Best protein bar 2020: best protein snacks – both sweet and savoury

Cram more protein in your diet with sweet and savoury treats that'll feed your burgeoning biceps

Best protein bar and snacks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best protein bars are a very convenient aid to building muscle. The whole business of getting ripped is a seemingly complex one, but as well as lifting weights and losing weight, eating to aid recovery and repair shredded fibres is essential, and protein is arguably the most important nutrient for that. And that's where the best protein bars and snacks come in play.

Josh Dyson, a performance nutritionist at the Manchester Institute of Health & Performance (MIHP), says that those looking to bulk up should intake around 500kcal above the 'maintenance' level of calories, which is 2,500kcal for your average-sized bloke. So that's 3,000 in total.

Admittedly, smashing 3,000kcal into your body isn't exactly difficult – just visit your local Gregg's – but getting a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) is tricky. On top of this, it's essential that enough protein is ingested on a daily basis, especially if you are hitting the gym hard in search of more defined muscles.

James states that a rough guide sees between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kg of body mass. "This can be extended to roughly 3 grams of protein per kg of body mass for those working stupidly hard in the gym," he says.

So, your average male will require around 20-40 grams of protein per snack or meal, depending upon an individual’s body mass, and although you can cover this by having a portion of cooked chicken breast with every meal, a bit of variety wouldn't hurt. Having some more readily available snack options in your pocket/bag can save you from caving in under the mounting desire to have a Mars bar when you're really hungry.

Why should you eat protein snacks

Protein shakes are a popular source of the nutrient, as they are quick to make up and guzzle on the go but sometimes it's favourable to have a proper snack to chew, rather than constantly relying on a liquid lunch.

Thankfully, the protein producers of this world have cottoned on to this fact and now serve up a bunch of tasty snacks, typically in the form of a bar, that cram in a load of protein and taste good.

Apart from protein bars, there are a few other options to choose from when it comes to upping your protein intake throughout the day in a convenient way. Protein balls are bitesize versions of protein bars and are really the ultimate finger food for bodybuilders and people on slimming diet.

As well as protein balls, you can also get high-protein flapjacks, another tasty snack you can have on the go. Protein flapjacks can be high in fat and sugars, due to the way they are made, so please make sure you read the label before you devour them.

You can also cover some of your protein needs using nut butters. Some of the nut butters available on the market today are very low on sugar, too, like The Protein Works' Loaded Nuts, which only contains 12 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

If you are really keen on not taking any sugar and prefer hot drinks, we recommend taking collagen coffees into consideration. This might sounds a bit weird at first but hear us out. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and it also tolerates hot liquids as it doesn't clump. Bulk Powders' Collagen Coffee can basically be used as an instant coffee, has no sugar in it, not to mention, a 25-gram serving contains a whopping 18.5 grams of protein. It also tastes less bitter than regular black coffee. Please bear in mind that collagen coffee is not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

If you want to really keep track of your nutritional goals, we recommend downloading something like My Fitness Pal, which allows for every meal and snack to be inputted into an app. You will need to be extremely focussed to maintain this but hey – you're a focussed guy!

Best protein snacks: what to look out for

As with any pre-packaged food today, it pays to flip that sucker over and check its nutritional information. Despite being sold as healthy alternatives, some of these protein bars contain a lot of sugar and saturated fats, which is not great if you're looking to get ripped.

Your choice of snack should be based on the amount of protein that's packed into each bar, with a consideration taken to low sugar and saturated fat content, as well as a healthy balance of carbs.

Eating naturally is always the best option; so mixing one or two of these bars with a handful of nuts, fruit and other great sources of protein throughout the day is the best way to ensure the body receives all the nutrients it needs.

The best protein snack bars, in order

Best protein bar: Barebells

1. Barebells Protein Bars

The best protein bar snack

Weight: 55g
Flavour: Salty Peanut
Fat: 4.4g
Sugar: 1.4g
Protein: 20g
Reasons to buy
+Tastes great, with no chemical aftertaste+High protein content
Reasons to avoid
-Some fat content

In our humble opinion, the best balance of taste, low sugar and fat content, minimal calories and high protein content can be found in the range of bars from Barebells.

The white chocolate almond and salty peanut flavour snack bars are difficult to discern from the sort of naughty chocolate bar you'd be tempted to grab at a petrol station, but pack 20g of protein, just 1.5g of sugar and 4.4g of fat into each 55g bar.

If you've got a sweet tooth, these puppies are a great alternative to gorging on traditional chocolate bars and nicely kill a craving without derailing the weekly nutritional regime. 

