Skip to main content

The Best Protein Bars: The Tastiest And Healthiest Options

man
(Image credit: Unknown)

Protein is so much more convenient these days. Where once gym-goers had to tuck into a couple of rotisserie chickens to refuel their muscles after a hefty workout, they can now mix up a protein shake or, more convenient still, tuck into a protein bar.

These are now widely available, involve zero preparation, and the best protein bars taste good enough to seem like a treat as well as a way to help build muscle. However, there are downsides, mainly involving the diamond-hard texture and artificial flavour of some, and you can’t assume all are a healthier snack bar – some very much aren’t.

That’s what we discovered when we spoke to Kurtis Frank from nutrition and supplement encyclopaedia examine.com for expert advice on what to look for when buying protein bars. The entire conversation is further down the page, but in brief, the first thing to check is the ratio of protein to calories – 15g of protein in a 200-calorie bar or 25g in a 250-calorie bar are good yardsticks. If you can find a bar you like the taste of with a decent amount of fibre, that’s also a welcome bonus. Make sure the carbs are low too, although if you’re an endurance athlete looking for a pre-session snack to top up your glycogen stores, try one of the best energy bars instead. 

Frank recommends being sensitive to price as well, because on a cost-per-calorie basis protein bars can be surprisingly expensive. Of course, go too cheap and the taste and especially texture will suffer. “Whether or not it can be used as a brick cannot easily be conveyed through the label,” says Frank. “It will ultimately require some taste testing to find out which ones can break a window when thrown.”

Fearing for your teeth, we bravely chomped our way through as many as possible. In some cases, that really did take a lot of bravery, but that does mean we’ve weeded out the duds and we feel confident that if you stick to our list of the best protein bars your teeth will remain uncracked.

Of course, a varied diet is always preferable so make sure you don’t come to rely too heavily on protein bars. You can mix things up (literally) with the best protein powders or best vegan protein powders, but nothing can compare to the advantages of eating high-protein foods instead of protein supplements. 

The Best Protein Bars

Optimum Nutrition Protein Crisp Bar

(Image credit: Optimum Nutrition)
(opens in new tab)

1. Optimum Nutrition Protein Crisp Bar

Protein-packed Rice Krispie-style bar

Specifications

RRP: £17.99 for ten 65g bars
Calories : 213
Protein : 20g
Carbs : 16g
Sugars : 1.8g
Fats: 6.3g

Reasons to buy

+
Crispy texture

Reasons to avoid

-
Comparatively high in saturated fat
-
Some might prefer low-carb bars

Our favourite flavour: Chocolate brownie

Most whey bars try for a fluffy or chewy centre and don’t quite pull it off, making them at best a functional snack you eat for the protein rather than the enjoyment. Optimum Nutrition instead goes for a body of crispy rice puffs on a chocolate base and the result is aces. It’s not the honey-sweet Rice Krispie bar you are probably hoping for, but it’s become our go-to when stomach rumbles strike in the afternoon.

The fine details: There’s a solid 20g dose of protein and just 1.8g of sugar, plus 16g of carbs, which is no bad thing if you’re planning on cycling home from work later. However, there’s a fair whack of saturated fats – 5.3g, about a quarter of your recommended daily limit.


33Fuel Eroica Protein Bar

(Image credit: 33Fuel)
(opens in new tab)

2. 33Fuel Eroica Protein Bar

Flavourful bar packed with nutrients

Specifications

RRP: £22.99 for 6 100g double bars
Calories : 409
Protein : 20g
Carbs : 43g
Sugars : 38g
Fats: 17g

Reasons to buy

+
Delicious
+
All-natural ingredients
+
Great for endurance sports

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
High in calories and sugar

Our favourite bar: Eroica

This is an excellent all-round protein bar, especially for endurance athletes or anyone not especially worried about their carb and sugar intake. It’s one of the only bars that comes close to being as delicious as Veloforte’s Forza bar, since it’s also made from natural ingredients like nuts and candied peels, and it contains more protein at 20g per double-bar pack. However, it’s expensive – those all-natural bars go easier on your stomach than they do on your wallet.

