food Healthy Body using whey protein powder and others using vegan, plant-based protein powder. The only thing to remember is that whey and vegan powders cannot usually be substituted for each other. This is because they are so different in texture and how they react to the addition of liquid. If the recipe calls for whey protein, stick to whey. If it calls for a plant-based protein, most vegan powders made from brown rice protein, pea protein, sacha inchi protein and/or hemp should work.
Whey protein powder tends to give the best texture when making protein bars. I find that you can add more of it to the recipe to boost the protein content without ending up with an unpleasant texture. I’ve previously written about the differences between whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate – WPI and WPC – if you are wondering about which one to use. Both will work in recipes calling for whey protein.
Vegan, plant-based protein powders can also be used to make protein bars and balls, but these powders usually have an earthier flavour and can be slightly chalkier in texture. This just means that the recipe won’t use as much of the powder to make sure the finished product still tastes good.
It’s always a good idea to try out a few recipes to find one that you enjoy. Once you’ve found a recipe that works for your taste, you can get creative by changing up the flavour of the protein powder or making additions like chopped nuts and chocolate chips. It’s your bar after all.