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  • Writer's pictureIndia Bodien

3 Tips for Picking the Right Protein Bar for Your Goals

One thing is for certain: in almost every corner of the world that I have visited, from Mexico to Japan, Stockholm to Kazakhstan, protein is an easy-to-purchase, readily available snack. Tucked up near convenience store cash registers, in gym supplement shops, and in everyday grocery store aisles, everyone seems to have jumped on the protein bandwagon. This is great news for lawyers and other professionals on business trips who perhaps left their protein stash at home. But how exactly do you pick the right protein bar for your goals when you are unfamiliar with the protein bars that are available? Here are three trips for picking a protein bar that will curb your sweet tooth, help you stay on track, and support your goals.

Tip #1: Check out that Protein Profile

The first thing that I do when selecting a protein bar that is new to me is to check out the protein content. To meet your daily protein goal, depending on your goals (fat loss, muscle gain, maintenance, etc.), you will want to select a bar that comes close to the amount of protein that you aim for in each meal. For example, a person who wants to lose some fat and gain some muscle, and who is around 145 pounds may have a protein goal of around 125g of protein per day. If that person eats 6 small meals per day, that works out to about 20g of protein per meal, which would be a good target for the protein bar that person selects as one of their meals. If the bar is a little under, like the one above (purchased in Stockholm at a convenience store) perhaps try to get in a few more grams of protein at the next meal, or pair the bar with a handful of nuts or edamame, a little yogurt, a piece of jerky, string cheese, a boiled egg, or another whole food source of protein to boost the grams per meal in your on-the-go snack.

Tip #2: Watch for Sugars

Most busy professionals who sit for long hours in the day and who are trying to lose a little fat and gain some muscle will want to avoid eating a lot of excess processed sugar. One of the pitfalls of processed, ready-made protein bars is that they can contain a lot of hidden added sugar. A rule of thumb that I myself practice when selecting a protein bar is to pick one that has 8g of sugar or less, and has at least 20g of protein. This way you are still getting a good "bang for your buck", even with a little more added sugar. If the protein bars in your area are particularly high in sugar (more than 10g for 20g of protein), I would suggest probably picking a higher-protein, lower sugar snack, such as ready-made boiled eggs and string cheese, cottage cheese and fruit, or plain, nonfat greek yogurt and nuts. It is easy for a protein bar to read more like a candy bar when the sugar content is high.

Tip #3: Have Fun and Play with Taste

Not all protein bars are created equal, and some are, let's face it, downright pretty terrible, even if they have a great macro profile. When traveling to a new country, I like to see what's available and play around with flavors and tastes of protein bars that are close to my goal. Satiety-level is a key component of picking foods that will support your fitness goals, because you will be less prone to snack on less nutrient and macro-dense foods if your hunger (and sweet tooth) are satisfied. Therefore, even if a bar has a little less protein than you would typically consume in a meal (like the one above at 16g rather than 20g), it is still worth it to give it a try and see if you like it. After all, fitness is not about perfection but about consistently meeting your goals over time. Missing a few grams of protein in one meal, but enjoying the bar you wanted to try and avoiding the pastries at the lunch buffet line, is a hack that is worth implementing on your next business trip and for life.

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