Supplemental Bars and Shakes: Yay or Nay?

Conveniently Unhealthy: Food Bars and Shakes

In today’s quick fix society, we place a heavy reliance on supplemental food bars and shakes. Be it muscle gain, weight loss, or energy fueling, there’s ample product to choose from. While there can be some value to the smart use of a supplemental food product, more often than not, the use of these treats takes place at the expense of our wallets and our ever growing waistlines. Endless ingredient lists, absurd amounts of sugar, unsubstantiated health claims, and digestive destruction, are just a sampling of the problems associated with today’s massive appetite for quick and easy bars and shakes. Want to know which one’s hold up to the hype? Read on…

The Worst Choices in Protein Bars and Shakes:


The number-one ingredient in these bars is fructose corn syrup, which promotes type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Snickers Marathon Bars This is as close to a candy bar as you can get, including refined vegetable oils, massive amounts of sugar, and very low quality proteins.

Cliff Bar

Clif has several brands of bars, including: Luna, Z bar, Mojo, and Builders protein. These are all steeped in soy protein, which is has been linked to weight gain, hormone imbalances and digestive system issues.

Muscle Milk

Wildly popular, but shown to contain numerous processed vegetable oils, MSG, and even high levels of lead. This is not a quality protein drink.

Slim Fast Shake

Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated soybean oil are among the top ingredients in this product. Not a good choice for all the reason’s described above.

The Best Choices in Protein Bars and Shakes:

Tanka Bar

A healthy mix of buffalo meat and dried cherries, this is as close to a real food bar as you can get.

Living Fuel Cocochia Bar

All natural ingredients including almond butter, chia seeds, and coconut oil.

Designs for Health Paleo Bar

High quality whey protein and sugar alcohols that taste amazing and won’t affect your blood sugar.

Orgain Whey Protein

Physician approved quality protein and vitamin enriched for an on the go or post-workout snack. Whole Foods Market

Whey Cool Protein

Low temperature processed whey protein from grass-fed cows. Tastes great, packed with essential amino acids and easy to digest.

Living Fuel Super Greens

A great blend of plant and fruit nutrients as well as easily absorbable rice/pea protein for those with food sensitivities. This is a great meal replacement shake. www,

Follow these 5 Rules to help determine which product is right for you.

1) The less ingredients, the better
It’s a sad fact that most bars and shakes are full of sugar, refined flour, vegetable oils, and synthetic vitamins and minerals. The fact of the matter is, as with any food product, the longer the shelf life, the harder it will be for your body to recognize and use as fuel.

2) Sugar, sugar, sugar
Beware of hidden sugars: Sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, invert sugar, evaporated cane juice, lactose, maltose, mannitol, sorbitol, stevia and xylitol, are all names of sugars to watch for in your bars and shakes. Most health bars and shakes on the market contain fructose, which causes a high spike in blood sugar that is associated with an insulin crash that causes drowsiness and carbohydrate cravings. Excess consumption of fructose products is considered a contributor to insulin resistance and the obesity epidemic in America. In general, natural sugars, like xylitol and stevia will be your best choices to keep blood sugar stable and maximize energy.

3) Protein content
The two most common types of protein found in meal replacement products are whey and soy protein. To keep things simple, avoid soy protein in any and all forms. Soy is heavily sprayed with pesticides, highly refined, contains phytates (anti-nutrients); which inhibit digestion, has estrogenic properties that affect normal hormone regulation in the body, and a large percentage of people are allergic to soy. Whey protein will be the best option for most people assuming they don’t have a dairy allergy (derived from cow’s milk). For those that cannot tolerate dairy, another option would be any product containing rice and/or pea protein, as these products are usually well tolerated and have a rich amino acid content similar to whey.

4) Digestion, absorption, and assimilation
The most common food allergies for adults include wheat, dairy, and soy, which are typically staple ingredients in many bars and shake products. Watch for ingredients such as: refined flour, wheat germ, soy protein, soy crisps, casein, milk protein, and other derivatives of these allergens. If you experience gastric distress, fatigue, irritability, headaches, joint pains, nausea or feel like you’re coming down with a case of Montezuma’s revenge, you’d better take note and opt for a better bar or shake the next time.

5) Real food rules
You will always benefit more from real food as your meal and or snack. There is zero research suggesting that protein bars and shakes can be more beneficial than a real meal in the right proportions of protein, carbs and fat. Understandably, we love the convenience of these quick snacks, and as such, should do our best to use them strictly as a supplement to a healthy diet.