What Is Really In A Protein Bar?

Well, I’m glad you asked.  I’m sure you’ll find this shocking but I actually tend to scrutinize any label of anything I eat, especially if it claims to help me power through a workout, or recover like a boss.  I don’t fall for a lot of hype and I know what works and doesn’t for my body.  When it comes to adding “unnatural” (powder) protein, I usually stay away from it.  I also don’t take multi vitamins because I truly believe I can get all the nutrients I need from eating healthy, whole foods.


However, when it comes to extreme training, like what I’m doing now, I know that I can use a little extra boost and something that is in bar or liquid form is preferable since I’m probably late for whatever I’m supposed to be doing next, and need to grab and go!  You can’t relate to that, can you?

When Vega Sport offered the opportunity through Sweat Pink to test out their Protein Recovery bars – I couldn’t type my request fast enough.  Partly because I’m a huge skeptic, and you know I will not endorse a product unless I really like it and it works.  Period.

A big box of bars showed up in my mailbox a few weeks later, just as I was headed out to do a 10 miler.  Good timing.  I put a few bars in the fridge (because I like ’em cold) and went out for my long, sweaty run.  Afterward, they did not disappoint!  I love the peanut butter chocolate combo without it being too sweet.  I have a low tolerance for sweetness – I think most desserts are too sweet and I don’t eat the icing on a cake – yes, I’m that jerk.  So they passed my sweet test.


I was so happy they were good tasting and kept me full for about an hour and half (which is a long time, trust me!) that I just took one with me for every workout and ate one promptly after completing each.

Then a funny thing happened – someone asked me what was in them.  I’m sure she could almost see the hamster in my head come to a complete stop.  I never even checked the label!  What??  How could I have so massively dropped the ball on this?  I mean, I checked the protein, fat and calories but for all I knew, I was fueling with dopamine and 17 other ingredients that are made in a power plant and are known carcinogens.  Ok, so maybe not that bad since it was endorsed by Sweat Pink, but still!

So, I decided I needed to go hyper-active on this one and really scrutinize each ingredient, since I so massively screwed up.  You get to be the beneficiaries of what I uncovered:

Vega Sport Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

1. Complete Protein Blend – organic sprouted whole grain brown rice, pea protein

Pretty straight forward here and “pea protein” is dairy, gluten and soy free!  These bars pack 15 grams of protein each. So far, so good.

2. Dark Chocolate Coating – organic cane sugar, chocolate liquor, cooca butter, sunflower lecithin

Chocolate liquor? Bonus! 

3. Organic Tapioca Syrup

Don’t you just love how putting “organic” in front of something like tapioca syrup makes it almost sound healthy.  That’s on purpose.

4. Organic Brown Rice Syrup


5. Organic Peanut Butter

6. Organic Peanuts

7.  Vega Saviseed oil

Confused?  I was too!  Apparently this is a protein and they’re now using just the oil (not the complete protein) for better digestion. Plus, plus, plus!  No one wants to make unwanted stops on the run, and to me, any stop is unwanted.

8.  Inulin – from Chicory Root

Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides (carbs) produced by many types of plants.  Don’t you think it would be infinitely better to put “plant-based carbs” instead of inulins?  Speak English people!

9.  Brown Rice Crisps

More sugar?  Really?  This is where I check the sugar content – 16g. Not bad, considering this is a recovery bar.

10.  Organic Peanut Flour

11.  Organic Agave Syrup

Ok now I’m checking the Vega Sport site for why all this sugar and, it’s a popular question.  What’s the answer? “During product reformulation, the goal was to choose sweeteners that were organic, gluten-free, vegan, minimally-refined, with a low-glycemic index.” Goal achieved!  Next.

12.  Sea Salt

13.  Organic Peanut Extract

14.  Sunflower Lecithin

According to one site I visited, sunflower lecithin is best source of vegetable lecithin for the food market!  Um, yes I would like the best one to be in my protein bars please.

So there you have it. And, yes, I know there’s some unwritten rule about anything you eat should have no more then 3 ingredients but, when you put all this goodness into a recovery bar – remember that it has a lot of work to do.  Trust me, if you saw me after my run/bike/run/bike/run/bike (that is not a typo – I did each one three times!) this past Sunday you would have thrown four of these at me with a gallon of water!