They are pricey, though, so if you simply want to quickly quaff some protein, it could be worth turning towards some traditional protein powder.  

best protein bar: Oatein Hype Bar

(Image credit: Oatein)

2. Oatein Hype Bar

You won't find a more delicious high protein bar

Weight: 60g
Flavour: Salty Caramel, Milk & Cookies, Hazelnutty
Fat: 4.9g
Sugar: 1.6g
Protein: 18g
Reasons to buy
+Super delicious+Great texture+Modest amount of cals/bar (under 200 kcal)+Suitable for vegetarians...
Reasons to avoid
-...not for vegans though

• Buy the Oatein Hype Protein Bar directly from Oatein

Will there ever be a perfect protein snack? I don't think so, partially because requirements are ever changing in the fitness industry and by the time you get used one trend, three more have already emerged in the meanwhile.

Saying this, the Oatein Hype Protein Bar comes pretty close to being the tastiest protein bar in the market today. The Oatein Hype Protein Bar is not delicious 'considering it's a health bar', it is tasty on its own terms.

And it's not only flavoursome but also very healthy too. On average, the Oatein Hype Protein Bar contains around 190 calories, under 2 grams of sugar but a very generous 18 grams of protein.

The only issue with the Oatein Hype Protein Bar is that you will want to eat more than just one bar per day. Why does it have to taste so good?

Best protein bar: The Curators Jerky

3. The Curators Jerky

Best savoury protein snack and so damn tasty

Weight: 30g
Flavour: Sweet Siriracha
Fat: 1.5g
Sugar: 5.1g
Protein: 11g
Reasons to buy
+Low fat and sugar content+Lots of great flavours+Not sweet
Reasons to avoid
-You have to like dried meat-Not great for vegans

All of this talk of sweet stuff is enough to have the stomach flipping, but for those that crave the savoury, there is very little to compare to some good old red meat (sorry vegetarians).

The guys at The Curators aim to make beef jerky more palatable with flavours like Sweet Sriracha and Teriyaki Spice and we can reveal that they have most definitely succeeded. This is very tasty stuff.

Perhaps more importantly, a small 30g bag of cured meat contains a whopping 11g of protein and just 1.5g of fat. Despite the tasty flavour, there's also a surprisingly low sugar and salt content too. Winner. 

best protein bar: Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack

(Image credit: Bulk Powders)

4. Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack

Great alternative to protein bars

Weight: 85g
Flavour: Chocolate Chip, Golden Syrup, White Chocolate Berry
Calories: 337 kcal
Fat: 12g
Sugar: 12g
Protein: 21g
Reasons to buy
+Amazing taste and texture+High in protein+High in fibre
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively high sugar content

• Buy the Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack directly from Bulk Powders

Bulk Powders' Protein Flapjack is pretty amazing, it tastes great, the texture is spot on, it's higher in protein than many protein bars and it's also high in dietary fibre, too. A kind of snack that you will eat because it tastes great, not because you have to.

Some of your regular, run-of-the-mill flapjacks might give your jaw muscles a workout, not the Bulk Powders Protein Flapjack, which is soft as butter – it's an all-butter flapjack after all!

We recommend these treats to people who are working on putting on some muscle mass but would like to do it in a way that doesn't screw up their macros completely. The extra 100 kcal – compared to the equally excellent Macro Munch bars – will come in handy for people who have fast metabolism.

best protein bar: One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar

(Image credit: One Pro Nutrition)

5. One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar

A vegan option, for variety

Weight: 57g
Flavour: Raspberry & Chocolate, Peanut & Cacao
Fat: 12g
Sugar: 3g
Protein: 17g
Reasons to buy
+Vegan+Gluten-free+Plastic-free packaging+Low sugar content
Reasons to avoid
-Texture is a bit powdery

• Buy the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar direct from One Pro Nutrition

Surprisingly enough, many protein snacks – even on this list – are not suitable for vegans, regardless of how popular this type of diet is at the moment. To doctor this issue, One Pro Nutrition released its new protein bar that has many qualities on top of being suitable for vegans.

For one, it's high in protein, mainly sourced from pea protein isolate and pea protein crispies, high in fibre AND low on sugar, of which the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar only contains less than 3 grams. It also comes free of artificial sweeteners, sugars, fillers or additives, helping muscle repair and weight loss the healthiest way possible.

The coating is made out of One Pro Nutritions vegan chocolate, the secret ingredient, which has lower GI than standard chocolate. The One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar also has Lucuma in it, a "super nutritious Peruvian fruit that supports skin health, blood sugar & cardiovascular health", according to the manufacturer.