The fine details: The substantial 100g pack contains an awful lot of stuff besides that 20g of protein, and some will be alarmed at the 38g of sugar and 409 calories per pack. It’s high in carbs too, at 43g per pack, and there’s 17g of fat (of which 1.47g is saturates). This is very much a bar for fuelling high-energy pursuits, but it tastes so good you’ll gladly put the work in to justify it.


KIND Protein Bar

(Image credit: KIND Protein Bar)
(opens in new tab)

3. KIND Protein Bar

A tasty natural bar

Specifications

RRP: £18 for 12 50g bars
Calories : 259
Protein : 12g
Carbs : 13g
Sugars : 8g
Fats : 17g

Reasons to buy

+
Great taste
+
Natural ingredients

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 12g protein
-
High in sugar and fat

Our Favourite Bar: Double Dark Choc Nut

They’re not as high in protein as others on this list, but KIND bars are a genuine treat, full of nuts and dark chocolate This particular bar is made from peanuts, almonds and dark chocolate, so obviously it is very nice. We challenge anyone to make a bar that tastes bad using those three primary ingredients.

The fine details: The protein levels are just 12g per 50g bar, although the fibre count is high at 4.9g. They’re also pretty high in fat at 17g per bar, even if most of that is the “healthy” unsaturated kind. Essentially they lean towards the treat category, with the extra protein content being a bonus.


Veloforte Protein Bar

(Image credit: Veloforte)
(opens in new tab)

4. Veloforte Protein Bar

The most delicious protein bar

Specifications

RRP: £37.99 for 15 70g bars
Calories : 254
Protein : 12g
Carbs : 38.3g
Sugars: 27.3g
Fats : 7.7g

Reasons to buy

+
Delicious
+
Natural ingredients
+
Good for endurance sports

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 12g protein
-
High in sugar

Our favourite bar: Forza

The Forza is hands down the best-tasting protein bar we’ve come across, which means we’re prepared to overlook its downsides, like the high price and relatively low protein content at 12g per bar. This all-natural bar contains a winning blend of apricots, almonds and fennel, and if the word fennel puts you off, try the mix of hazelnuts, coffee and cocoa in Veloforte’s Mocha bar instead.

The fine details: The Forza bar contains three times more carbs than protein with 38.3g of the former (and 27.3g of sugar), making it a better pick for endurance athletes seeking to refuel after a long training session than weightlifters looking for a pure protein punch. It also contains 7.4g of fibre.


Bounty Hi Protein Bar

(Image credit: Bounty)
(opens in new tab)

5. Bounty Hi Protein Bar

A coconutty treat with added protein

Specifications

RRP: £19.99 for 12 52g bars
Calories: 207
Protein: 18g
Carbs: 14g
Sugars: 8g
Fat: 8.6g

Reasons to buy

+
Tastes like a Bounty
+
18g of protein

Reasons to avoid

-
High in sugar and fat

The M&M bar was a hit. The white chocolate Snickers a miss. The Bounty bar marks a return to form and even has a valuable lesson for the rest of the industry: desiccated coconut hides a multitude of sins. Not that the rest of this bar gets much wrong. The centre is gooey, rather than chewy, there’s a milk chocolate casing, and in a move which will keep traditionalists happy, there are two mini bars in each pack.

The fine details Part of the reason coconut tastes so delicious is that it’s so fatty, so you’re using up a third of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat if you polish off the pack. Artificial sweeteners aren’t used so sugars are also comparatively high at 8g. With all that going on, it’s impressive that 18g of protein was squeezed into a 207-calorie bar. Like the M&M bar, this is a treat with a protein bonus, rather than a healthy staple. But who doesn’t like a bonus with their treat?


Grenade Carb Killa protein bar

(Image credit: Grenade)
(opens in new tab)

6. Grenade Carb Killa

A great chocolate bar replacement

Specifications

RRP: £30.99 for 12 60g bars
Calories: 226
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 20g
Sugars: 1.4g
Fat: 9.5

Reasons to buy

+
Satisfying flavour
+
Low sugar

Reasons to avoid

-
Little fibre
-
Not itself low-carb, ironically

Our favourite bar: Chocolate chip salted caramel

The new chocolate chip salted caramel variety of this popular range is seriously tasty. The chocolate coating is littered with chunky chocolate chips and the smooth caramel layer beneath is delicious, if a tad sickly. We’d pick this over a lot of traditional chocolate bars.

