The 5 Cleanest Protein Bars on the Planet

The 5 Cleanest Protein Bars on the Planet

 Eating food without a barcode (AKA fresh and unprocessed food!) is always a great idea but when you are sprinting through an airport or hiking all over the universe to work or class, barcode-free foods are often scarce. Furthermore, when you’re trying to assist with recovery or achieve healthy weight gain, having clean and convenient food options between meals or on the run is crucial.

So my friends, today I will offer a quick review on some of the CLEANEST protein bars money can buy.  

How to Find a Clean Protein Bar Label

First, before we dive into the good, I’d like to show you a brief example of the bad.  

I often ask my athletes and executives to bring me labels of what they are eating so we can review the products together. I make this request because it is all too common for an individual to tell me “I found the best protein bar ever! It has ____ grams of protein and only____ grams of sugar!!” And then when I finally see the product’s ingredient list, I do my best not to mini-barf in my mouth, knowing that they are ingesting inflammatory toxins and other junk day in and day out.  I remind myself to stay calm and then prepare to politely open their eyes to all they have been ingesting.

Here is a label that was brought to me this past week:

  The absolute worst part about this label is the fact that it is one for a bar that is sold in just about every single grocery store in the country.

This company advertises most heavily to athletes looking to reach their daily protein goal, the busy executive, and the average Joe trying to curb cravings in order to achieve rapid weight loss.   It’s interesting that this bar is touted as a great snack to keep you energized, yet the vast majority of it’s ingredients are extremely inflammatory which will run you down.

I could sit here all day and dissect the label but since my goal is to highlight the best quality bars, I will just touch upon the most prominent red flags to scan for when reading the labels for prospective protein bars.  

Red Flag #1: Carrageenan

  Carrageenan is a thickening agent derived from seaweed. Although the research is somewhat unclear as the studies were performed primarily on animals, the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers degraded carrageenan to be “possibly carcinogenic in humans.”While a few bites here and there would likely not cause a problem in humans, carrageenan is a common additive found in everything from nut milks, to salad dressings, dairy products, snack bars and beyond, therefore, you must be extra careful as the amount consumed can add up in the blink of an eye.  

Red Flag #2: Sucralose

  This artificial sweetener, commercially known as Splenda is not as “sweet” as we once thought. Sucralose is the chemical combination of sucrose and chlorine. Researchers have come to the conclusion that sucralose has the ability to greatly decrease the beneficial bacteria in our gut thereby changing the composition of our microbiome and enzymes.1,2 The long term repercussions of this may include but are not limited to poor blood sugar and body weight control, inflammatory bowel disease, changes in mood and metabolism.  

Red Flag #3: Maltitol

  Unless your favorite pastime is experiencing bloating, gas, and diarrhea, I would not recommend consuming maltitol on a routine basis. Yes, it does have a lower caloric value and glycemic index than table sugar BUT maltitol is a sugar alcohol that our bodies do not fully digest. As a result, many individuals experience digestive discomfort with repeated consumption (think laxative).3,4,5 Although it is completely possible to consume maltitol in small amounts without experiencing digestive distress, that unfortunately is not a common occurrence.  

Red Flag #4: Processed Soy

  Last but not least, there is an overwhelming amount of processed soy in this product. Now, before all my plant-based peeps throw their hands in the air with disgust, please be mindful of the fact that organic, unprocessed soy can be an awesome addition to your diet. High-quality soy is extremely nutrient-dense. I am only referring to the processed, “filler” soy laced throughout this product.

Is there strong research stating that processed soy is an issue? Nope, but I have coached several thousands of individuals and one major pattern I have noticed over the years is a reaction to processed soy.    

The Cleanest Protein Bars on the Planet are…

My goal is certainly not to sit here and bash a company, but we do want you as our beloved FWDfuel readers to be an educated consumer. I want to help you feel better each day but more importantly, to help you to prevent further health complications as you age. This is done best by keeping a close eye on what you put in your mouth.   On a positive note, I am so glad this company was kind enough to let us know we may experience a laxative effect with excessive consumption.  


#1 BEST Protein Bar on the Planet: Epic Meat Bars

Here we have it folks, the real M.V.P.! If a granola bar had a baby with a pile if jerky, the end result would be a meat bar and no one beats the quality and taste of Epic All Natural Meat Bars!

