Protein bars are the grab-and-go recovery option for anyone on the move. Here’s our pick of the best tried-and-tested options to fuel your fitness drive.

When hunger knocks post-workout, it’s easy to reach for handy snack bars. These can be loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars, however, which are often high in calories and lead to energy peaks and troughs. The best protein bars, on the other hand, pack in more of the good stuff – namely, protein.

Snacking on protein bars allows you to reach your daily protein goals and deliver a much-needed supply to damaged muscles. They also provide a simple on-the-go alternative to more cumbersome protein shakes or time-intensive meals. Plus, they usually taste pretty good, so it’s a win-win-win situation.

Registered nutritionist (AFN) and sports nutritionist (SENr) Rob Hobson has tried and tested a range of protein bars to bring you the best of the best.

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These are the best protein bars

There are plenty of protein bar brands out there now, most of which offer a high-quality protein dose around the magic 20g mark. But it takes great taste and texture to make the best protein bars too, together with low cost and other factors. Ultimately, I’d recommend using Grenade protein bars. The texture is chewy and the taste is sweet without being too sickly. There are also a load of flavours to choose from and, crucially, a solid 20g of good-quality protein per bar.

Other protein bar recommendations

Best for nutrition:If you’re looking for a bar with nutritional benefits, look no further than the Fulfil Vitamin and Protein Bar. Fulfil bars are fortified with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C and E, as well as folic acid (and they hit the 20g protein benchmark).
Best vegan option:The vegan versions of the PhD Smart Bar range are some of the nicest plant-based protein bars we’ve tried. They have a pleasant, rich taste that unlike some on this list isn’t too sweet, and deliver a decent dose of protein too.
Best for competition:If you’re involved in elite competition you need nutritional supplements that are Informed Sport approved. That’s exactly what the Healthspan Elite All Blacks HiLO Protein Bar is, plus it’s high in fibre and protein and low in sugar.

Grenade Protein Bar

1. Grenade Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

There’s a reason why Grenade is the UK’s best selling protein bar. Loaded with 20g protein and just 1.4g sugar, it’s the best-tasting, best textured, least-sickly sweet bar we’ve tested.
Pros
  • Great tasting
  • Excellent chewy texture
  • Good amount of protein
Cons
  • Expensive
  • A bit sweet
  • High in polyols

An obvious choice, perhaps, but the UK’s best-selling protein bars (previously called Carb Killas) is so for a reason. Loaded with 20g protein and just 1.4g sugar, it’s the best-tasting, least-sickly sweet bar we’ve tested.

The Salted Caramel flavour gets our vote, although there are no less than 14 others to choose from. The only downside is restricting yourself to one a day (but who are we to tell you how to live your life).

Product shot of a Healthspan Elite best protein bars

2. Healthspan Elite All Blacks HiLO Protein Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

Low in sugar and high in fibre, these HiLO bars pack 20g of quality protein into each of their delicious flavours. They’re purely plant based and approved for elite competition too.
Pros
  • Great taste
  • Good amount of quality protein
  • High in fibre
Cons
  • Slightly bitter aftertaste
  • Only available online
  • Limited flavours

As you’d expect from any sports nutrition product endorsed by the All Blacks rugby team, the Healthspan Elite protein bars uses quality ingredients. Low in sugar and high in fibre, they also pack 20g of protein into each of their delicious flavours – black forest gateau, chocolate and salted caramel, and white chocolate. Plus, they’re Informed Sport approved, too, making them suitable for elite competition.

Product shot of a Kinetica protein bar

3. Kinetika Deluxe Protein Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

There’s only 14g protein in these small 45g bars but they have the best taste and texture on test and are WADA and Informed Sport approved for competition.
Pros
  • Pleasantly chewy texture
  • Not too sweet
  • Good chocolate flavour
Cons
  • Only available online
  • Not as high in protein as most bars
  • Limited flavours

Kinetika makes its bars with quality batch-tested ingredients. So, it’s no surprise they get the thumbs-up from WADA and Informed Sport. It uses milk protein from grass-fed, hormone-free cow’s milk and its bars have the best taste and texture of any on test.