What’s your favorite protein bar?

Do you have a go-to snack?

Have you ever eaten something without checking the ingredient list (gasp!)?


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  1. Goes right along with my post from Monday- thanks for breaking it down for us!
    emma @ be mom strong recently posted…Why You May Need to put that Protein Shake DownMy Profile

    1. I know!!! I read it and was like OH YEAH!

  2. I had the opportunity to try these too. They surprised me with how good they tasted. I was a little ‘eh’ about the sugar content too. But that’s what you get for prepackaged foods, right?
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…Take NoticeMy Profile

    1. I was also surprised by the taste because I think I’m pretty picky. As for the sugar, it’s SO needed when you actually NEED a recovery bar. This isn’t something to be eaten after a 2 mile walk. I know you already know this 🙂

  3. I do try to read the label, but sometimes I am clueless too and love how you broke down some of the food items I wouldn’t know that are indeed in these bars. Does sound like a great bar to try for more energy and my brother is big on these, so will have to share with him. Thanks 🙂
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Spring Into April GLOSSYBOXMy Profile

    1. I usually scrutinize labels and, with the internet, it’s so easy to find out EXACTLY what is in a bar – especially when it’s touting it’s “all natural” ingredients.

  4. Those sound awesome! I got the energy bars to review and they were delicious as well!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Weekly Recap–Mother’s day, calf update and playing tourist!My Profile

    1. Those are next on my list!!

  5. I make my own granola bars, I tend not to trust the taste of protein bars because I haven’t found one that’s yummy. Mine are not exactly the healthiest, but they’re yummy 🙂
    Alison recently posted…Dreaming of My MotherMy Profile

    1. It’s all about priorities Alison, and a pregnant mama of twins needs taste for sure!

  6. Love this! I am trying their recovery accelerator…but I considered this. I love that you broke down all the ingredients! Looks like these would be great when the training is up and I need something on the go.
    Jen@milesandblessings recently posted…Definitely NOT the smartest thing I have ever done….My Profile

    1. I saw that and I can’t wait to read your review.
      These are perfect traveling eats!!!

  7. I am always so hesitant about protein bars, I have heard so much confusing information on them! Thank you for breaking this one down and approving every ingredient, I need to find out where they are sold near me–maybe GNC? I get the icing thing too, sugar overload!
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…Weekly Wednesday Workout: Dive Bomber PushupsMy Profile

    1. That’s definitely the problem, which is why I usually look so carefully at ingredients. You can buy these directly from the web site, amazon and probably at your local GNC. The web site has a “store locator” option. Happy shopping 🙂

  8. Great post Allie! Yes I always check food labels. It’s amazing what these companies try to sneak into something “healthy”. I am curious how these would work for me. I like Quest Bars myself.
    Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted…Post Half Marathon Confusion/Goals & New Blog IdeasMy Profile

    1. Quest bars are also very tasty, although I have yet to dissect their labels – ha ha. I find that I need to change things up every once and a while so you can add these to your “rotation!” Thanks Kris.

    • Shannon on May 14, 2014 at 9:16 AM
    • Reply

    I will admit I do eat things without reading the label, it try- but time is sometimes the enemy. I do look at the sugar, sugar alcohols, fat and calories. These can be found at Whole Foods-they have protein powder as well-good stuff! Glad you found something to grab on the go-if you will eat it -I know it’s good for me! Thanks!

    1. I’m glad to know they are at Whole Foods – if I ever get back there!! Thanks Shannon!

  9. I love that you can actually read the ingredients list! I’ve heard great things about these bars, so I’ll have to give them a try when I’m actually training for something that requires a real fueling strategy. My one-hour trail runs don’t count!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Perks of Business TravelMy Profile

    1. They are definitely for fueling with a purpose. I hope you try them as I would love your feedback!

  10. I like to know exactly what is in things too! I read most labels these days, unless it’s something I have a craving for, and I don’t want to know LOL. For the most part though, we eat pretty healthy here.
    Michelle recently posted…Small Business Interview: Hippie Chick Granola {Discount code included}My Profile

    1. Yes you do! I’ve started to teach my kids to do it. When they ask for something at the grocery (usually something filled with preservatives because it has a cartoon character on it!) I tell them if the ingredient list is less then 5, they can get it. It NEVER is!

