The Best Protein Bars Based on Price, Macros, and Taste

The Best Protein Bars Based on Price, Macros, and Taste

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Look, I get it. Things come up like travel, busy schedules, or maybe ya just don’t wanna cook. And while you can find recipes for protein cookies, low calorie donuts, and other healthy treats to prep in advance on my blog, there are still times when a convenience snack makes sense. Protein bars are one of my favorite pre-made high protein snacks or treats, and today I’m sharing my favorites.

I’m also sharing a quick guide on how to analyze protein bars (or any protein product) to get the biggest bang for your buck and find values. By the end of this article, you will be able to look at labels of protein bars and quickly decide whether they’re overpriced or under-dosed in the protein department. If we wanted candy bar macros, we’d buy a Snickers, right?

And because this is a blog, you’ll find some subjective opinions about which bars taste the best.  In 2011, I worked a stint at GNC and tried every single protein bar on the market. Things have definitely changed in the protein bar space since 2011 (thank goodness), but I’m pretty much a protein bar sommelier at this point.

So if you don’t enjoy a bar on this list, it’s obviously your palate and not mine. Kidding. I’m confident you’ll dig all of them.

Percent Protein

You’re eating protein bars for the protein, right? One of my biggest bugaboos is when a protein product actually has tons of carbs and fat. With each protein bar’s rating below, you’ll find a percent protein number. This simply means how many calories in that protein bar come from, you guessed it, protein.

Here’s an example so you can do the math on other products if you’re into that sort of thing:

Let’s say Mason’s SuperPROMaxGains&Muscles Protein Bar (brb trademarking that name) has 20 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of fat per bar. That equates to 290 calories with 80 calories from protein, 120 calories from carbs, and 90 calories from fat. (4 calories per gram in carbs/protein and 9 calories per gram in fat) 

This means the percent protein for the perfectly named protein bar in our example would be about 28%. (80 calories from protein divided by 290 total calories.)

I don’t have a magic percent protein number because that will depend on your individual goals, but it’s good to know. If protein intake is the goal with your protein bar consumption, then percent protein really matters.

Price per Bar and Price per Gram of Protein

There are some ridiculously expensive protein bars out there. One of my favorite ways to judge pricing of protein bars (or any protein product) is by using price per gram. Carbs and fats are dirt cheap, but protein is more expensive. If a product is $3 for 15 grams of protein, you’re probably wasting your money unless that bar is just next level delicious and you want your carbs and fats to come from the bar.

This is an easier calculation that you can do on the spot. Simply divide the total grams of protein by the price.

Let’s say Mason’s SuperPROMaxGains&Muscles Protein Bar costs $4 per bar. That’s $.20 per gram. (Expensive.)

For comparison, most protein powders cost between $.03-$.05 per gram. Protein bars will be more expensive, obviously, but they shouldn’t break the bank.

If you want to learn how to do this with protein powder (you should), check out my article about buying protein powder.

Taste

Okay, I’ll stop nerding out over all the numbers and get down to what really matters. The taste and enjoyment factor of a protein bar carries the most weight in my rankings. I don’t care if a bar has the world’s lowest price per gram, highest percent protein, or most exclusive ingredients—if it tastes meh, it won’t be on my list.

Since taste is so subjective, I won’t even attempt to rank any of the protein bars below on a number scale. All I can do is try and describe the type of protein bar and it’s traits. (I.e. granola vs candy bar, real chocolate taste vs protein taste, sugar alcohol or artificial sweetener aftertastes, wafer or soft vs crunchy, and these types of things.)

What’s Not on the List

While I haven’t tried every protein bar on the market, I’ve tried a ton. Initially, I thought of including a do not purchase list or my meh list. But I decided the nicest thing I could probably do is to say nothing at all. So if a protein bar isn’t on my list, it’s because I haven’t tried it yet or it sucks.

I’ll be updating this list as I try new bars or revisiting older bars, but I hope to keep it under 10 protein bars at all times. Only my true faves, ya know?

The Best Protein Bars (In My Opinion)

Here we go!

FitCrunch Chocolate Peanut Butter – Snack Size

  • Calories: 190
  • Protein: 16g
  • Carbs: 14g
  • Fat: 8g
  • Percent Protein: 34%
  • Price per Bar: $1.39
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.09

One bar to rule them all. This is the crème de la crème of protein bars. It’s candy bar quality with a soft chocolate exterior and a baked cookie center. These are Chef Robert Irvine’s bars, and they naturally brag about all the legit techniques they use to create them. In this case, all the fluff info holds true and I can’t recommend this protein bar enough.

