Protein Bar Vs. Powder

The best way to get your daily protein is through whole food, but this isn't always practical or possible. Supplement manufacturers are there to help you meet your daily protein needs with the convenience of bars and powders. Which type you choose depends on your goals and the quality of the product.

A row of different protein and energy bars.
Credit: matka_Wariatka/iStock/Getty Images

Why Supplement at All?

Protein bars and shakes provide an easy hit of protein after a workout, when your appetite doesn't always tolerate a full meal or convenience calls for something other than a slab of salmon. Protein replacement foods help elderly adults get the amino acids they need to maintain muscle mass -- especially if they have slight appetites. In a pinch, protein bars and shakes can serve as a meal replacement when you're on the go. Protein bars and shakes are also sometimes used as a calorie-controlled snack or meal as part of a weight-loss program.

Bars Make You Feel Fuller

Chewing solid food can help you feel more satisfied than drinking your nutrition. If you're using a protein supplement to replace a meal, especially during weight loss, a bar may thus be the superior choice. A study published in a 2011 issue of "Obesity" found that protein in solid form suppressed hunger more readily than a liquefied protein meal. In the elderly, too, solid protein sources prove more satisfying than liquid protein sources, reported a study in a 2007 issue of "Hormone and Metabolic Research."

Delivering Protein to Worked Muscles

Research suggests that liquid forms are superior to solid forms of protein when it comes to delivering amino acids to your bloodstream. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential in the muscle-building and repair process. A study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2011 found that when an equal amount of protein was consumed in liquid and solid forms, the participants who consumed the liquid protein registered higher levels of amino acids in their bloodstream 30 minutes and four hours after consumption. If you're looking to get amino acids from protein as expediently as possible to worked muscles, it seems a shake made with protein powder is the way to go.

Ingredient Quality

When compared to powders, prepackaged protein bars often have more added sugar and other filler carbohydrates that help hold them together. Watch out for protein powders that contain supplements, artificial sweeteners, chemicals and preservatives, though. If you're deciding between a packaged bar or a homemade shake, you're better off with a blended mix of fresh fruit, milk and pure protein powder than a store-bought bar. Homemade bars made with pure protein powder, whole grains, nut butter and dried fruit can be as equally high quality as a homemade protein shake, though.

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