Most protein bars are ‘carb bars’ all dressed up to look like a protein bar. I want to show you a real simple way to look at any protein bar and tell if it is real or an impostor.
- Look at the carbohydrate, fiber and protein grams. Make sure you are looking at the grams and not the %.
- Subtract the fiber from the carbohydrate. This gives you ‘net carbs’.
- Compare the net carbs to the protein.
- If the protein is higher than the net carbs then you truly have a protein bar. If the net carbs are higher then you have a carb bar that contains some protein.
Why is this important?
If the bar contains more net carbs than protein then your blood sugar will spike. Your body responds to that rise in blood sugar by releasing insulin. Insulin does one good thing; it brings your blood sugar down from that spike BUT it does several unwanted things too. Insulin is a hormone that stimulates the development of fat, specifically belly fat called visceral fat. This is the fat that is deep in our belly, surrounding our organs. This is the fat that causes diabetes & heart disease. Insulin will also cause high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and lowers testosterone. So, obviously, you don’t always want to be in this state. A protein bar that has more protein than net carbs will not cause this unwanted chain of events. Your blood sugar will not spike and your insulin will remain steady.
Food Industry Tricks
Some companies are very good at making their carb bars look like protein bars. The following are very common practices;
- Use of artificial sweeteners. Many companies use these because the carbs in most artificial sweeteners are zero. It will show that the protein is higher than the carbs on the nutrition facts. The problem here is, even though the carbs are not there, artificial sweeteners still stimulate a release of insulin, causing all the same problems listed above. This will also stimulate your appetite, whereas, a real protein bar will keep you full much, much longer. The artificial sweeteners to look out for in the ingredients are; aspartame, sucralose and aceulfame potassium (sometime abbreviated as ace potassium or ace K+).
- Adding additional fiber to lower the net carbs. It is very difficult to create a protein bar that has more protein than net carbs and still tastes good. I know, it took me 2 years to do it. So, often times a company will get the taste right but the carbs are still too high so they say, “Lets dump some fiber into the recipe to decrease the net carbs”. Then they will add inulin or chicory into the recipe. These are ingredients I would not want my clients to have. The main reason being many of my clients have GI issues and these two forms of fiber can add to their symptoms causing them to experience gas and bloating.
- Deceiving packaging. Often times consumers only look at the front of the package and don’t ever look at the ingredients or the nutrition facts on the back of the package. The front of the packaging will say (in big letters) “Contains 17g of protein”. So the customer says, “wow, thats a lot of protein” and they buy the bar without ever seeing that there are 35g of carbs and 1 gram of fiber. Essentially, they bought a carb bar.
A truly good protein bar will:
- Contain more protein than net carbs.
- Be free of artificial sweeteners.
- Contain naturally occurring fiber from the ingredients, not added fiber.
- Contain ingredients that you understand and recognize as real food. You should not need a dictionary to figure out what is in your food.
- Taste yummy.