Are you on a mission to build a lean and toned physique but need to know which snacks will help you pack on muscle? If so, you're in the right place. Protein bars are a convenient, on-the-go option for a quick, satisfying snack. They deliver amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to help you build lean muscle and shed unwanted body fat. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Foods, high-protein bars can improve body composition in athletes by supporting muscle mass growth and promoting fat loss.
In our fast-paced lives, protein bars offer a quick and easy dose of protein without the carb overload. To find out which low-carb protein bars are best for lean muscle growth, we chatted with Gianna Masi, RDN, CISSN, CPT, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian with Barbend, who shares her top picks to fuel your lean muscle growth, along with expert tips for choosing healthy protein bars.
If you're ready to discover the perfect low-carb protein bars to support your journey toward lean muscle growth, keep reading. We'll guide you through the options, help you understand what makes these bars stand out from a nutritional standpoint, and ensure you have the information you need to make healthy choices. And, when you're done, check out the 9 Best Store-Bought Protein Shakes, According to a Dietitian.
How we chose the healthiest low-carb protein bars
There are several essential tips when selecting the healthiest low-carb protein bars.
- Ingredients list: Opt for bars with simple, whole-food ingredients and avoid those with excessive artificial additives or sweeteners.
- Protein content: "For a lower carb option, aiming for under 30 grams of carbs per bar and at least 10 to 15 grams or more of protein for a snack is a good target," says Masi.
- Sugar content: Choose bars with minimal added sugars, as excessive sugar can counteract the benefits of a low-carb diet.
- Fiber content: Higher fiber bars can help keep you full and aid digestion.
"In lower carb bars, and protein bars in general, some companies will look to lessen the natural sugar and carb content and swap those for sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners so that the bar still tastes good for less carbs or calories," explains Masi. "For many, sugar alcohols can cause stomach aches or bloating, depending on how well you tolerate them. Sugar alcohols are a reduced-calorie sweetener and a carbohydrate harder to digest. These include erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and mannitol."
NuGo Bars: 23g net carbs, 13g protein
NuGo Bars stand out for their great taste and minimal impact on blood sugar levels. They're also a fantastic option for those craving flavor and nutrition in their low-carb protein bars. "I love these because they have dairy-free options, which can be challenging to find," says Masi.
Rise Bars: 17g net carbs, 20g protein
Rise Bar focuses on using minimal ingredients for maximum nutrition. These bars are made with whole foods and contain a good amount of protein while keeping the carbs low.
G2G Protein Bars: 21g net carbs, 18g protein
G2G Protein Bars are designed with simplicity and effectiveness in mind. They deliver a high amount of protein, making them an excellent choice for those seeking to boost their muscle growth. "These are a protein-dense option with 18 grams per bar," states Masi.
ProMix Protein Puff Bars: 12g net carbs, 15g protein
ProMix Protein Puff Bars are packed with protein and air-puffed for a light, crispy texture. If you're after a low-carb protein bar that's tasty and fun to eat, these are worth trying. "These have zero artificial sweeteners and have a crispy texture, so they're one of my top picks," says Masi.
Barebell Protein Bars: 15g net carbs, 20g protein
With a focus on high-quality protein sources and minimal carbs, Barebell Protein Bars provide essential nutrients for muscle recovery. If you're hitting the gym regularly, these bars can be a valuable addition to your routine. "Barebell bars are very popular for their taste, and they do have a small amount of sugar alcohols, so be aware of that," says Masi.
Quest Protein Bars: 7g net carbs, 21g protein
Quest Protein Bars have long been a favorite among health-conscious individuals. That's because they're known for their wide variety of flavors and commitment to providing quality protein with minimal sugar. If you want a low-carb protein bar with lots of options, Quest has you covered.
BelliWelli Bars: 18g net carbs, 4g protein
BelliWelli Bars are a fantastic choice for those with dietary restrictions. These low-carb protein bars are gluten-free and free from major allergens. Their unique blend of seeds and nuts offers a different kind of snacking experience that's both healthy and satisfying.
"For those who need to eat low-FODMAP or are very sensitive, the BelliWelli Bars are a good option. They're low in protein, with only about 5 grams per bar, but are a good option to have in your bag," says Masi.
Kirkland Signature Protein Bars: 12g net carbs, 21g protein
These bars, available at Costco, are known for their delicious flavors and impressive protein content. Plus, they're high in fiber, only have 2 grams of sugar, and provide a substantial amount of protein per serving.
ONE Brands Protein Bars: 20g net carbs, 20g protein
ONE Brands offers a wide range of low-carb protein bars in various flavors. These bars often contain just one gram of sugar and 6 grams of fiber and boast a significant protein punch.
MusclePharm Combat Crunch Bars: 16g net carbs, 20g protein
MusclePharm's Combat Crunch Bars are a favorite among fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders. They're gluten-free, low in sugar, high in fiber, and loaded with protein.
Atlas Protein Bars: 8g net carbs, 20g protein
Atlas Protein Bars are known for their clean ingredients and excellent protein-to-carb ratio. They come in various flavors and offer a satisfying protein boost with fewer carbs.