The fine details: The macros differ across the Carb Killa range, but this flavour offers 20g of protein in each 226 calorie bar. There’s 1.4g of sugar, which is par for the protein bar course. The 2.5g of fibre is a disappointingly small amount compared with other flavours such as cookies and cream, which contains 6.6g, and other bars on this list. The sweetness comes from the inclusion of sucralose.


M&M’s Hi Protein Chocolate Bar

(Image credit: M&M)
(opens in new tab)

7. M&M’s Hi Protein Chocolate Bar

M&M chunks and plenty of protein

Specifications

RRP: £28.99 for 12 51g bars
Calories: 192
Protein: 15g
Carbs: 23g
Sugars: 15g
Fat: 5.5g

Reasons to buy

+
Good chocolate bar replacement
+
Low in calories

Reasons to avoid

-
High in sugar
-
Other bars have more protein

Our favourite bar: Chocolate

As people increasingly turn to protein bars as slightly healthier snacking alternatives to chocolate bars, it’s only natural that traditional chocolate brands are aiming to get in on the action. The M&M’s protein bar is not quite as tasty as the chocolate-centred sweet itself, but it is satisfyingly chocolatey and contains large M&M chunks. The texture was hard to judge because we left these on a counter during a heatwave, so presumably they’re not usually quite so liquified, but there were no signs of any stodginess.

The fine details: There are two flavours of the bars – chocolate and peanut – and both contain 15g of protein, which is a solid enough amount for a 51g bar. The peanut bar is a little higher in calories at 207 compared with the chocolate flavour’s 192. However, the sugar levels are high at 15g per bar, half of your daily recommended maximum and significantly more than you’ll find in most protein bars, which tend to use artificial sweeteners instead. That puts these bars firmly in the occasional treat camp, but they’re still a little healthier than going full chocolate.


Bulk Macro Munch

(Image credit: Bulk)
(opens in new tab)

8. Bulk Macro Munch

Dessert-flavoured bars that satisfy the tastebuds

Specifications

RRP: £29.88 for 12 62g bars
Calories: 233
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 21g
Sugars: 2.9g
Fat: 8.4g

Reasons to buy

+
Wide range of flavours
+
8.7g fibre per bar
+
Good texture

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher in calories than other bars

Our favourite bar: Brilliant Birthday Cake

Bulk has, somewhat ambitiously, decided to call these gourmet protein bars, which creates an expectation that any bar is going to struggle to meet. We like that the bar has sprinkles on top, and some kind of jam-style layer that adds to the ersatz cake experience. The texture also delivers, avoiding excessive chewiness. It’s a great protein bar – just don’t call it gourmet.

The fine details: Each 62g bar contains 233 calories and 20g of protein, with the sugar count kept low at 2.9g through the use of isomalt and sucralose sweeteners. The list of ingredients is dismayingly long, although to be fair the sprinkles are a surprisingly large part of that. There’s a nice surprise at the end of the nutritional info though – the 8.7g of fibre in each bar.


Misfits protein bar packet, chocolate caramel flavour

(Image credit: Misfits)
(opens in new tab)

9. Misfits Protein Bar

Low-calorie vegan bars

Specifications

RRP: £18 for 12 45g bars
Calories: 186
Protein: 16g
Carbs: 6.8g
Sugars: 1g
Fat: 10g

Reasons to buy

+
Vegan
+
Only 186 calories per bar
+
Pleasing taste and texture
+
Lots of fibre

Reasons to avoid

-
Some flavours are a little dry

Our favourite bar: Chocolate caramel

The caramel in this vegan bar means that it easily avoids the common protein bar problem of being too dry, and the overall flavour is rich without being too sweet. Taste and texture both get a big tick from us, and the other flavour we tried – chocolate hazelnut – is almost as good, just a bit drier.

