Protein Bars 101

What’s Included?

  • How much protein do you need?
  • What should you look for in a protein bar?
  • Reading a label

How Much Protein Do You Need?


On average, we each need about 10-35% of our daily calories to come from protein. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 0.8 grams of protein per KG of body weight (1 KG = approximately 2.2 lb) – and this is a bare minimum. That means, for an average sedentary adult weighing approximately 140 lbs, they would need approximately 51 grams of protein at a minimum.


For athletes, however, the recommendation is much higher. The optimal amount of protein recommended for athletes is 1.4 – 2.0 grams of protein per KG of body weight (0.6 – 0.9 grams per lb.). This means that for our average 140 lb. athlete, they would need approximately 84 – 126 grams of protein per day.


There are MANY ways to get protein in throughout the day, and protein bars can be an easy and quick way to get some protein in. But how do we figure out which protein bars are best for YOU personally? That’s exactly what we’re here to help you figure out. So, let’s dig in!

Measuring Quality


  • Most bars provide anywhere between 7-20 grams of protein.
  • After exercise, you should aim for approximately 15-20 grams of protein.


  • The daily recommendation for added sugars is to stay below: <10% of total kcals (~50g/day), American Heart Association recommends stricter intakes of <24 g/day for women
  • Aim to stay under 10 grams of added sugars per serving in a protein bar


  • Try to find products that use natural sweeteners instead of sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohols like xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, lactitol, isomalt, malitol may cause significant GI distress and have a laxative effect if consumed in large amounts. These are often found in sugar free or low sugar items.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame K, saccarhin,
  • Natural sweeteners: Honey, agave nectar, stevia, glucose, dates, maple syrup


  • Whey protein isolate, pea protein, brown rice protein, soy protein isolate, whole food sources of protein
  • Healthy fats: Look for unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats and/or trans fats
  • Fiber: Recommend 25-28g/day for women, aim for at least 3 grams per serving.

Reading a Label

This label is from a Perfect Bar. There are stars next to the key areas that you’ll want to check out when analyzing which bars will work best for you and your goals.

  • PROTEIN: First, let’s check the protein! This bar has 14 grams of protein. We know we want about 15-20 grams of protein after a run, so this falls pretty close to that range – making it a good option for after a workout!
  • ADDED SUGARS: Next, let’s check out the added sugars. This bar has 11 grams of added sugars, which means it comes pretty close to our 10 grams per bar recommendation!
  • SWEETENERS USED: Honey is used to sweeten this bar, making it a great option with natural sugars!
  • QUALITY INGREDIENTS: This bar uses peanut butter, egg powder, and rice protein as protein sources. The fiber comes from whole foods like kale, flax seed, and celery. The fats are mostly unsaturated fats from flax, sunflower, sesame seed, olive, and pumpkin oils.

Overall, this bar includes all of the things we’d like to see when choosing a protein bar! While there might be bars that BETTER fit your PERSONAL health and fitness goals (more protein with less fat, less sugar, more fiber, etc.) it’s important to be able to identify these things in a label when making your choice.

Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

Information written & verified by:
Katelyn Biros
Registered Dietitian