Whether you're trying to gain weight in the form of muscle mass or just looking to add a few pounds for general health reasons, taking in adequate calories can sometimes be tricky. If you find eating enough food a challenge, one way you can make things easier is to supplement your diet with protein bars. These high-protein, high-calorie bars are a convenient on-the-go snack that can make following a weight-gain diet much easier.
Depending on which brand of bar you buy, the ingredients and nutritional values will vary. A protein bar should have at least 15 grams of protein, notes trainer and sports medicine physician Phoenyx Austin. Additionally, it should have at least 6 grams of fiber, no trans fats and less carbohydrate than protein. Another bonus is if the protein comes from whey or casein.
Several different types of protein bars exist, including those that are aimed more at dieters and those with weight loss as a goal. When aiming to gain weight, however, you want a bar that's higher in calories. To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn, so it's vital that you pick a bar that helps up your daily calorie intake without making you feel overly full. A typical protein bar will contain around 280 calories -- about the same as a turkey sandwich -- observes Carol A. DeNysschen, professor of nutrition at SUNY Buffalo State. DeNysschen adds that most people will feel fuller eating a turkey sandwich, but if you struggle to eat enough calories, the less-satiating bar may be the better option.
Protein Bars Vs. Food
The calories and protein in a protein bar won't have a significantly different effect on your weight gain than getting the same amount of calories and protein from whole foods. Protein bars can have added sugars in them, though, warns dietitian Kristin Willard. Additionally, you might be missing out on essential nutrients you'd get in food, and bars can be pricey.
A Better Bar
Premade protein bars may be convenient every now and then and fit your calorie needs, but to ensure you're getting one that's exactly right for you, a better option could be to make your own. Dietitian Georgie Fear suggests using a high-quality protein powder, whole grains, nuts, seeds and flax seeds to get a healthier bar. For a high-calorie bar, use oats, dried fruit, peanut or cashew butter and chopped nuts.