When to Eat a Protein Bar to Make the Most Out of It

Protein bars are widespread and popular, both among people who practice sports, and among sedentary people. Athletes use them to supplement their daily protein needs, support and increase muscle mass and favourite recovery, while those who do not practice sports use them as snacks or replacement meals, to control body weight and keep fit.

Proetin bar usage, together with that of protein powder, spread especially during the 70s-80s, during which the attention to physical fitness increased, also leading to the spread of dietary protocols mainly based on proteins, for the reduction of weight and body fat. From here on, protein bars have become the inevitable nutrients of slimming diets, often restrictive and unbalanced and not without side effects.

There is still a lot of confusion about the effect of proteins on our organism and even the use of foods or protein supplements is not always clear.

For this reason we thought to clarify the use of protein bars and understand together what is the best time to eat a protein bar after training to both lose weight, or to build muscles. We will also try to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding the use of protein bars.

If you want to learn how to use protein bars and make the most of them, first you need to know what proteins and what protein bars are.

What Proteins and Protein Bars Are?

Proteins are essential macronutrients, which means that we must take them through food because we are not able to derive them from other nutrients. From a nutritional point of view, proteins differ from carbohydrates in several aspects; they mainly have a structural role (they are the bricks of our muscles) and are digested more slowly, avoiding a sudden increase in blood sugar and favouring the maintenance of satiety for a long time.

The protein requirement strictly depends on your body weight and also on the type of physical activity. 

If you are not an athlete and practice moderate physical activity or are sedentary, your requirement is about 0.9g/kg/die. 

If you are an athlete you should eat about 1.2/1.5g/kg (for endurance athletes), 1.5-2g/kg (for athletes who need to build muscular mass) of protein every day. 

Proteins are included in different foods of animal and plant origin. Vegan people can find proteins in legumes, whole grains, nuts and oilseeds.

You can cover your daily needs very easily, eating a wide variety of these foods every day, distributing them in meals and snacks to optimize their absorption and use by your body. 

However, it is also true that plant-based foods are loaded with a certain amount of fiber and certain substances that could limit protein absorption, and muscle might not be able to use them.

For this reason, it may be beneficial to supplement our needs with supplements containing vegetal proteins of good quality. And here the protein bars could help you

Be careful, however, the bars are not all the same and the first distinction must be made between protein and energy bars.

A protein bar is different from an energy bar because of its protein content which should be at least 10-12g per bar. The quantity is shown in the nutritional label, which shows the proteins contained in 100g of product and in the single bar. Unlike the energy bar, consisting mainly of carbohydrates and more specific for athletes, the protein bar can be defined as a balanced and versatile food, which because of its low glycemic index, can be used for a different purpose, not only to supplement the amount of protein in the day and to support muscle exercise from a structural point of view, but also to keep hunger under control, or to promote weight loss.

What do protein bars do?

Protein bars contain several ingredients, including a mixture of proteins, which distinguishes them from energy bars and makes them balanced and low glycemic index foods.

The protein bar contains an optimal amount of protein, which is why it can help you cover your daily protein needs, but also promote muscle recovery, keep hunger under control and stay fit, with taste!

What are protein bars good for

If your goal is to get back in shape and lose weight, you can use protein bars for this purpose. First, you need to combine a balanced diet with moderate physical activity. Eating balanced, low glycemic index meals helps keep hunger under control and make it easier to follow a low-calorie diet.  You can eat protein bars to lose weight inserting them also without working out in your diet as it is a tasty and balanced snack that satisfies your hunger in a healthy way. 

When is the best time to eat the protein bar to lose weight? Use it as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack: you'll avoid energy drops and cravings for sugary foods. You can always bring one with you (it's easy and takes up little space), and it will help you achieve your goal.

The protein bar, if not specified on the label, is not suitable to replace a meal. If you want to lose weight, we recommend you avoid "do-it-yourself" diets, especially if very restrictive, which could be dangerous to your health, because they are unbalanced. It would be better to follow the advice of a specialist, setting a personalized dietary path and definitely change your eating habits.

If your goal is to strengthen your muscles you will have to associate the specific exercise to an adequate diet, which covers the energy (carbohydrate) and protein needs and you can use protein bars as supplements to reach your needs and build your muscles. In this case the best time to eat the protein bar is at once pre and post your workout, to provide your muscles with the essential amino acid pool for muscle building. Always remember that proteins are the essential nutrients for post-workout muscle recovery, as they allow you to repair muscles and promote training adaptations. 

When to eat protein bar after a workout? Try to eat your protein bar within 30 minutes of the end of your workout, when your muscles respond better to the anabolic stimulus. In this time, also referred to as the "anabolic window", skeletal muscle is ready to incorporate and use nutrients, for synthesis of new contractile tissue and to repair that injured by physical activity.

If you are an athlete, remember that you can eat a protein bar even when you're not doing physical activity, as a balanced snack to calm hunger in a healthy and tasty way.

How many protein bars can you eat a day

A lot of people think that it is bad to eat protein bars daily. The answer to this question is different, and it depends on the type of protein bar. On the market there are various types of bars, very similar in terms of protein content, but very different in terms of the choice of ingredients. Remember that it is very important to read the list of ingredients of any packaged food, since the ingredients depend on the quality of the product. Many bars contain industrially derived artificial sugars and sweeteners, preservatives, dyes and additives that aim to make the product more palatable and conserved for a long time. These products are inevitably unhealthy, and it is inadvisable to use daily. If your bar contains only natural ingredients, such as high-quality fruit sugars and proteins, then you can definitely incorporate them into your daily diet.

It remains to be clarified how many bars you can eat in a day. If your bar is of good quality, it has no side effects, but the limit of consumption is that you should comply with your calorie and protein requirements and that you should be careful to consume a wide variety of foods. Reasonably, depending on your needs and body weight, it may be advisable to consume 1-2 protein bars per day, inserted within a wide-ranging and balanced diet.

If you have never tried our organic protein bars, we recommend you do it as soon as possible! Only natural ingredients and an authentic flavour, such as that of good homemade food. Choose between banana almonds or almond butter and cacao, both with 12g of high quality vegan proteins and no sugars added!

Author: Francesca Deriu, Nutritionist at Minutro

Further Reading:

David Rogerson. Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Sep 13;14:36.

Kenneth Vitale, Andrew Getzin. Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations Nutrients. 2019 Jun 7;11(6):1289. 

Ralf Jäger et al., International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20.
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