The fine details: Misfits knows what’s good about the bar and broadcasts it in huge digits on the front of the packaging. There’s 16g of protein (in the chocolate caramel bar, 15g in other flavours) in each 45g bar, and under 1g of sugar. The amount of protein is a little light compared with some other options, but the calorie count is also low at 186, and the hidden bonus is the massive 8g of fibre each bar also contains.


Barebells Protein Bar

(Image credit: Barebells)
(opens in new tab)

10. Barebells Protein Bar

Tasty bars with a 1950s Americana look

Specifications

RRP: £22.49 for 12 55g bars
Calories: 205
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 16g
Sugars: 1.9g
Fat: 8.8g

Reasons to buy

+
Great design
+
Vegan options
+
Less than 2g sugar

Reasons to avoid

-
Some flavours are not that tasty

Our favourite bar: Hazelnut & Nougat

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Barebells’ design is worth precisely one – “lifestyle”, with a premium 1950s Americana look that’s undeniably alluring. We initially found the flavours a bit of a let-down – that is, until Barebells released the new Hazelnut & Nougat bar, which is very tasty indeed. The texture is spot-on too, with an enjoyable level of chewiness that doesn’t stray into the cardboard-style consistency of some protein bars.

The fine details: It’s another of the new breed of bars with very low sugar, just 1.9g, and with 20g of protein in just 205 calories it’s punching above its weight. There’s also a respectable 4.2g of fibre per 55g bar.


Warrior Crunch protein bars

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

11. Warrior Crunch Protein Bar

Crunchy treats with interesting flavours

Specifications

RRP: £19.95 for 12 64g bars
Calories: 239
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 24g
Sugars: 2.3g
Fat: 11g

Reasons to buy

+
Great taste and texture
+
Lots of flavours

Reasons to avoid

-
High in fat

Our favourite bar: Raspberry Dark Chocolate

No doubt aware that many people dislike the chewy consistency of many protein bars, Warrior has made its bar as crunchy as possible, and stuck “crunch” in the name to hammer the point home. The multi-layer bars satisfy in terms of both taste and texture, with the raspberry dark chocolate and key lime pie flavours being stand-outs. 

The fine details: There’s a hefty serving of both protein (20g) and carbs (24g) in each bar, but the sugar content is low at 2.3g, with malitol used as a sweetener. Each bar is fairly fatty, containing 11g with 6.1g of that saturated fat.


Tribe Triple Decker protein bar

(Image credit: Tribe)

12. Tribe Triple Decker

A tasty plant-based bar

Specifications

RRP: £22 for 12 40g bars
Calories: 184
Protein: 8g
Carbs: 9.6g
Sugars: 5.8g
Fat: 12g

Reasons to buy

+
Great taste
+
Natural ingredients
+
Vegan

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 8g protein per bar
-
High in fat

Our favourite bar: Vegan Honeycomb

There are three layers in these vegan bars, and all three hit the mark. The topping is chocolate – hard to go wrong there – the middle is nut butter, and the base is crunchy granola. The texture is spot on, and the flavours are excellent too. This is a proper snack.

The fine details: All the tasty goodness above might have tipped you off that the nutritional stats are not going to be perfect. The bars are small at 40g, but even so only getting 8g of protein makes them an outlier on this list, especially as you get more carb (9.6g) and fat (12g) per bar. The fibre content is pretty good at 3.2g, though, and while 5.8g of sugar isn’t a tiny amount, it’s less than you usually find in natural bars like this.


The Protein Works Ridiculous vegan protein bar packets on a wooden table

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
(opens in new tab)

13. The Protein Works Ridiculous Vegan Protein Bar

Flavourful vegan bars

Specifications

RRP: £21.99 for 9 47.5g bars
Calories: 197
Protein: 15g
Carbs: 10g
Sugars: 0.8g
Fat: 9g

Reasons to buy

+
Vegan
+
Low sugar
+
Only 197 calories

Reasons to avoid

-
High in fat

Our favourite bar: Wild Chocolate Peanut

Aside from the somewhat zany packaging, there’s nothing especially ridiculous about this protein bar. But that’s no bad thing – do we really need ridiculous protein bars in our lives? The various flavours contain no surprises – chocolate features heavily across the range – and all are satisfying and tasty, with layers of biscuit, nuts and caramel.

