The best protein bars

The best protein bars
  • A high-quality protein bar tastes great without a gross aftertaste, holds up to abuse in your gym bag, and has a low calories-to-protein ratio.
  • The following guide features bars that have a track record of consistent quality, are available in several delicious flavors, and are convenient to have on-hand.
  • The Optimum Nutrition High Protein Wafer Bars are our top pick because the company goes easy on artificial sweeteners and has a strong commitment to food safety - and the wafers taste so good you won't notice you're eating a protein product.

As a teen in the '90s, I remember hitting the weight room hard to bulk up for football season. To get the most gains, I was told, I needed a steady diet of protein. Could I have consumed more chicken? Absolutely. Instead, I decided to choke down these bulky, gold foil-wrapped protein bars. It was a chore.

There wasn't a single thing great about these bars, either. The texture was reminiscent of old gum and it took some serious concentration to get through even a few bites at a time. Forget about good taste, too - eating them was a workout in itself.

Thankfully, protein bars have come a long way in the last 25 years. You no longer have to settle for inedible junk. Today's options taste so good and go down so easy you'll crave them even when you aren't trying to make the most of your workouts.

What kind of protein is best?

Whether you're looking for a meal replacement, to build muscle, or just want to up your protein intake, finding the right protein bar for your needs takes some experimentation. Fortunately, there are options available no matter what your dietary needs are.

If you're vegan, look for dairy-free alternatives that rely on plant-based proteins. If you're like me and can't handle artificial sweeteners, read the ingredients and steer clear of sucralose, a popular added sweetener.


How to calculate proper protein intake

To calculate your recommended daily allowance of protein, take your weight in pounds and divide by three. Your answer is the number of grams of protein you should take in. For instance, you'd want 55 grams of protein per day if you weigh 165 pounds. However, you can still experience benefits taking up to twice that amount.

Before you boost your protein intake, though, check with your healthcare professional since, for example, people with low blood pressure, calcium deficiencies, and other specific ailments could potentially have adverse reactions to whey protein.

Subscribe & Save

We recommend getting your protein bars through Amazon's "Subscribe & Save" program if possible. This saves you up to 15% off the regular price, and you're able to cancel your subscription at any time. The service automatically replaces items you use regularly, so if you always eat a protein bar after your workouts, and you work out six days a week (about 24 days a month), you might choose to have 2 boxes of 12 bars arrive every month.

Each price quoted in this guide is based on the current non-subscription price for the most popular flavor of the bar. Prices are subject to change, and you can usually save a few dollars by subscribing.

You can also figure out the cost per bar yourself by taking the product's price and dividing it by the number of bars per box. It's useful to calculate the cost per gram of protein, too, since the protein per serving varies from brand to brand. You get this number by dividing the cost per bar (as calculated above) by the number of grams of protein per bar.


While researching the best protein bars, we looked at thousands of expert and buyer reviews of dozens of brands. Our guide features bars that have a track record of consistent quality, are available in several delicious flavors, and are convenient to have on-hand.

Here are the best protein bars you can buy:

Updated on 2/14/2020: Our recommendation for the best protein brownies, from RSP, has been discontinued. We are currently researching products as a replacement.

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The best protein bar overall

The best protein bar overall
If you're looking for the best tasting protein product on the market, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything better than Optimum Nutrition's High Protein Wafer Bars (9-pack).

Full disclosure: I love the Optimum Nutrition High Protein Wafer Bars. After intense workouts, I have trouble stomaching protein shakes. I'd rather just have water. Unfortunately, it's 2020, and water still isn't packed with protein. These wafers, however, are the perfect light snack. They taste great, go down easily, and don't have an awful aftertaste.

I've toured Optimum Nutrition's production facilities outside of Chicago and was impressed with the amount of detail they put into making sure their products are free from contaminants. They go the extra mile keeping ingredients in quarantine before testing and clearing them and regularly cleaning the entire facility between projects.

There are four wafer flavors: vanilla, mocha, chocolate raspberry, and chocolate. There are slight differences in nutritional content between the flavors but they all pack 15 grams of protein. Vanilla, the most popular flavor, has 200 calories, 9g fat, 105mg sodium, and 6g sugar.

The biggest negative is that these wafers are expensive. The vanilla wafers cost $2.55 per package (each package has two wafers). That works out to about 17 cents per gram of protein. Amazon's Subscribe & Save saves a little per pack, though it's still a little more spendy than other options on this list.

Pros: Delicious flavors, little to no aftertaste, portable, commitment to food safety, low calorie-to-protein ratio, minimal use of artificial sweeteners

Cons: Expensive, not gluten-free, no vegan options

The best minimally-processed protein bar

The best minimally-processed protein bar
The Kind Protein Bar (12-pack) is your best bet if you prefer to be able to easily identify the food you put into your body.

With most protein bars, it's hard to tell exactly what you're eating. They're typically highly-processed with a long list of artificial ingredients only chemists can pronounce. This isn't the case with Kind's Protein Bar.

