We live in an age of convenience and there is nothing more convenient than the humble snack bar. However, there are snack bars and there are protein bars!
Snack bars certainly have their advantages. On the other hand, they also have their disadvantages! The sugar riddled, calorie laden, fat filled products are little more than candy bars by another name. Consuming these will do very little for your health, or your weight! Low carb protein bars on the other hand may have benefits if you’re snacking to lose weight or using them as part of a body-building program.
Protein – We Can’t Live Without It
We all need protein. It’s an indispensable macro-nutrient. All our major bodily structures are built from proteins. Proteins are used to build, and repair, our body tissues – muscle, skin, bone, cartilage, hair etc. We need protein to manufacture body chemicals such as hormones and enzymes. Our blood and our brain require protein. So without proteins, we simply wouldn’t exist. Period!
Protein Bars As An Alternative Source Of Protein
Most people consume enough protein in a normal healthy balanced diet and this is certainly the best way to get it. Protein is found in meat, eggs, nuts, fish and many other foods. If you’re eating enough of these, you’ll be getting more than enough protein. If you’re not, and vegans may fall into this category unless they’re eating foods like soy or hemp products, protein bars are certainly an option.
Dieting And Snack Bars
Some weight loss plans rely on specially manufactured snack bars to replace meals or unhealthy snacks. These snack bars, like Atkins low carb protein bars for example, are generally loaded with fiber, proteins, vitamins and minerals. They’re designed to fill you up so you eat less overall ie consume fewer calories, as well as provide essential proteins and other nutrients.
Whilst they definitely have their place in a well-rounded weight-loss diet, relying on bars and snacks alone is not recommended! Even the best of them do not contain nearly enough nutrients and antioxidants. To get these, you need to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains as well.
Between Meals Bars And Snacks
If you find you get peckish in between meals, a healthy snack or protein bar is a healthy alternative to filling up on junk food. For those with a sweet tooth, there are even snack bars in flavors that will provide your ‘sweet’ fix minus the sugar that causes blood sugar spikes. Excessive sugar intake eventually leads to weight gain because blood sugar that is not converted to energy is stored as body fat instead.
Bars And Snacks Can Help With Workouts
If you work out or exercise strenuously, you may need additional nutrients and protein. A protein snack bar can be an ideal way to get these. When eaten prior to working out, they provide a steady source of energy that helps support your body during exercise. After your workout, the protein in them provides the raw materials your body needs to repair damaged muscle tissues.
Ah The Convenience Of Bars And Snacks
And last not but not least, snack bars are convenient. They can be stashed in your handbag or on your person somewhere for convenient snacking when required. They’re ideal for the busy person who doesn’t have time for intensive meal planning. They come complete and ready to eat, requiring no mixing or measuring. Just grab and go!
The Cons Of Snacks And Bars
Convenient as they are, health snacks and bars should never be allowed to become the predominant contributor to any diet or meal program. A well-balanced diet needs far more than what even the best and healthiest snack bars can provide! There are also a myriad of unhealthy snack bar choices to be mindful of. And even some healthy ones that will push your daily sugar intake over the limit when consumed in conjunction with other sources of sugar ie fruit.
Protein And Its Role In A Healthy Lifestyle
The role of protein in our lives is well understood by most of us. It’s an essential nutrient. Proteins are made up of long strings of amino acids, called polypeptides. When we consume proteins, our digestive system breaks them back down into their constituent amino acids for subsequent use by the body. We use amino acids in some shape or form for nearly every bodily process. They are the pre-cursors, or ‘ingredients’ we need to be able to manufacture hormones, enzymes, body tissues and body structures. They are used to repair cells and can even be used as fuel to keep our cells running.
Proteins – An Essential Source Of Amino Acids
Tyrosine for example is used to produce melanin, our skin and hair pigment. The essential amino acids valine, isoleucine and leucine are used to build and repair muscle tissue. Arginine is used to make nitric oxide, a vasodilatory mediator that plays a vital role in keeping our blood pressure healthy and our heart muscles contracting regularly. Creatine, despite its popularity as a muscle-building supplement, is naturally produced in our bodies using arginine and glycine. You can read more about Creatine supplements, and whether they’re worth the hype.
Protein Supply – It’s All About Diet
Most of us get enough protein from our diet. Even those of us who perhaps don’t eat as healthily as we should! Proteins are obtained from all manner of dietary sources. Some of these foods are referred to as complete protein sources, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids and many of the non-essential ones as well. What is an essential amino acid? All amino acids are ‘essential’ in the sense that we require all 20 of them in varying amounts. However, the 9 amino acids deemed ‘essential’ are those that must be obtained via our diet because we can’t manufacture them ourselves. In other words, they are an ‘essential’ part of our diet. Non-essential amino acids are those we can manufacture ourselves provided we have the raw ingredients.
Most animal proteins are complete protein sources – meat, dairy, eggs, fish. Therefore, people who eat these proteins regularly are unlikely to require special protein supplements unless they’re into heavy bodybuilding. Even then, those additional protein requirements can usually be met by increasing dietary intake of proteins.
Even Vegetarians And Vegans Get Enough Dietary Protein
Even vegetarians are mostly OK for protein because they still eat diary and eggs. The group at most risk of not getting enough protein are vegans, who only eat non-animal foods. However there are many plant based sources of proteins that contain these essential amino acids, which debunks the protein myth that we need to eat meat as a source of protein! Hemp and soy proteins for example contain all 20 amino acids. Other good plant based sources of protein for vegans includes nuts, seeds, and legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils etc. In fact, one cup of cooked beans provides the same quantity of protein as 2 ounces of meat! Mushrooms are another good source of protein.