Convenient, filling and packed with muscle-maintaining protein, protein bars are a quick and easy on-the-go option for athletes, gym goers and anyone who wants to increase their protein intake.
We tested the most popular protein bars and snacks on the market, and asked our nutritionist for her tips on how to include them in your diet safely. Read on to see her advice.
Once you’ve researched whether a protein supplement is right for you, discover which protein bars are best. You might also enjoy our review of the best vegan protein powders.
Best vegan protein bars 2021
The Protein Works Ridiculous wild chocolate peanut vegan protein bar
Grams of protein per serving: 15g
Calories per serving: 200 kcals
Type of protein: soy protein isolate, pea protein
Type of sweetener: stevia
Best all-round vegan protein bar
Delivering 15g of protein, 8.1g fibre and an impressive 0.8g sugar per serving, this bar ticked all the boxes. It’s an attractive, multi-layered bar with a seam of caramel running through the top and chunks of crunchy peanuts and crispy soy protein nuggets to add texture. It has a lovely peanutty flavour and a smooth coating that tastes like milk chocolate. There was an ever so slightly bitter aftertaste (which is very common with vegan protein bars), but it didn’t detract at all from an overall enjoyable eat.
A box of 18 bars costs £26.09, working out at a reasonable £1.45 per bar. It’s vegan and gluten-free, too.
Bulk Powders Double Choc protein brownie
Grams of protein per serving: 15g
Calories per serving: 227 kcals
Type of protein: pea protein, hydrolysed wheat protein, soy protein
Type of sweetener: oat syrup, brown sugar, date syrup
Best vegan protein bar as a dessert
These brownies pack an impressive 15g protein and 3g fibre into each snack, along with 11g sugar – on the higher side, but definitely a good option as a treat. They have a really fudgy texture, like a perfectly underbaked brownie – it’s dense and slightly chewy, with lovely rich chocolate chips sprinkled on the top. There is a very slight bitter aftertaste, but dark chocolate fans will enjoy. Overall we found these to be excellent – they’d make for a really satisfying after-dinner dessert.
Buy a box of 12 brownies for £21.99 – that’s £1.83 per brownie.
Vive Natural Protein peanut butter snack bar
Grams of protein per serving: 10g
Calories per serving: 215 kcals
Type of protein: peanuts, pea protein, rice protein
Type of sweetener: cane sugar
Best all-natural vegan protein bar
As self-confessed peanut butter fanatics, we had a very good feeling about this one – it didn’t disappoint. The first thing to note is the lovely smooth coating, made using 74% Belgian dark chocolate, which makes the bar feel like a real treat. The filling is densely packed and very rich – full of chunky peanuts, crispy protein bites, cocoa butter and of course, smooth peanut butter.
With 11g per serving, it is higher in sugar than some other offerings, as organic cane sugar is used in place of sweetener – but it’s a good choice if you’d rather avoid sweeteners. Vive have focused on natural ingredients in their bars, and the ingredients list is reassuringly recognisable.
A box of 12 bars costs £16 – working out at £1.34 per bar.
MyVegan Choc Orange Pea-Nut Square
Grams of protein per serving: 12g
Calories per serving: 233 kcals
Type of protein: peanuts, pea protein isolate
Type of sweetener: rice syrup, xylitol, agave syrup
Best tasting vegan protein bar
If you’re partial to a chocolate orange, you’ll get on very well with this bar. Orange oil provides the citrus flavouring, with great effect – it’s natural and zingy without being overpowering. In terms of texture, the bar is quite solid and dense, like tiffin, and studded throughout with chopped peanuts and generous chunks of chocolate. Overall, very enjoyable and satisfying.
A box of 12 costs £19.99, working out at £1.66 each.
Available from: MyVegan (£19.99)
Trek Power Peanut Butter Crunch
Grams of protein per serving: 15.5g
Calories per serving: 229 kcals
Type of protein: soya protein isolate, peanut flour
Type of sweetener: dates, glucose syrup, cane sugar, date syrup, fruit juice concentrate
Best for refuelling after exercise
Providing 15.5g protein in each bar, along with 10.5g sugar and 229 kcals, this would be a great option for refuelling after exercise or during a hike. These bars do taste sweet, but not overly so, and have a rich, melting peanut butter texture with a smattering of crunchy, crispy pieces for good measure – the effect is more like a traditional cereal bar than some of the others. It’s partly sweetened with fruit juice concentrate from grapes and apples, and that comes through pleasantly in the taste.
These bars RRP at £1.75.