I’ll add that I’ve tried every other flavor of this bar and don’t like them as much. Chocolate chip cookie dough is a close second, but they all have a distinctive protein bar taste that the chocolate peanut butter flavor somehow eludes.

Also, I like the snack size bars because they’re very filling and I don’t want to blow 400 calories on one protein bar if I can avoid it.

You can find this bar on Amazon here.

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate, Wild Berry Crème, and Peanut Butter Crème

  • Calories: 205
  • Protein: 13g
  • Carbs: 10g
  • Fat: 13g
  • Percent Protein: 25%
  • Price per Bar: $1.91 ($1.29 if you can find them at Walmart)
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.15 ($.10 at Walmart)

These bars are a bit unique in their composition. They’re more like the wafers that come in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors than a protein bar, but I really love those.

You’ll also notice the macros are a bit more balanced than most bars, which allows for a rich and creamy flavor across the board. To me, this completely eliminates the dreaded protein bar taste but if you’re sensitive to rich chocolate or flavors in general, it may be a little overpowering for you.

I’ve listed my three favorite flavors above, with the chocolate coming out on top. One of my personal rules is to never, ever, ever buy a berry flavored protein bar, but the Wild Berry Power Crunch comes in their variety pack and no food goes to waste around here. Much to my surprise, it’s actually one of the best protein bars I’ve ever tasted. Rules are meant to be broken.

You can find the variety pack with 6 flavors on Amazon here. This is a great way to try all the flavors, or you can find them a bit cheaper at some Walmarts or your local nutrition stores.

premier protein peanut caramel protein bars

Premier Protein Fiber Crispy Snack Bar – Peanut Butter Caramel

  • Calories: 200
  • Protein: 15g
  • Carbs: 25g
  • Fat: 8g
  • Percent Protein: 30%
  • Price per Bar: $1.37
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.09

This bar really took me by surprise considering the regular Premier Protein bars are y-to-the-uck. While I find the regular bars to be dense, dry, and protein bar-ish, these are light, crispy, and very tasty. Not to mention, these are about half the calories (half the protein, too) and make a great snack. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a protein bar to be my main meal.

I remember posting about this bar in my Instagram story and likening it to a Nutty Buddy, but I had my candy bars crossed. These taste like just like the massively underrated Pay Day. And while I don’t think it’s exactly Nutty Buddy tasty, it’s up there.

You can find this protein bar in a variety pack with Chocolate Mint and Cookies & Cream on Amazon here. The other two flavors hold their own, and they’re definitely worth trying. But if you can find the peanut butter caramel on its own, I’d go that route.

Quest Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

  • Calories: 190
  • Protein: 21g
  • Carbs: 20g
  • Fat: 9g
  • Percent Protein: 44%
  • Price per Bar: $2.08
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.10

Ol’ faithful. This is one of my all-time favorites and just a solid overall bar. Other than the high fiber content (better drink ya water), there really aren’t any flaws.

Some say Quest bars are too hard or rubbery, and they are if you don’t find them fresh. I order mine from Amazon (like everything else in my life) and have never had any issues, but I’ve definitely had a rock hard Quest bar from a store.

Another important consumption note for the morning protein bar eaters would be to have this bar with coffee. If you set the bar on the rim of your coffee mug, it will slightly soften and be even yummier.

I’m not a huge fan of any other flavors in this bar.

If you order these bars from Amazon, you’ll need to order 2-3 boxes at a time since they’re typically sold out of the 12-pack. You can find a good deal on two boxes here.

And if you are in the mood for cooking, check out my homemade Quest bars.

special k protein bar review

Special K Chocolate Chip Protein Bars

  • Calories: 180
  • Protein: 12g
  • Carbs: 22g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Percent Protein: 27%
  • Price per Bar: $.92
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.08

A lot of people, myself included in the past, probably throw shade at Special K. This is partly because they’ve had some misleading marketing in the past about protein products that really aren’t all that high in protein. But looking at the numbers, there’s no arguing their protein bars are solid. Nerding out, for the win! 

You can see that these protein bars have the nearly the same percent protein as the BSN Syntha-6 protein bars below and more than the Power Crunch bars above.

Not to mention, these bars are super cheap at only 92 cents per bar.

The chocolate chip and chocolate caramel flavors are solid. They’re not world-changing like the Fit Crunch bars, but they’re more than enjoyable. I haven’t tried all their flavors but if you’re familiar with Special K, they typically make good tasting products.