With flavors like Sriracha Chicken, Currant-Mint Lamb, Almond-Cranberry Turkey, and Habanero-Cherry Beef, your tastebuds will be having such a party that you won’t even realize you just swallowed a bar of meat. 15g of protein and ZERO added sugar? We’ll have another!  

#2 Naked Nutrition Naked Bar

Naked Nutrition is a company that we’ve come to appreciate with there ultra-clean and simple products. No fillers, junk, or artificial stuff sneaks into anything they produce.

So, when you buy a “Naked Bar”, rest assured you’re eating a simple and clean bar that is one of your best options outside of having real whole-food.

#3 Rx Bar


            Here we have it folks, the real M.V.P. – Rx Bar! This bar typically contains just 5-7 ingredients, ZERO GRAMS OF ADDED SUGAR and 12g of protein. Not to mention, the flavors and texture are on point!  This is a great pre-workout snack or even a post-dinner alternative to dessert!

#4 Tanka

Have you ever woke up and thought, “Man, I’d love a little buffalo in my life today?”. Well, you’re in luck. Tanka is the master of buffalo meat bars. These bars work well for the athlete trying to manage their weight and the athlete who struggles to rotate their protein sources each day. Chicken, fish, chicken, chicken more fish. Sound familiar?    

#5 IBC Bars

Delicious, chewy bars made from simple ingredients! IBC Bars contain an almost 1:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrate, perfect for the athlete hoping to fuel properly without the risk of additional weight gain. Plus, we al ways love to support small, family owned businesses, especially those in Cleveland!

The best part? IBC Bars has given all our readers a 10% off code for ALL orders placed online. Use the code eat2win when checking out online. The offer never expires!    

As we continue on this health journey with you, we will keep our eyes peeled for the cleanest protein bars on the market. Until then, we hope you enjoy the selection listed above!   What are your favorite protein bars? Have you had any bad experiences after eating a bar or felt sluggish and didn’t know why? Please post your questions and comments, we would love to hear from you!    

  1. Suez J1, Korem T2, Zeevi D2, Zilberman-Schapira G3, Thaiss CA1, Maza O1, Israeli D4, Zmora N5, Gilad S6, Weinberger A7, Kuperman Y8, Harmelin A8, Kolodkin-Gal I9, Shapiro H1, Halpern Z10, Segal E7, Elinav E1. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17.
  2. Oku T1, Hongo R, Nakamura S..Gut Microbiome Response to Sucralose and Its Potential Role in Inducing Liver Inflammation in Mice. Front Physiol. 2017 Jul 24;8:487. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00487. eCollection 2017.
  3. Ruskoné-Fourmestraux A1, Attar A, Chassard D, Coffin B, Bornet F, Bouhnik YA digestive tolerance study of maltitol after occasional and regular consumption in healthy humans.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;57(1):26-30.
  4. Respondek F1, Hilpipre C1, Chauveau P2, Cazaubiel M2, Gendre D2, Maudet C2, Wagner A1.  Digestive tolerance and postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses after consumption of dairy desserts containing maltitol and fructo-oligosaccharides in adults.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 May;68(5):575-80. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.30. Epub 2014 Mar 19.
  5. Oku T1, Hongo R, Nakamura S. Suppressive effect of cellulose on osmotic diarrhea caused by maltitol in healthy female subjects.J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2008 Aug;54(4):309-14.

About The Author

Kylene Bogden

Kylene Bogden is one of the most well respected Functional Sports Dietitians in the United States. As a high school and collegiate sprinter, she experienced recurrent injury and fatigue. After years of constant struggle, she eventually learned that an abundance of processed foods and poor fueling strategies were the root of her performance issues. Kylene's personal journey as an athlete fueled her passion for finding a more progressive approach to sports nutrition. Since then, she has helped thousands of individuals dramatically improve overall health and athletic performance by taking a whole food approach. To learn more about Kylene's story and how a functional nutrition approach can help you to achieve your goals, simply click on the contact us link in the upper right-hand corner today!

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Kylene Bogden Sports Nutrition Dietitian

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