Pulsin Peanut Choc protein bar
Grams of protein per serving: 12.1g
Calories per serving: 231 kcals
Type of protein: peanut flour, pea protein
Type of sweetener: xylitol
Best vegan protein bar for filling up
Clocking in at 12.1g protein from peanut and pea sources, each bar also contains 7.6g sugar per serving. Inside, the ingredients have been really packed together to create quite a heavy little bar studded with chopped peanuts and dark chocolate chips. The texture is fairly chewy, making it a really satisfying snack. It’s not too sweet and is seriously filling – a real hunger killer.
A box of 18 bars costs £32.22, coming out at £1.79 per bar.
Misfits Chocolate Brownie vegan protein bar
Grams of protein per serving: 15.3g
Calories per serving: 185 kcals
Type of protein: pea protein isolate, soya protein nuggets
Type of sweetener: stevia
Best low-sugar vegan protein bar
Triple-layered and chocolate coated, these bars pack in 15.3g protein and 8g fibre per serving, with less than 1g sugar per bar. They have a very deep, rich cocoa flavour with a smooth chocolate coating and crisp, crunchy protein pieces mixed throughout the filling. A layer of caramel at the top adds a touch of sweetness. The texture is a little crumbly and on the drier side, making it a lighter option if you don’t want to feel too full.
A box of 12 bars is £18 – working out at £1.50 each. These bars are also gluten-free.
Protein health advice
How to use protein supplements safely
Dietary supplements such as protein bars should be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet, and not used as a substitute for whole food.
Nutritionist Kerry Torrens explains, ‘Protein supplements, such as bars, are highly processed and lack the micronutrients and other beneficial nutrients of whole, natural food. We should all aim to achieve our protein requirements from a well-balanced diet, but for short-term use or in certain circumstances, protein supplementation may be considered.’
Although protein bars may have healthier credentials than a chocolate bar, it’s important to remember that they are a concentrated source of energy and can be high in sugar, carbohydrates and fats. Consider your individual health and fitness goals, your personal dietary requirements and your reason for including protein bars in your diet when deciding which product to buy and how often to eat them.
Who could benefit from using a protein supplement?
If you’re regularly getting enough protein from your diet, adding a supplement might not make a noticeable difference to your health. However, those who are either unable to regularly eat enough protein due to decreased appetite or illness, or who have increased protein needs as a result of high-intensity exercise might benefit from taking a supplement.
Kerry explains, ‘One example, which is probably not an obvious one, is the elderly. This group often has a greater need for protein, but a lower appetite. Increasing protein intake in a form that is palatable and suits their lowered appetite may be effective in protecting against muscle loss. That said, in this group other aspects, such as kidney health and osteoporosis, need to be considered and monitored – it’s worth checking with a GP that protein supplements are safe and suitable for each individual.’
Who shouldn’t take protein supplements?
Children shouldn’t take protein supplements unless directed by a dietitian. The NHS advises that consuming too much protein in the long-term is linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis, and may worsen existing kidney problems. Some people find protein bars difficult to digest – it’s best to include them gradually into your diet, and see how you get on. Although allergens should be stated on the label, anyone with allergies should be cautious about using a new supplement, as there is an obvious risk of cross-contamination in factories. Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or being treated for existing medical conditions should consult their GP before starting new supplements.
Is it possible to take too much protein?
Yes. The Department of Health advises adults to avoid consuming more than twice the recommended daily intake of protein (55g for men and 45g for women). Always read the label of any protein supplement carefully, stick to the recommended serving size, and be mindful of other protein sources in your diet. If you’re concerned that you might be consuming too much protein, speak to your GP.
How to choose a protein bar
Choosing a suitable protein bar will depend on your personal requirements and goals. For example, if you’re looking to gain weight or build muscle, you might want to consider a ‘mass-gainer’ product that is higher in calories and carbohydrates. Look for a product to fit your dietary requirements and double-check allergen labelling on the packet.
When choosing a protein bar, make sure that you buy from a reputable company, ideally based in Europe, as those that are based outside of Europe may not pass the same safety standards as those within. If you’re in any doubt about the safety of a product, speak to your pharmacist or GP.
What we looked for in protein bars
Taste and texture: is the flavour pleasant? Is the texture palatable?
Type of protein: pea, brown rice, hemp, peanut, soya, or another plant-based protein?
Nutrient profile: how much protein per serving? What about calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sugars?
Type of sweetener: does it contain sugars, artificial sweetener or neither?
Dietary requirements: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free?
Value for money: how does it compare to others on a cost-per-bar basis?
All bars were taste tested on the same day, with notes made according to the testing criteria. We included 25 samples from a range of manufacturers with differing nutritional information, protein types and price points for this review.
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This review was last updated in December 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.