You can find this bar on Amazon here.

clif builder's bar chocolate mint

Clif Chocolate Mint Builder’s Bar

  • Calories: 270
  • Protein: 20
  • Carbs: 30
  • Fat: 9
  • Percent Protein: 30%
  • Price per Bar: $1.31
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.07

Similar to Special K products, Clif Bars catch some hate as well. Sure, their regular Clif bars are pretty much sugar bombs, but their Builder’s Protein Bars have solid macros and are very cost effective. On a price per gram of protein basis, they’re the cheapest protein source on this list.

If you’re a chocolate mint fan, you’ll dig this bar. Other flavors receiving my thumbs up: Chocolate and Crunchy Peanut Butter

They’re quite filling and dense. So, they make a great snack or breakfast replacement if you’re a breakfast skipper like myself. I like to have these bars with coffee on mornings I’m a bit hungrier than usual.

You can find this bar on Amazon here.

BSN Syntha-6 Protein Bars

BSN Syntha-6 Protein Crisp – Chocolate Crunch

  • Calories: 240
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbs: 24g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Percent Protein: 33%
  • Price per Bar: $1.66
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.08

It’s a high protein Rice Krispie Treat. If you’re familiar with protein powders, you probably know that Syntha-6 is one of the more delicious milkshake-ish powders out there, though it’s a bit higher calorie than others. So, I expected these would be delicious, and they delivered. The texture really is unique, pretty much like a Rice Krispie Treat.

In addition to the Chocolate Crunch, the Salted Toffee Pretzel is tasty. I haven’t tried any other flavors, but I’d venture to say the S’mores flavor and other chocolate variations are A-Okay.

You can find these bars on Amazon here.

Gatorade Chocolate Caramel

  • Calories: 340
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbs: 43g
  • Fat: 10g
  • Percent Protein: 24%
  • Price per Bar: $1.41
  • Price per Gram of Protein: $.07

Okay, this protein bar barely makes my list because it’s honestly more of a carb bar than a protein bar. With only 24% of its calories coming from protein, it’s not the best leanest bar on the list by a long shot.

That being said, there are certainly applications. For instance, this bar would make a great post-workout snack if you’re strength training or participating in a glycolytic sport (read: explosive movements and strenuous activity). You could compare the macros of this bar to a post-workout fruit smoothie or a big glass of chocolate milk.

I wouldn’t recommend it for everyday use unless you need a ton of calories, but it sure is tasty. And with a price per gram of seven cents, it’s one of the cheaper protein sources on the list.

You can find these bars on Amazon here.

Happy Snacking!

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the protein bars on this list and your newly acquired value analysis skillz.

Like I mentioned above, I’ll continue updating the list as I try new bars. If you’d like to stay up to date and see some pretty neat recipes, check out my Instagram.

A guide to analyzing cost and value of protein bars and eight of the best tasting, cost effective, and macro friendly protein bars on the market.



2 thoughts on “The Best Protein Bars Based on Price, Macros, and Taste”

  • Thanks for all the research and the great Instagram posts you keep releasing! Since I moved to the US from the UK I have been looking for new go-to protein bars. I think the biggest consideration for me is that since I am currently on a cut and fat is the most restricting macro (and hitting 1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight is some work too), I look for fat to protein ratio and try to aim at like 5-6g of fat per 20g-ish of protein so I can save up my fat for nicer meals. I’m a bit surprised how rare that ratio is here because in the UK I always got protein cookies with about 10g of fat and 37.5g of protein (and 20ish g of carbs). is fat to protein ratio a consideration of yours? just looking for some new ideas that I might have missed browsing all the stores looking through all the labels

    • Thanks, Michael. I appreciate the kind words. The fat to protein ratio is a great way to ensure a higher protein intake without going overboard with calories. I’ll say that it’s a bit difficult to find bars that are both low in fat, high in protein, and tasty. There are options out there, but they’re typically a bit tough, bad tasting, or just meh. If you’re having a tough time with protein and don’t want the fat from bars, you might look at stuff like beef/turkey/chicken jerky or other meat-based snacks. They’re typically super low fat and high in protein. I guess if I’m going to have a tasty snack, I’d rather have a chocolate bar that’s enjoyable or go the total opposite direction like jerky opposed to eating a bar that’s not great. Hope that helps! P.S. Other snack options in this realm could be fat free string cheese, tuna, deli meat, or even roasted peas/beans/lentils.

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