Monday, September 24, 2012
FIT + FUN: The Truth About Protein Bars
Mondays at Justin + 6 are Fit + Fun with gorgeous gay fitness and Zumba instructor, Andrew Walker. Comments and questions are welcome!
Protein bars are dense sources of protein, and you may be considering them if you think you should increase your protein intake. Protein bars are convenient snacks or meal replacements, but they may not be necessary or the healthiest choice in all cases.
You May Not Need More Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient for maintaining your lean muscle mass, repairing tissue and supporting a healthy immune system, but the average American already gets plenty, according to an Iowa State University study. A protein bar is a concentrated and convenient source of protein, but excess protein does not translate into excess improvements in strength or muscle mass.
They Can Be Nutritious
Protein bars can help you meet your requirements for vitamins and minerals if you are having trouble getting all of them from your normal diet. For most people, a balanced diet, emphasizing a variety of nutrient-dense foods, provides sufficient nutrition, but a fortified protein bar can close the gaps in certain situations. For example, strict vegetarians, or vegans, need to get vitamin B-12 from supplements of fortified foods, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other beneficial nutrients that a protein bar may provide include calcium and iron.
Some Are Unhealthy
Read the nutrition label and ingredients list of a protein bar before you purchase it to check its fat content. Avoid bars with trans fats, which are partially hydrogenated oils, because these fats increase your risk for heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Choose bars whose fats come mostly from unsaturated fats rather than cholesterol-raising saturated fats. Lower-sodium bars are better for your blood pressure, and you may want a low-cholesterol bar if you already have high levels of cholesterol.
Meal replacement (MRP) bars, protein bars and energy bars range in quality and nutritional value from fair to horrible. Some bars are a decent way to get 30 grams of quality protein when you're in a hurry, while others are nothing more than candy bars in disguise. None of them are great because they are all processed foods. As a general rule, you should always choose whole natural foods over shakes and bars when given a choice. If a bar is all you can manage because you are at work or on the run, then you should scrutinize the labels carefully and make the best choice possible.
Here are 10 terrific natural sources of lean protein:
3. Skinless, white-meat poultry
4. Lean beef (including tenderloin, sirloin, eye of round)
5. Skim or low-fat milk
6. Skim or low-fat yogurt
7. Fat-free or low-fat cheese
9. Peanut Butter (natural)