By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training
Protein bars...so convenient yet so full of garbage. They hold the promise of being healthy, easy and full of life-giving, muscle-building protein.
But have you ever taken a few minutes to look at what's actually IN them?
I think you're going to be in for a shock when you read the TRUTH about the ingredients in some of the most popular protein bars on the market right now.
Let's get right to it...
#1 - Soy Protein Isolate (SPI)
This is, unfortunately, one of the most prevalent protein sources you'll find in protein bars, especially those marketed to women. This marketing would have you believe that soy is an excellent protein source for women because of the isoflavones found in it.
In reality, studies have indicated that these soy isoflavones can actually be TOXIC because of how the soy is processed (fermented soy products are fine, just FYI).
In addition, SPI was actually considered a WASTE product in soy processing until recently, when it was discovered that money could be made by passing it off as a protein source. It's cheap and definitely NOT a high-quality protein. It should be avoided.
And the final nail in the soy coffin: GMO. A very high percentage of the soy grown in the United States is from genetically modified organisms (GMO). They don't currently have to be labeled as such but if you're buying any sort of processed food, chances are very good you're getting a GMO-sourced product.
#2 - High Fructose Corn Syrup
This is an easy one to figure out...the adverse health effects of it are well documented (contrary to what the commercials from the Corn Growers Association claim - those are truly among the most annoying commercials in existence, trying to make people who question corn syrup look stupid).
It's one of the WORST things you can eat and yet there are still bars that use it as a primary ingredient.
#3 - Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil is a cheap, unhealthy fat. Unlike plain palm oil, palm kernel oil can't be obtained organically. Instead, the oil must be extracted from the pit with a gasoline-like hydrocarbon solvent. The fractionated form is the most processed...if you so that in the ingredients, you should definitely avoid it.
#4 - Sugar Alcohols
This includes ingredients like Maltitol Syrup, Xylitol, Sorbitol, Lactitol, Mannitol, and Erythritol. Sugar alcohols are included in bars for sweetness...especially in bars that are "carb controlled".
Sugar alcohols don't impact blood sugar as much as regular sugar because they're not well absorbed in the digestive tract...and when things aren't well absorbed in the digestive tract, things happen (if you know what I mean).
In small amounts, sugar alcohols aren't a big problem, but if you start getting into the double digits of grams of sugar alcohol (and many low-carb bars are in the 20 gram range), THEN you can start to see unpleasant digestive issues.
#5 - Artificial Sweeteners
I won't get into the whole debate about whether artificial sweeteners are bad for you or not and what they turn into in your body, etc. Personally, I'm of the mindset that if it's created by science, chances are good your body won't recognize it and won't be able to metabolize it into something actually good for you.
Therefore, I try and stay away from artificial sweeteners as much as I possibly can. I find the actual natural flavor of real food to be pretty good, ironically enough.
Those are my top 5 worst protein bar ingredients...and you will actually find bars that contain ALL of these ingredients in them.
The main problem I have with the vast majority of protein bars today is that at their most base level, they're deceptive. The bars are put forward as convenient, healthy alternatives to food for "on the go" people. Yet when you take a close look at the ingredients, they're actually WORSE for you than most candy bars.
Obviously money is the biggest factor...companies that use high-quality ingredients in their bars have to charge more for them in order to stay in business. Hence the brick-like slop sold in bar form that you'll find in the grocery store aisles today.
A New Breed of Protein Bar...Organic!
One of my most trusted supplement companies, Biotrust, makes an extremely delicious, completely ORGANIC protein bar containing NONE of these ingredients.