It’s a shame there’s only 14g of protein in every serving, but they are small 45g bars, so why not have one and a half, or even two at a time?

Product shot of a Barebells protein bar

4. Barebells Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

One of the less synthetic-tasting protein snacks, Barebell bars combine rich flavours with simple, natural ingredients. They’re low in sugar and don’t have the powdery texture that many bars do.
Pros
  • Nice rich flavour
  • Lots of flavours to choose from
  • Tastes less synthetic than most bars
Cons
  • Quite sweet
  • Slightly bitter aftertaste

One of the less synthetic-tasting protein snacks, Barebell bars combine a variety of rich flavours with simple, natural ingredients. Of the 11 different versions, four vegan or soft protein options don’t make the 20g mark, but the rest hit the spot and are tasty too.

They all have a pleasant, rich taste, are low in sugar and don’t have the claggy or powdery texture that many of the best protein bars do.

Product shot of a Fulfil protein bar

5. Fulfil Vitamin and Protein Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

Fulfil bars hit the 20g protein benchmark, have half the calories of most protein bars and are available in 11 mouth-watering flavours. They’re anti-oxidant-rich and low in polyols too.
Pros
  • Good flavour
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
  • Good amount of protein (20g)
Cons
  • A bit too chewy
  • Lacks texture
  • Smaller-sized bar

Suitable for anyone with an eye for boosting more than just protein intake, Fulfil bars are fortified with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C and E, as well as folic acid.

They hit the 20g protein benchmark, have half the calories of most protein bars and are available in 11 mouth-watering flavours, which sounds like a win-win to us.

6. Vow Nutrition Protein Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

Vow only makes three flavours, but why make more when they taste this good? Taste and texture are both spot-on and sugar content is minimal. It’s just a shame it doesn’t hit the 20g protein mark.
Pros
  • Pleasant chewy texture
  • Low in sugar
Cons
  • Relatively high in polyols
  • Only 16g protein

If Team GB think Vow Nutrition Protein Bars are good enough for them, then we reckon they’re good enough for us too. Its three flavors – cookies and cream, peanut crunch and salted caramel – are all remarkably tasty, and the nutrition numbers look good too.

There’s 16g of protein in each bar and an microscopic 0.4g of sugar. These bars are Informed Sport approved so we know the pea protein isolate and soya protein isolate come from good quality sources.

Product shot of a box of PhD Smart best protein bars

7. PhD Smart Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

You don’t need a doctorate to know PhD bars will meet your post-workout recovery needs. The texture might not be to everyone’s liking, but its recovery credentials make perseverance worth your while.
Pros
  • Nice rich taste
  • Good amount of protein
  • Not too sweet
Cons
  • Slightly gritty texture
  • High in polyols
  • Big 64g bar

With 20g plant-based protein per bar, you don’t need a doctorate to know PhD bars will meet your post-workout recovery needs. Some of the best protein bars on the market, there are eight rich flavours to choose from – though keep an eye on a calorie count that can reach 261kcal per 65g bar.

The texture might not be to everyone’s liking, but those recovery credentials make a bit of perseverance worth your while. Plus, they’re available in half-size and vegan versions.

8 Of The Best Protein Bars For Muscle Recovery 2021 | Men's Fitness UK

8. USN Trust Crunch

Men’s Fitness verdict

These Trust Crunch Bars from Ultimate Sports Nutrition almost feel too indulgent for post-workout nutrition. The flavours are bang-on but sugar content is a little high in some flavours.
Pros
  • Good range of indulgent dessert flavours
  • Decent protein dose
Cons
  • Textura can be gritty
  • One of the more expensive otions

Sweet-toothed gym-goers will enjoy the dessert flavours (fudge brownie or raspberry cheesecake, anyone?), and 20g protein is optimal post-workout fuel.

It’s worth noting the sugar content: 2.5g sugar is slightly more than some of the other best protein bars in this list. However, 213 calories is about par.

A Myprotein layered vanilla birthday cake slice

9. Myprotein Layered Protein Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

If a nutritional boost is as important to you as taste and texture, these Myprotein bars are well worth a look. You’ll get your carbs and fibre in, as well as your daily dose of protein.
Pros
  • Excellent all-round nutritional benefits
  • Rich, indulgent flavours
Cons
  • Texture can vary between flavours
  • A little too sweet for some

These layered bars feel indulgent, but pack in 20g protein as well as a carb and fibre hit, to tick all your nutrition boxes.

