One word describes what Americans want from their diet these days: Convenience. So stock the supermarket with compact “energy-on-the-go” food touted to fight fatigue, fuel muscle growth, or help you lose weight and it’s guaranteed to fly off the shelves. That’s why sales of energy bars have seen incredible growth over the last decade, with more than $700 million in sales, according to research in Dietitian's Edge.
Cut through the hype and flashy packaging, and you're often left with a hefty (and expensive) dose of sugar, oil, and a mass of added vitamins and minerals. With little research to back up the bars claims, many are nothing more than protein-containing candy in disguise. So do you really need any of this stuff? Eat This, Not That! took a look at some of the biggest and boldest bars around to find the answer.
Some meal-replacement bars may not have as much protein as you think. You won't find pig's feet or cattle hide listed in the fine print, but that's because they're hidden behind names like gelatin, hydrolyzed collagen, or hydrolyzed gelatin. Both collagen and gelatin lack an essential amino acid required to make them a complete protein. That means the quality of the protein is inferior to products that lack gelatin or collagen.
Look for a bar that lists whey or casein protein—or a blend of both—as the first or second ingredient. These milk proteins contain all the essential amino acids your muscles need. Baylor University researchers found that when men with at least 6 weeks of weight training experience were given a whey-casein mixture before their workouts, they built 50 percent more lean muscle mass over 10 weeks than men who took only whey.
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