Gaining Weight From Protein Bars?
Most grocery stores/supermarkets offer a plethora of protein bars in a variety of flavors, from fruits and oats to chocolate-peanut butter, typically promising 6 grams or more of “pure” protein. Can these much-hyped, and much in-demand, bars be really good for you? It depends. There are some healthy protein bars, and then there are some as healthy as a Snickers bar. Protein bars are convenient, you can throw them in your gym bag or purse, and snack on them on the go. Their wrappers make it easy to think that they’re healthier than a candy bar, but sometimes they’re not. In fact, they may have more calories, sugar, and fat than a candy bar! I cannot stress the fact that REAL food is far superior in nutrition and health benefits than a processed food like a bar. That being said, protein bars should be used as emergency snacks/meals, especially when one is traveling and does not have proper access to food.
Why would protein bars make you fat? There are a few reasons. First, many protein bars get their protein from soy. Soy can change estrogen metabolism, and in higher doses or consumed frequently, can help raise estrogen levels. Estrogen is an anabolic steroid and tends to make us soft and round like a pregnant woman. Additionally, much research has linked soy to breast cancer. Another reason protein bars pack on the pounds is due to their high sugar content. Many have an insane amount of sugar, often 30 grams, which is more than many candy bars!!The bars that use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar pose another problem. Consuming a substantial amount of artificial sweetener can mimic sugar in the body and eventually cause insulin resistance, thereby sending all the carbs we eat directly into storage as fat cells. The following are some good tips to help you navigate the protein bar aisle:
1. Avoid a lot of Sugar: Look for bars containing less than 10 grams of sugar in them. It is recommended that we don’t consume more than 45 grams of added sugar a day, so do the math when eating your meals and snacks.
2. Do not Eat High Fructose Corn Syrup: Read the ingredients, and if it contains HFCS, please put the bar down! It is not processed in the body and is making many of us obese.
3. Find Fiber: Look for a bar containing at least 4 grams of fiber. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber breaks down with water and is found in some fruits, vegetables, legumes, and oats. It helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Insoluble fiber does not break down in water, is found in wheat bran, some vegetables and whole grains, and aids in digestion and keeps us “regular”. We should be consuming both types of fiber on a daily basis, about 28 grams a day. More benefits of fiber include lowering cholesterol and helping the body get rid of fat; regulating blood glucose levels after eating; and keeping us feeling full longer.
4. Calorie Control: If the bar is replacing a meal, (remember emergency only!), then it should contain 300-400 calories. If it’s replacing a snack, then look for bars under 200 calories.
5. Avoid Soy: Look for bars made from whey protein, pea protein, or hemp.
In summary, protein bars have their time and place. They should not be incorporated into a daily part of your life. Eating well balanced meals consisting of lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains, with some fruit, nut, or veggie snacks in between should be the norm. Protein bars should be used when traveling, emergency situations, or if training for an event. Read the ingredients and nutrition label carefully. Hint: Often the healthier bars don’t taste as sweet and delicious as the unhealthier bars, and there is a good reason for this! Using protein bars sparingly, and wisely, can help enhance a nutritious and healthy lifestyle.