Available in eight mouth-watering combinations (brown sugar milk tea tastes much better than it sounds), the texture can vary between flavours. But they’re all pretty moreish, making them some of the best protein bars for foodies.

Product shot of Applied Nutrition Crunch

10. Applied Nutrition Protein Crunch Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

We like the individual layers and differing textures in Applied Nutrition’s Protein Crunch Bars. A good way to get your daily dose of fibre too.
Pros
  • Varying texture with three layers
  • Moreish flavours
Cons
  • Only three flavours available
  • High carb content may not suit everyone

Try telling Applied Nutrition that protein bars can’t be moreish. Its Protein Crunch bars have three succulent layers, with a crunchy base and soft caramel middle covered in thick chocolate – and with just 1.8g of sugar. 

It also delivers on the protein front too, with 21.7g per bar. The white and milk chocolate caramel versions are nice enough but just the thought of the milk chocolate peanut bar will give you an incentive to get through even the toughest training sessions. 

8 Of The Best Protein Bars For Muscle Recovery 2021 | Men's Fitness UK

11. Reflex Nutrition R-Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

Another low-sugar, high-fibre option, these Reflex bars go big on natural ingredients. You may need to try a few flavours to find one you really like.
Pros
  • Quality protein source
  • No artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners
Cons
  • Texture is quite dense
  • Some flavours take a bit of getting used to

Free from any nasty ingredients, including preservatives, artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners, and loaded with whey protein from grass-fed cows, on paper these protein bars are some of the best on the pile. They are also low in sugar and high in fibre, making them a great all-round choice.

There’s no getting round the fact that they are quite dense, though, and the Chocolate flavour leaves a bit to be desired. However, there are 5 flavours to choose from, including white chocolate raspberry ripple, cookies & cream, and cherry bakewell. 

Product shot of a box of protein bars

12. SiS Protein Bar

Men’s Fitness verdict

High protein, high carbs, low sugar – what’s not to like about these SiS Protein Bars? Flavours are moreish and there’s no grittiness or overt sweetness either.
Pros
  • Good flavour and texture
  • Low in sugar
Cons
  • Less ideal if you’re trying to control carb consumption
  • Limited flavours

Science in Sport has become a popular choice for recovery products among plenty of elite athletes. Its protein bars are conveniently split into two portions, which together give you 20g protein, 22g carbs and just 1.2g sugar.

They’re also deliciously chewy and none of the four flavours – white chocolate fudge, cookies and cream, dark chocolate and raspberry and milk chocolate peanut butter – have the grittiness or synthetic taste of some protein bars.

How we test the best protein bars

This list of the best protein bars was compiled by Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist (AFN) and sports nutritionist (SENr). Hobson works with private clients looking to improve their health and body shape, and athletes looking to improve their performance. He also works with wellness brands, assisting with product development and insight.

“There are plenty of different protein bars on the market,” says Hobson, “and they differ greatly in terms of taste and texture. To narrow the field down – and to provide consistency of review – I only tested chocolate-flavoured bars.

“I tested and judged the best protein bars on their taste, texture, and nutritional effectiveness. I also took other factors into account, including the cost and availability, but also the amount of polyols: a type of sweetener which can upset the gut in high amounts.

What to look for when buying protein bars

Protein bar preference is very individual – especially when it comes down to taste and texture. However, when shopping for the best protein bars, it’s crucial to glance over their ingredient lists to check how much protein they pack. You should also be mindful of any additives, such as sugars, artificial flavours and fillers, which can limit the nutritional effectiveness – it’s all about balance. And of course, if you’re looking for the best vegan protein bars, be sure to check what protein source is included.

It’s also a good idea to set your budget and be aware of costs, as they can certainly stack up if you’re chomping on protein bars every day. Lots of brands now offer subscription services, which help you save money while also ensuring you never run out. And, there are other options for getting your daily protein fix, like the best protein cereals and the best protein powers – be sure to shop around!