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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Review: Finding the best protein bar

Meeting your protein goal does not need to be a cruel and unusual punishment.
Quest Protein Bars / Mike Mozart / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Finding the protein bar that’s right for you is a daunting task, especially with so many options on the grocery store shelves.

As the warmth of summer draws near, many of us bid farewell to cozy sweater weather and eagerly anticipate embracing the sunshine. For some, this shift signals a call to action, a time to focus on sculpting their ideal #HotGirlSummer physique.

According to the Gymbro gurus, not only do you need to crush it at the gym and tear your muscles to shreds, but you also have to load up on protein. And then, of course, comes the inevitable YouTube doomscrolling session to find adequate protein sources to hit your daily macros.

Contrary to what Reddit says, you do not, in fact, need to eat your housecat, which contains approximately 680 grams of protein. There are plenty of other protein options at your disposal.

While I am no Chloe Ting, I found that my protein options were… gross. Protein shakes and powders promised a flavor explosion akin to Wonkaland, but in reality, they tasted more like grass with a heinous aftertaste. I was starting to question my fitness journey after two scoops of Premier Protein’s Whey milkshake.

Fortunately, I discovered that my fitness journey didn’t have to feel like a cruel and unusual self-imposed punishment. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I could actually get my daily dose of protein from what I had gaslit myself into believing was just a regular candy bar.

Worry not; I tried the most popular protein bars, so you don’t have to. Now you can achieve that bangin’ summer bod without worrying about how you will hit your protein goals.

Creating a list of protein bars from Forbes’ 2024 Protein Bar Review to perform a realistic taste test. (Jasneh Sasan)

The criteria for the taste test

I started with a list of 24 protein bars and then checked my bank balance and narrowed that list down to seven randomly selected protein bar brands from Forbes’ list of best protein bars in 2024. After consideration of taste, cost, and nutritional value, it turns out that there is, in fact, a superior protein bar.

I went to each bar’s official website and selected its most popular flavor to hopefully maximize my overall enjoyment through the endeavor. The bars I chose were as follows:

  • Barebells’s Cookies and Cream flavor
  • Pure Protein’s Lemon Cake flavor
  • Quest’s Cookies and Cream flavor
  • Think!’s Lemon Delight flavor
  • Power Crunch’s Cookies and Cream flavor
  • ONE’s Birthday Cake flavor
  • RX’s Chocolate Sea Salt flavor

After a thorough taste test, I ranked the bars on three primary criteria: taste, nutritional value, and cost relative to value.

The Taste Test

I was surprised to have found that protein can, in fact, come in the form of bougie Snickers bars. The highest-ranked bars based on taste alone were Barebells’ Cookies and Cream bar and Quest’s Cookies and Cream bar. Barebells was by far the most appealing bar regarding looks, packaging, and taste. Harnessing a flavor akin to a chocolate candy bar, Barebells captured the essence of the cookies and cream experience while boosting your protein consumption. 

Taste test of seven protein bars based on taste, texture, aftertaste, chewiness, etc. (Jasneh Sasan)

Quest trailed close behind with a soft yet firm build and a phenomenal cookie dough taste that wasn’t overpoweringly sweet but also somehow didn’t taste like a protein bar. Quest was definitely a cheat-less cheat snack for me. 

Pure Protein and Think! trailed close behind with protein bars that tasted like protein bars. Neither were a unique experience, but their simplicity was expected and, hence, appreciated.

The RX and ONE bars forced me to reconsider whether I truly valued completing this project. However, the real loser of the taste test was Power Crunch. I learned, while consuming the distasteful brick that perhaps it was called “Power Crunch” because it tested your willpower to eat the entire bar. I also found that the strong aftertaste couldn’t be washed away with water, coffee, Gatorade, or a gallon of Clorox. 

The Nutritional Test

Generally, when evaluating the nutritional value of a bar, one looks at four key factors: protein, calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. To be a relatively healthy bar, it would be most beneficial for a bar to maximize its protein level and minimize the amount of sugar in the bar. 

The protein bars in this test fell along the range of 190 to 230 calories, with between 12 and 21 grams of protein. 

Nutritional value of each protein bar based on FDA-approved nutrition cards. (Jasneh Sasan)

Compared to the sample size, the healthiest bar was the Quest bar, with the highest level of protein for the least calories and a moderate amount of carbohydrates. 

Barebells, Pure Protein, Think!, and ONE bars trailed behind with nearly identical macros. Thus, Power Crunch and RX bars are in last place with 14 grams and 12 grams of protein, respectively, for over 210 calories. Surprisingly, for the worst-tasting bars, both Power Crunch and RX also packed the most sugar, with 5 grams and 13 grams of sugar, respectively. 

The Cost Evaluation

Protein bars are not cheap. The typical protein bar costs between $2 and $3 per, so it’s crucial to determine if they’re a worthwhile investment. 

While the price per bar varied slightly based on the store and location, the general trends seemed to fall in the same range. 

Cost analysis of different protein bars to evaluate the market price of different brands compared to each other.

Power Crunch and Pure Protein were certainly the budget-friendly bars on the list, falling between the range of 80 cents to $1.10. Barebells’ bars ranged between $2.10 and $2.50, making it another budget-friendly option.

Unfortunately, while Quest may have been a treat, it certainly wasn’t cheap, nearing almost $4 per bar. 

With so many options out there, it’s worth checking out what each bar brings to the table in terms of taste and nutrition. Finding a protein bar that fits your budget and tickles your taste buds is the real win!

The Winners

All things considered, Barebells’ Cookies and Cream protein bar provided an absolutely delicious, luxurious experience without breaking the bank. Its nutritional value ranked among higher candidates while maintaining a snack-y feel. Gone are the days of disgusting plant-based protein powders and whey protein shakes; you can now enjoy a nutritious and delicious snack bar without the guilt of consuming a sweet treat. Barebells is the ultimate pre-workout snack to achieve that #HotGirlSummer physique.

The overall winner in all categories was Barebells’ Cookies and Cream protein bar! (Jasneh Sasan)

Quest is obviously a close second for those willing to spend upwards of $40 for a week’s supply of delicious protein treats. Followed by the very average, but very reliable Pure Protein bar that packs nutritious value while remaining a budget-friendly favorite in the market.

Navigating the world of protein bars can be a daunting task, but it’s clear that there are gems out there worth discovering. Whether you’re after a decadent treat like Barebells’ Cookies and Cream or the reliable value of Pure Protein, there’s a bar to suit every taste and budget. So, as you gear up for your #HotGirlSummer or any fitness journey, remember to prioritize both flavor and nutrition to find the perfect protein partner for your goals. Happy snacking!

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About the Contributor
Jasneh Sasan
Jasneh Sasan, Staff Writer
Jasneh Sasan is presently in her senior year at Carlmont, where she excels as a news and opinion writer with a fervent passion for delving into the realm of politics. Controversial subjects invigorate her and provide the driving force for her pursuits. Beyond her academic commitments, she dedicates a significant portion of her time to engaging in debate competitions and actively participating in journalistic endeavors. Her writing inclination leans towards exploring profound global socio-political matters, but from time to time, she also explores more lighthearted and amusing topics. Twitter: @JasnehSasan Instagram: @jk.sasan (main) and @jasneh.sasan (journalism)

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