Being all vegan and low on sugar, there were some compromises to be made. The texture of the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar is a bit dry, although it is far from being unpleasant. In the same time, it's very smooth and the chocolate coating helps a lot too. Even without any added sugar, the One Pro Nutrition Protein Bar is one of the tastier options on the market.

best protein bar: Benefit Protein Chocolate

(Image credit: Benefit)

6. Benefit Protein Chocolate

Best chocolate protein bar – enhance your athletic prowess with cacao

Weight: 80g
Flavour: Dark Chocolate
Fat: 37.6g
Sugar: 9.6g
Protein: 15.2g
Reasons to buy
+Remarkable amount of protein for a 'chocolate bar'+Good yumminess quotient
Reasons to avoid
-Best used sparingly

A recent study by Kingston University found that the epicatechin found in dark chocolate could increase the nitric oxide production in the body and therefore give athletes a competitive edge.

This 85 per cent cacao dark chocolate bar not only packs the dark chocolate benefits, it is also enriched with 19g of protein per bar.

It's probably not a great idea to gobble down the entire pack before a workout, seeing as there's 37.6g of fat in an 80g bar, but a couple of squares before hitting the gym could help you push it to the next level. 

The Protein Works Loaded Legends

(Image credit: The Protein Works)

7. The Protein Works Loaded Legends

Serious indulgence without the associated guilt

Weight: 50g
Flavour: Salted Caramel Karma
Fat: 7g
Sugar: 2.5g
Protein: 15g
Reasons to buy
+It's like a cake, but healthy
Reasons to avoid
-Less protein than many rivals

• Buy the Loaded Legends direct from The Protein Works

It's amazing that something so ridiculously delicious-looking can be fairly decent in terms of its sugar and fat content. With 15g of protein, it's not the beefiest snack on the list, but if this doesn't curb the sweet tooth, nothing else will.

A quick flick through the ingredients list does reveal a few naughty things, such as 'sustainable' palm oil and a few emulsifiers, but it's certainly not packed with e-numbers and is a damn sight healthier than a standard chocolate bar.

Salted Caramel Karma is one of the finest sweet snacks we've tasted in a long time, let alone protein snacks, while Marshmallow Rock Choc has the sort of sweet appeal that sends kids into a tailspin. 

If you're the sort of person that just can't give the cake counter a miss when out for a coffee, slip one of these in your bag. 

Nutrition X Pro X Protein Bars

8. Nutrition X Pro X Protein Bars

Weight: 55g
Flavour: White Chocolate
Fat: 7.5g
Sugar: 1.2g
Protein: 19.6g
Reasons to buy
+Authentic taste+High in protein+Low in sugar
Reasons to avoid

Professional athletes gobble these bars down like there's no tomorrow and that's because they are made to the most exacting sports nutrition standards, are low in sugar and pack a hefty protein punch.

Available in white chocolate and chocolate brownie flavour, the former tastes a little bit like the white chocolate surrounding a Magnum ice cream and nicely quash any craving for unhealthy snacks.

There is a distinct lack of E numbers and other nasty chemical, making them a great addition to an otherwise balanced diet and perfect for muscle repair following a savage workout session. 

Best protein bar: Oatein Flapjack

9. Oatein Flapjack

Nicely sweet but not too naughty

Weight: 75g
Flavour: Strawberry Cheesecake
Fat: 4.3g
Sugar: 8.6g
Protein: 19g
Reasons to buy
+Ludicrously tasty+Sugar content is reasonable+Big hit of protein
Reasons to avoid
-A bit fatty-Lots of carbs

You may have seen these guys on Dragon's Den, where they power walked into the room and jogged away shortly afterwards with a sizeable investment from Peter Jones. Deborah Meaden may have had a few choice words to say about the branding but never mind that, as these things are delicious.There's a sizeable hit of protein in them too and the rest of the range is also well worth checking out.

Those who want to completely ignore the sugar should probably look away now, but Oetein bars are among the tastiest on sale at the moment and do a good job of mimicking the proper filthy, protein-deprived flapjacks you'd end up regretting after stuffing them in your face. 

Best protein bar: Beachbody Beachbar

10. Beachbody Beachbar

Best protein bar for flavour – light and sweet

Weight: 35g
Flavour: Chocolate Cherry Almond
Fat: 7g
Sugar: 6g
Protein: 10g
Reasons to buy
+Genuine flavour+Light
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively high fat content-Lower in protein than some

• Buy direct from BeachBody in the UK: £37.79 for 15

The protein content in these tasty Beachbars may not be as high as some of the others on this list but each bar contains just 151kcal, which is great for anyone looking to sneak in a quick treat without piling on the pounds.

Available in either Chocolate Cherry Almond or Peanut Butter Chocolate, both flavours taste extremely authentic, while the recipe feels nice and light, as opposed to some of the more filling products reviewed here.

It's worth noting the fact that each bar contains 6g of sugar, especially if you are partial to sweet things, while 7g of fat can seem like a bit much for 10g of protein.