  11. It’s okay, I’m one of those ‘no-icing’ people, too… and I read the ingredient label on pretty much everything. I don’t really buy protein bars, because they tend to have so many ingredients. I will buy the occasional lara bar when I don’t have time to make them myself, because they’re literally dates, maybe a few other fruits, and some type of nuts.
    Jaclyn @ BumpSweat recently posted…Expert Q&A: CrossFitting While PregnantMy Profile

    1. I love that you make them yourself! It’s so true that it’s very easy. Heck, even I could whip up at least a granola mix 🙂

  12. That last protein bar I tried tasted like choco-covered butt chips. Vega sounds good, though. I try to stay away from most protein bars due to the bloating effect is has on me, but I’m still on the lookout for that one good bar. Thanks for the the review!
    Yum Yucky recently posted…Two Important Rules to Build Sexy MuscleMy Profile

    1. Bloat factor is NO GOOD! Good luck on your journey!

  13. You and my Hubs have the same exact outlook on vitamins. He literally says those exact words. I normally don’t take vitamins but right now I’m taking the prenatals like it’s my job.

    I am the total opposite with sweets. I love sweets! I eat the icing off the cake or cupcakes and leave most of the cake! Ha!

    So the inulin thing got me thinking. It definitely does sound better to say “plant-based carbs”. Since they don’t say that, I would assume that its an FDA rule to require a more specific name because I guess a plant-based carb could be a lot of different things. So that makes me think that we are all so obsessed with being able to recognize what is in our food, etc, etc but maybe we just don’t recognize the exact names and what we are eating isn’t so bad for us. Anyway, its an interesting concept.
    FitBritt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…SELF Magazine’s Workout in the ParkMy Profile

    1. That is VERY interesting Britt. I guess I figured they couldn’t be so “generic” but I didn’t really stop to think why. I love the way your brain works.
      Next time we go to dinner, we’ll have to save room for dessert so you can eat the icing and I’ll eat the cake! We’re a perfect match!!

  14. Well, you might already know that I don’t tend to use protein bars but I think I’m going to have to make some changes in that area!!!
    Maybe you should do a post on your favorite pre-race/workout, during race/workout and after fuels and then I can just print and go:)
    Kim recently posted…The Day I Gave UpMy Profile

    1. That is a fantastic idea Kim!!! I just may… 🙂

  15. I would have raised my eyebrows at all the different kinds of sugar, too! I’ve been thinking about buying some kind of bars like these since I just started running regularly and I’m always so hungry when I get back to the house in the morning- but I also like making things from scratch, like no-bake PB/oatmeal/flax/coconut balls.
    Christy@SweetandSavoring recently posted…Walking Around Harrisburg, PAMy Profile

    1. Um, those sound awesome – especially the “no bake” part! I’ll have to see if you have the recipe on your site 🙂

  16. Lately, I do read labels more. I’m a protein bar junkie, I admit. They got me through my Orlando trip so well. Organic beef/turkey sticks from our co-op, cheese sticks, protein bars. The ones we bought are called Power Crunch and we got them because the kids both eat them. However I’m sure the labels don’t read like the above ones.
    Now I’m afraid to check..
    Tamara recently posted…Ten Things I Love About You.My Profile

    1. Don’t be scared – it’s no big deal. Like you said, if they get you through a trip and the kids eat them to – that is a WIN! Don’t ruin it by reading the label 🙂

  17. Whoever thought of putting chocolate and peanut butter together is a genius. A genius I tell you!

    I am curious about lecithin in general. I know some folks avoid soy lecithin, and it’s in everything.

    This really isn’t a protein bar, but my go-to bar is a Larabar. I can’t say no to the Peanut Butter flavor, and the ingredients list (Dates, Peanuts, Salt) is my dream come true.
    Lauren recently posted…Calm in the chaosMy Profile

    1. Agreed – pure genius!! Lara bars are really excellent. The simpler, the better, but not when it comes to big time recovery. I need all the protein I can get…and the sugar doesn’t hurt either!

  18. What an easy-to-understand breakdown! I’m reviewing Vega Sport’s pre-workout drink this month…I’ve really liked it. Now I need to look into the bars, too!
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Here Comes Summer!My Profile

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