So, now that you know how to best use a protein or energy bar, let’s figure out how to choose the right bar for you. If you haven't read the first part of this blog, you can check it out here.
One important thing to note: bars are not an effective permanent replacement for full meals. While bars can be effective in supplementing an already well-balanced diet and routine or they occasionally save you when you just don’t have time for a meal, they should not take the place of healthy, nutritious meals. And we make bars! We love that people rely on Caveman all of the time, but at the end of the day, a balanced diet from real, whole foods is what we are shooting for. Our goal is to make bars that fit into that plan..
So, let’s say you are in a good spot and you are eating for overall health and wellness without a specific regime or fitness goal in place. For those folks, all you really need to watch out for is carbohydrate and sugar levels in the product you’re choosing. While these products may be marketed as a healthy alternative, some of them can be quite sneaky with their marketing and be hiding large amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners that may do more harm than good. An energy bar (or a protein bar) with 20 grams of sugar probably isn’t the best bet for an everyday snack.
As far as energy bars go, there are really two different types of energy bar: quick energy (“activity bars”) and slow energy (“endurance bars”) bars. The first type typically contains more nuts, seeds, and nut butters - anything that is both going to digest quickly and provide a decent amount of carbohydrates to be expended quickly. The second kind typically has more processed or starchy ingredients that digest slower over time, like oats or granola, to provide energy over a longer period of time - the downside being that they take a bit longer to digest.
If you spend a lot of time in the gym and you’re looking to gain weight, it would be wise to look for high-protein bars for post-workout that exceed 20 grams of protein, with a limited amount of sugar. The challenge is finding that combination - since it is hard to find that combo of high protein + low sugar + good taste, we often choose meat snacks instead. We will talk more about it in part 3, but watch out for sugar substitutes. They make it possible to have that combo but they come with some downsides as well.
If you are choosing bars to supplement a lot of workouts, many customers also use energy bars as well since the high carbohydrates in energy bars can help power you through the workout. If that is the case, look for energy/snack bars with clean ingredients and in this situation, carbs are actually a good thing. Just look for carbs that are starchier and provide more long-term energy, like oats or granola.
In regards to protein sources, you’ll have to refine your search a bit to find something that fits your needs. If you follow a plant-based or paleo diet, you should have an easy time finding snack bars (our very own Caveman Foods nutrition bar is a great choice), but finding a suitable protein bar can be difficult. This is because typically, protein bars were made using dairy-based protein as their main protein source. But now we have choices! If you follow a plant-based diet, there are alternatives out there such as soy and pea protein. There are also alternatives available for Paleo dieters, like egg white protein.
If you adhere to a keto diet, this is probably going to be where finding a bar that fits your needs is going to be most challenging. Because of the carb-restrictive nature of the keto diet, you might be in for a long hunt, especially for snack bars. While there are more keto-friendly protein bars on the market than snack or energy bars, the tradeoff is frequently high levels of starches or sugar alcohols. These can cause digestive issues for some people, which is why we avoid them in Caveman products.
Want to dig deeper? The next level is ingredients in the next and final part of this three-part series. Until then, hopefully the information we’ve given you here will assist you in finding the perfect bar for your goals.