Having access to a protein supplement can give you the edge to reach your fitness goals faster.

Many people find that having a protein supplement around is helpful in the quest to shed body fat while keeping the metabolism stoked. Due to busy schedules and boredom with traditional protein sources, many people find that the occasional protein bar or protein shake makes all the difference in getting the recommended amount of protein in per day as a person who exercises and is following a fat-loss or muscle-building diet.

However, you can't just pick up any protein supplement and expect it to fit the bill. Many supplement companies use inferior ingredients, misleading label claims, and confusing nutrition facts and ingredient facts info to get you to believe that you need to pay more to get their "better" and "more effective" product. However, the truth is that protein bars and protein shakes are really just a supplement (or substitution) for food: there really needn't be anything "magical" about them. They simply need to have the appropriate amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat, and fiber) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) given your goals and how the rest of your diet looks. Many people need a protein boost in their day to take some of the pressure off to have protein at each meal and snack. When you're not able or don't want to have to find a source of protein every three or four hours, a protein supplement is the perfect solution.

The most important thing to look for in a protein supplement is that it contains high-quality, nutritious ingredients. You'll probably want to choose one that is relatively high in protein, and contains little fat and little or no sugar. For comparison's sake, realize that meal replacements like slimfast tend to have more sugar than protein in them, even though the calories are comparable.

Before we continue, I have to make sure you understand that a protein supplement is not the miracle solution that will get you a great body. If a protein supplement company claims that's the case, they're lying to you: plain and simple. However, if you go too long without eating high-quality, protein-containing food, you will pay the price of fewer results from your exercise program. Most people understand why they should eat a well-balanced selection of food between 3 and 6 times per day--but they don't know how to keep up with it. If you're a busy person, or simply don't want to eat chicken breast and cottage cheese all day, protein bars or shakes might be the answer you're looking for. They also happen to help with portion control, keeping your total calories for the day in line.

Choosing Between Shakes and Bars

Once you've decided that you can benefit from meal replacements or protein supplements, you might want to know whether protein bars or protein shakes are better.

Generally, protein shakes are preferable to protein bars. Bars are certainly better than going without, but they aren't quite as diet-friendly as shakes. You see, to maintain the consistency of a bar, certain ingredients are included (namely, sugar or sugar alcohols and fat) that are not the highest quality or the best nutrition. Labelers use tricks, deception, and legal labeling loopholes (say that three times fast!) to promote bars as "sugar free" or "low carb," but this doesn't always mean that the bar is great for fat-loss. Too many calories still will stall your fat loss efforts, whether they be from sugar alcohols or extra fat. Sugar alcohols in sufficient quantities can impact blood sugar and stimulate an insulin response that can stop fat release in its tracks. If your goal involves leanness or fat reduction, bars (on a daily basis) are not ideal. They can act as a substitute for a meal when they are the best substitute available, but a powder or pre-made shake is a better choice. Real food is the best of all, as long as it's the right type and the right quantity, and it's convenient enough that you can stick to your plan.

If you're on a fat-loss diet and workout program, you should be eating at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Protein bars like the ones listed below may be exactly what you are looking for. In the past few years, protein bar manufacturers have taken taste to all new levels. Many bars today taste better than a candy bar! You will look forward to eating them, and at the same time you will be getting the nutrition that you need. Choose one of the popular bars that are listed below if you are worried about taste...the ones that people buy and recommend most usually are the ones that taste the best!

Protein Bars

Protein bars are formulated to be the perfect meal, all wrapped up in a quick and easy bar. It is easy to take them with you to work or school or anywhere that you need to get your protein or satisfy your hunger in a healthy way. The key is to choose the amount of carbs and protein that's best for your goals and to balance out the rest of your regular diet.

So which bar is right for you? If you are trying to lose fat, you will most likely want a lower carb, lower calorie bar. The extra protein will help you keep your current muscle mass. Quest bars really fit the bill, and they are my top recommendation for the average person.

These come in many delicious flavors. Most have 160-180 Calories, 20 grams of protein, and a whopping 17 grams of fiber--something lacking in a lot of bars. They also contain all natural ingredients--no artificial sweeteners that cause bloating.

Protein Powder

I said earlier that I recommend protein powders over protein bars because they generally offer higher-quality nutrition. Because powders are not concerned with maintaining a solid consistency, they can be produced without added fat, sugar, or sugar alcohols.

If you had all day to cook, prepare, and eat nutritious food, 3-6 healthy, well-balanced meals per day wouldn't be a problem--but few people have that option. If a nutritious meal isn't feasible, a protein supplement in the form of protein powder can be an ideal substitute.

Be careful of ingredient labels that give a trademarked name to a "proprietary blend" of ingredients. This allows the protein supplement manufacturer to group the ingredients together within parenthesis and make it appear that this blend is in fact superior. In reality this allows them to take an ingredient within the blend that might be included only in tiny amounts and list it first on the label, creating the illusion that this is the most abundant ingredient within the package. This can disguise the true quality of the blend of proteins, misleading you into thinking you're consuming more of a particular type of protein. But which is best?

Protein powders that are high in protein with minimal carbs are generally preferred because most people get other sources of carbs in the diet, while protein is harder to come by. Moreover, protein is a "thermic" nutrient, meaning that it burns energy as it's broken down moreso than fat or carbs.

Here are favorite dairy-based choices:

Here are our favorite plant-based choices:

Remember, real protein-containing foods work perfectly well for your protein intake--but if you're not getting the recommended 1 gram per pound of bodyweight every day, you will benefit from a protein supplement.

When choosing your protein supplement, make sure you keep your personal goals and personal preferences in mind. If you aren't sure which protein supplement, if any, would benefit you, contact us with your protein supplement questions.

Good luck! Be sure to experiment with a number of different products and flavors to find one that really suits you.

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