The fine details: There’s 15g of protein in each 47.5g bar, along with a substantial 7.6g of fibre. The carb content is a little higher than other bars at 10g, which is good for refuelling after energetic gym sessions. The calorie count of 197 is low though, and there’s just 0.8g of sugar in each bar, with stevia used to sweeten them.


SiS PROTEIN20

(Image credit: Science In Sport)
(opens in new tab)

14. SiS PROTEIN20

Two-layer bars with protein and carbs

Specifications

RRP: £30 for 12 55g bars
Calories: 216
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 22g
Sugars: 2g
Fat: 14g

Reasons to buy

+
Over 20g of protein
+
Crunchy nuggets improve texture

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best taste

Our favourite bar: Chocolate Peanut Crunch

All the bars in SiS’s new PROTEIN20 range have opted for a “party on the top, business on the bottom” approach, in that there are fun crunchy nuggets above the layer of slightly stodgy, presumably protein-packed filling. The chocolate peanut crunch is the most flavourful of the range, though for our money it’s still a little too bland to work as a replacement for a chocolate bar.

The fine details: Each 55g bar contains 20g of protein and 216 calories. The sugar count is kept to just 2g, with polyols used to sweeten the bar. These are carbohydrates, but not sugars, so the carb total is higher than in many other bars at 22g, which is no bad thing in our view – after a tough exercise session refuelling with carbs is important.


Bulk Protein Flapjack

(Image credit: Bulk)
(opens in new tab)

15. Bulk Protein Flapjack

Packed with protein and carbs

Specifications

RRP: £20.99 for 12 85g bars
Calories: 337
Protein: 21g
Carbs: 31g
Sugars: 12g
Fat: 12g

Reasons to buy

+
Good for bulking up
+
High in carbs and cals
+
Lots of fibre

Reasons to avoid

-
Some will prefer low-carb and low-cal
-
Comparatively high in sugar

Our favourite bar: Chocolate chip

This beast of a bar is one to use after intense workouts when you need a generous helping of protein, carbs and calories to help your body recover. It’s not going to replace the sheer joy of biting into a real chocolate chip flapjack, but it is a satisfying snack loaded with a lot more protein than you’d get from a standard flapjack.

The fine details: Each 85g bar contains 21g of protein, 32g of carbs and 337 calories. There’s also a pleasing 7.6g of fibre, with oats helping to beef up that number, but watch out for the sugar here – at 12g per bar it’s higher than you’ll find in most other options on this list.


Eat Natural Protein Packed

(Image credit: Eat Natural)
(opens in new tab)

16. Eat Natural Protein Packed

Cereal bars with extra protein

Specifications

RRP: £14.99 for 20 45g bars
Calories: 229
Protein: 10.2g
Carbs: 14.6g
Sugars: 8.4g
Fat: 13.7g

Reasons to buy

+
Great taste
+
Natural ingredients

Reasons to avoid

-
Not very high in protein
-
High in sugar

Our favourite bar: Peanuts And Chocolate

Unlike supplement companies who move to protein bars from protein powders, Eat Natural have a snack bar heritage which means its protein offering should be especially tasty. And it is – it tastes like a crunchy cereal bar, with chunks of dark chocolate and coconut. The catch is that you get a lot less protein...

The fine details: Just 10g of protein per 45g bar, a little under what most people like to put away straight after a heavy workout session. As a way to top up your protein intake during the day, however, Eat Natural bars are a better snack than biscuits or cake, but keep an eye on the sugar – each bar contains 8.4g. Finally, the fibre – a decent 3.3g per bar.

Protein Bars Buyer’s Guide

Before you start grabbing fistfuls of bars it’s important to know what you should be looking for. The headline is obviously how much protein they contain, but as with all processed food you have to be careful to avoid hidden nutritional nasties. To help determine what you need to check, we enlisted Kurtis Frank from nutrition and supplement encyclopaedia examine.com (opens in new tab).

