Getting the right amount of protein each day is crucial, no matter what your goals are. Protein bars are a great, convenient way to ensure you are getting protein when you need it most.
There are several times when they come in handy to give you the right amount of protein to maximize your energy, fuel your workouts, and nourish your body.
In this article, we take a look at the perfect times to eat a protein bar.
When you need to get more protein.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (World Health Organisation, 2002 1). The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements.
So in that case, a sedentary male weighing 170 lbs would need at least 61.2 grams of protein per day, minimum. The average sedentary woman weighing 140 lbs would need 50.4 grams of protein.
Those who exercise regularly will need higher quantities of dietary protein. Recent studies have found that active people need to consume up to 0.73 grams per pound of bodyweight. 2
With the average protein bar offering somewhere between 10 – 20 grams of protein per serving, this will go a long way towards hitting your RDA and helping you get more protein when you need it most.
As a balanced breakfast on the go
According to the American Society for Nutrition, not enough Americans eat breakfast. 3
Many experts suggest that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And there is a good reason for that. Studies have shown that those who eat protein for breakfast, can curb their hunger throughout the day and are less likely to snack and overeat. 4
Adding a protein bar to your breakfast, or consuming one when there is no time to prepare breakfast at home can be a great way to start your day right, with a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats as well as several vitamins and minerals giving you all the nutrition you need to keep you going until lunchtime.
If you’re an athlete or fitness enthusiast, you may be looking for ways to improve your performance and reach your goals. Good nutrition can help your body perform better during a workout and recover faster afterward.
Getting the right nutrients before a workout can not only help you maximize performance, but also minimize muscle damage. 5 In fact, studies show that you should never work out in a completely fasted state. 6
In particular, the consumption of protein before a workout has been proven to have significant benefits. Eating protein before a workout (either on their own or with carbohydrates) has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, a naturally occurring process where protein is produced to repair muscles following intense exercise. 7
Other benefits of eating protein before a workout include:
- Increased strength and lean mass, helping to improve overall fitness 8
- Improved muscle recovery post-workout, decreasing stiffness and soreness after a workout 9
- Increased muscle performance, fueling your performance during your workout 10
Having a protein bar to hand prior to working out is an easy way to ensure you’re getting the right nutrients to optimize your performance during workouts.
Fueling your workout with the right nutrients before exercise is important but it’s just as important to consume the right nutrients after your workout too. This will help to aid your muscle recovery and weight loss. 11
Your workout will result in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen as they will have used up their stores for fuel. Some proteins in your muscles will also be broken down during a workout. 12
After your workout, your body will try to repair and regrow these broken muscle proteins and rebuild their stores of glycogen.
Eating the right nutrients post-workout can help your body do this faster.
The American Council on Exercise recommends that you eat between 15 – 20g of protein directly after a workout to help with this repair and regeneration. 13
A protein bar is an ideal post-workout snack as it combines all your needed macronutrients after a workout to help your body with it’s repairing process while providing you with enough protein to hit this requirement in one serving.
During a weight loss program
Protein bars can be a great snack to include as part of your weight loss program.
A protein bar is a filling and tasty snack to keep hunger at bay between meals. 14 This in turn helps prevent overeating and reaching for high sugar and high sodium snacks during a weight loss program.
Protein bars can be a quick and convenient way to consume protein when you’re trying to lose weight, especially if you lack the time or resources for extensive meal prepping. There is no calorie counting, portion control or measuring involved.
They can also help boost your metabolism. A high protein meal or snack, like a protein bar, has been shown to significantly boost metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn. 15 16 This is due to protein’s Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). It means that your body uses more energy to digest protein than any other macronutrient, leading to a boost in your metabolism.
As a quick snack on the go
Research shows that people who don’t prepare meals and who snack on the move are more likely to put on weight. 17
Protein bars offer a perfect, healthy choice for busy people, on the move. They are easily portable, widely available and a healthy alternative to picking up fast food.
1 Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation. Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 2007;(935):. https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/nutrientrequirements/WHO_TRS_935/en/
2 Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(6):376‐384. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608
3 Nas A, Mirza N, Hagele F, Kahlhofer J, Keller J, Rising R, Kufer TA and Bosy-Westphal A. Impact of breakfast skipping compared with dinner skipping on regulation of energy balance and metabolic risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017; 105(6):1351-1361.
4 Astbury NM, Taylor MA and Macdonald IA. Breakfast Consumption Affects Appetite, Energy Intake, and the Metabolic and Endocrine Responses to Foods Consumed Later in the Day in Male Habitual Breakfast Eaters. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011; 141(7).
5 Hawley JA, Burke LM. Effect of meal frequency and timing on physical performance. Br J Nutr. 1997;77 Suppl 1:S91‐S103. doi:10.1079/bjn19970107
6 Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1782‐1808. Published 2014 Apr 29. doi:10.3390/nu6051782
7 Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Stimulation of net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007;292(1):E71‐E76. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00166.2006
8 Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(11):1918‐1925. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e
9 Kraemer WJ, Hatfield DL, Spiering BA, et al. Effects of a multi-nutrient supplement on exercise performance and hormonal responses to resistance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2007;101(5):637‐646. doi:10.1007/s00421-007-0535-3
10 Willoughby DS, Stout JR, Wilborn CD. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007;32(4):467‐477. doi:10.1007/s00726-006-0398-7
11 Willoughby DS, Stout JR, Wilborn CD. Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007;32(4):467‐477. doi:10.1007/s00726-006-0398-7
12 Pitkanen HT, Nykanen T, Knuutinen J, et al. Free amino acid pool and muscle protein balance after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003;35(5):784‐792. doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000064934.51751.F9
13 APA Rosenbloom, Christine PhD, RD, CSSD Food and Fluid Guidelines Before, During, and After Exercise, Nutrition Today: March/April 2012 – Volume 47 – Issue 2 – p 63-69 doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e31824c5cb8
14 Ortinau, L.C., Hoertel, H.A., Douglas, S.M. et al. Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutr J 13, 97 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-13-97
15 Johnston CS, Day CS, Swan PD. Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002;21(1):55‐61. doi:10.1080/07315724.2002.10719194
16 Veldhorst MA, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Westerterp KR. Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(3):519‐526. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27834
17 Cleobury L, Tapper K. Reasons for eating ‘unhealthy’ snacks in overweight and obese males and females. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014;27(4):333‐341. doi:10.1111/jhn.12169