The main ingredient is nuts, which you can see when looking at the bar. I also like that there are no artificial sweeteners since I'm sensitive to sucralose. There are five flavors to choose from, too, including crunchy peanut butter, almond butter dark chocolate, and the popular double dark chocolate nut.

The double dark chocolate nut flavor packs 12g protein, 250 calories, 17g fat (0 trans fats), 125mg sodium, 8g sugar, and 5g fiber. And, it's the least expensive option in our guide per serving ($1.50) and second-most affordable per gram of protein (12.5 cents).

Pros: Affordable, made from easily identifiable ingredients, 5g fiber, no artificial sweeteners

Cons: Only 12g protein, contains a few allergens


The best high-protein bar

The best high-protein bar
If you want one bar that gives you all the post-workout protein you need for big muscle gains, turn to the Quest Nutrition Protein Bar (12-pack).

Many sources suggest that you should get at least 20 grams of protein after a workout to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Despite this recommendation, there are relatively few protein bars that actually reach that threshold. One such bar is the Quest Nutrition Protein Bar, which has 21g protein in each 60g bar. There's also an exceptionally high level of fiber: 15 grams.

For its sweet taste, the Quest bar relies on a combination of stevia, sucralose, and 2 grams of the sugar alcohol, erythritol. This helps the calorie count stay low at just 200. There are also 8g fat and 280mg sodium in the most popular flavor cookies and cream. The cost per gram or protein of the bar is 9.2 cents, which is the lowest in our guide. However, the cost per serving - $1.94 – is in the middle of the pack.

Quest's been known to change its recipes at times but according to an article in Bon Appétit, the company learned from these experiments and has decided it will no longer mess with a good thing.

Pros: Affordable, 21g protein per bar, 14 flavors, 15g fiber, delicious taste

Cons: All the fiber and sugar alcohol may cause stomach discomfort

The best protein bar free of added sugars

The best protein bar free of added sugars
The RXBar (12-pack) gives you a healthy dose of protein and fiber with no added sugars or sweeteners.

Many protein bars try to hit you over the head with sweetness from as many sources — artificial and natural — as they can. The goal is to distract you from the typically unpleasant taste of protein. This is not the case with the RXBar.

When looking at the wrapper, the first thing you notice is that the few, simple ingredients they use to make their bars are listed on the front. For example, the company's most popular flavor, chocolate sea salt, is made from three egg whites, six almonds, four cashews, two dates, chocolate, cocoa, natural flavors, and sea salt. That's it.

Each chocolate sea salt bar has 12g protein, 210 calories, 9g fat, 240mg sodium, 13g sugar, and 5g fiber. There are no trans fats, which are generally considered bad for you. Plus, the bars are in the middle of the pack price-wise for our guide - $1.83 per bar and 15.3 cents per gram of protein.

My Business Insider colleagues Mara Leighton and Mary Hanbury both recommend the RXBar. Mary taste-tested 12 of the most popular protein bars, and the chocolate chip RXBar was her favorite. Mara also liked the taste and that the ingredients are clean and simple.

Pros: Simple ingredients, no added sugar or other sweeteners, paleo, gluten-free, 5g fiber, 18 flavors

Cons: Price can fluctuate often, sometimes making the bars expensive, only 12g protein per serving


What else we considered

What else we considered

We considered many brands of protein bars while researching this guide, and there are several we almost included. These five are great alternatives that barely missed the cut:

GoMacro MacroBar ($24 for 12): There's a lot to like about the MacroBar: it's available in 14 different flavors, it relies on plant-based proteins, and has a long list of certifications, including organic, vegan, kosher, non-GMO, and more. The business is also owned by a mother-daughter team. It didn't make our cut because the nutrition numbers are underwhelming – 290 calories, 11g fat, 14g sugar, and only 11g protein per bar – and there are reports of quality-control issues.

BSN Protein Crisp Bar ($20.93 for 12): I've personally tried these and enjoyed them. They pack 20g protein into each bar and only have 230 or 240 calories depending on which of the 11 flavors you choose. There are only 2 to 4g sugar in each bar but there's also sucralose, which may not agree with your stomach. It didn't make our list because there are few expert reviews of it.

FitJoy Protein Bars ($29.99 for 12): Each FitJoy Protein Bar has 20g protein, which makes it ideal for post-workout snacking. Plus, with 12g fiber, it fills you up. There are four flavors to choose from, including the most popular Grandma's Lemon Square. On the downside, it's fairly expensive at $2.50 per bar, and there is a high sugar content: 5g sugar plus 7g sugar alcohol.

Probar ($27.39 for 12): The Probar is another great post-workout option with 20g protein, 5g fiber, and 7 flavors to choose from. It's also free of animal proteins, artificial ingredients, dairy, and GMOs. If you're vegan, you might consider this option. We passed on it because the taste is subpar and there are some quality control issues with the packaging.

Rise Bar ($25.99 for 12): The Rise Bar is the self-proclaimed "simplest protein bar." After taking a look at its ingredients, we believe the hype. Almond Honey, the most popular of its five flavors, has almonds, honey, and 20g of whey protein isolate. That's it. If keeping it simple is your top priority, choose the Rise Bar. We didn't choose it because there weren't enough expert reviews.