What should people look for when choosing a protein bar?

“The main factors for choosing a protein bar would be taste, macronutrient composition – how many carbs, proteins and fats there are – and price,” says Frank.

Most protein bars will deliver somewhere between 15g and 25g of protein. Beyond that, you want to look at how much protein you are getting per calorie.

“For macronutrient composition, most bars are either just under 200 calories while giving 15g of protein or are around 250 calories for 25g of protein,” says Frank.

“Both these options are good for overall health and performance since, at the end of the day, they should only be making up a small percentage of your total calories.”

Also make sure you are actually buying a protein bar, not a general energy bar that’s aimed at endurance activities where loads of carbs are required.

“There are quite a few performance bars out there, such as Clif bars, that are meant for snacks during athletics such as biking or hiking,” says Frank.

“They're pretty much all carbs so they don’t work as a protein bar to eat at work or between meals.”

The price of protein bars can vary hugely, and there will be monstrously bad ones at the cheaper end of things. However, if you can find a cheap bar you like, it will obviously help you save money and there are bargains available, especially if you shop online.

“When it comes to price, a premium protein bar can easily be one of the most expensive things in your diet on a per-calorie basis,” says Frank.

“They aren’t cheap, but the cheap ones also tend to taste worse and be made with poorer ingredients so it ultimately ends up being a balancing act based on your preferences and how much you are willing to spend. It is always worth it to at least try the cheaper bars since they might taste good to you and end up saving you money.

“Aim to get a decent amount of protein per calorie and don’t spend too much money unless you need to. If you’ve found a brand you really like then consider buying in bulk online as you can save a lot that way.”

What difference does the type of protein make?

Protein brands will offer many varieties in their bars, and the terms used can be pretty confusing for the layman. Luckily, it shouldn’t matter too much which protein is in your bar.

“The different types of protein matter much less in a protein bar than they do in shakes,” says Frank, “since the rate of absorption for proteins are inherently slowed when put into a solid form and paired with dietary fats and fibres.

“The types of protein with higher biological values [the percentage of the protein that is absorbed by your body] are still technically better but ultimately they're all close enough that debating about milk protein concentrate versus whey isolate is irrelevant.”

A couple of things you should look out on the label is whether there is a high amount of gelatine or soy concentrate, says Frank.

“The only real ways that the protein type is relevant is if there is a high gelatine content, which provides amino acids and appears as protein on a nutritional label but is not a nourishing protein type, or if you're getting 30g of soy concentrate, since in high doses there could be a mild oestrogenic effect [ie it will raise your levels of oestrogen, the female sex hormone] and 30g of the protein is a pretty high dose. Keep in mind soy lecithin is not soy protein and is totally fine in a protein bar.”

Should you be wary of calories and sugar in protein bars?

It’s easy to view your protein bar as a healthy snack, especially as you’ll regularly eat it before or after a gym visit and won’t be so concerned about keeping tabs on your food. However, they can contain more calories and sugar than you might expect, as we found out in our taste test.

“You definitely should be worried about calories and sugars in protein bars,” says Frank, “just as much as you would with candy bars. Just because it can be seen as healthy doesn't make its consumption a free pass to be omitted from your dietary logs or calorie counts.”

On the other hand, you can also pick up protein bars that contain unexpected health bonuses, especially when it comes to upping your fibre intake.

“It is usually a good idea to get at least 5g of dietary fibre in a protein bar,” says Frank. “It helps it go down better, and a lot of us need help to get a decent amount of fibre in our diets.”

What else should you look out for in a protein bar?

Reading the label on protein bars won’t tell you anything about the texture. The worst of them can be rock-hard and leave you chewing for hours.

“Whether or not it can be used as a brick cannot easily be conveyed through the label,” says Frank. “It will ultimately require some taste testing to find out which ones can break a window when thrown.

“Sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol are more common in the cheaper protein bars that are looking to reduce calories by swapping natural sugars out for these ones. While they can be consumed in moderation and aren't necessarily bad, they can definitely cause gastrointestinal upset in some people. If you're eating a protein bar before exercise, this is the last thing you want.”

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.

With contributions from