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Ranking the 10 best protein bars of 2023

Written by John Davis

Last updated: November 8, 2022

Protein bars are an effective way to hit your daily protein goals or as a lifestyle choice to eat healthier.

Many people carry them everywhere for snacking and for a better alternative to eating bad carbs or junk food. They’re also great for breakfast, post workout, or for out on the trails (since they’re more portable than a protein shake).

Whether you are looking to put on muscle, lose weight with a meal replacement, or just need a snack to stash in your car, there’s a protein bar out there for you. We ranked the best protein bars on the market all in one place.

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    Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance
our top picks for protein bars
  1. Best Overall: Built Bar
  2. Best for meal replacement: NuGo Slim
  3. Best for athletes: Optimum Nutrition Protein Wafers
  4. Best for women: RXBar
  5. Epic All-Natural Meat Bar


Last updated: September 29, 2022
Protein bars considered: 28
Hours of research: 49
Experts reviewed: 8
Scientific papers referenced: 17

1. Built Bar
  • Some of the cleanest and best-tasting protein bars on the market
  • It’s the ideal choice for weight loss
  • Free of gluten, GMOs, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and fillers
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2. NuGo Slim
  • Provides a nice mixture of protein sources with its solid fiber content
  • All-natural flavoring and very little sugar or fat
  • Uses chicory root and just a touch of chocolate to flavor
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3. Optimum Nutrition Protein Wafers
  • Good for bodybuilders and athletes
  • Strives to provide a lot of protein but stay lean when it comes to carbs
  • Great for post-workout recovery
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4. RXBar
  • All-natural source of protein
  • Whole food that provides ample protein and fiber
  • Contains only six ingredients that have tons of fiber and protein
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5. Epic All-Natural Meat Bar
  • A very convenient to carry around high-protein meal when you are on the go
  • Comes with lean meat that is seasoned with spices and some chia seeds
  • Includes fifteen grams of fiber and zero sugar
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6. ONE Bars
  • Only has one gram of sugar per bar
  • An excellent post-workout pick-me-up
  • A meal replacement for men with a busy schedule
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7. Pure Protein Bar
  • Has tons of protein and only 3 grams of sugar
  • Good as pre-workout and post-workout meals
  • Gluten-free and with great taste
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8. Atlas Bar
  • Takes a keto-friendly approach with lots of protein and very little sugar
  • Has a moderate amount of total carbs but they are offset by an excellent fiber content
  • Applicable to anybody who wants a high protein and low carb snack on the go
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9. Julian Bakery Primal Thin Protein Bar
  • A protein bar that’s focused specifically on weight loss
  • Contains 20 grams of protein, one gram of sugar, and sweetening provided by monk fruit
  • Gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO
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10. BSN Protein Crisp Bar
  • Is well-known for their great taste
  • Good as a post-workout meal and also if you are craving for a guilt-free snack
  • Low in sugar and is gluten-free
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1. Built Bar

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Built Bars are some of the cleanest and best tasting protein bars on the market. Every single delicious flavor is free of gluten, GMOs, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and fillers.

The protein is only derived from whey isolate and casein, including all nine essential amino acids to support recovery and performance. Built Bars are also very low calorie, containing just 110 calories per serving. BodyNutrition’s #1 choice, by far.

2. NuGo Slim

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Here’s a new idea: a protein bar that’s low in carbs but doesn’t dump in a bunch of sugar to make up for it. That’s what NuGo is. 

Instead of artificial sweeteners, it uses chicory root and just a touch of chocolate to flavor its bars. The result is 17 grams of protein, 2 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fiber: pretty impressive stats for something with no sugar alcohols.

3. Optimum Nutrition Protein Wafers

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Targeted at bodybuilders and athletes, this protein bar strives to provide a lot of protein but stay lean when it comes to carbs. It delivers a solid 15 grams of protein and only five grams of sugar.  

To keep the sugar content down, it’s flavored with sucralose instead. Your call on whether that’s an issue.

4. RXBar

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They say “don’t reinvent the wheel” but that’s more or less what RXBar did: they rebuilt the very idea of a protein bar from the ground up. 

Want simple? How about six ingredients? Dates, egg whites, almonds, cashews, chocolate, and sea salt. Put those together and you get tons of fiber, 12 grams of protein, and a moderate 15 grams of sugar (none of it added).

5. Epic All-Natural Meat Bar

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The whole reason protein bars were invented was because it isn’t very convenient to carry around high-protein meals when you are on the go. 

Apparently, until Epic came along, nobody realized you could just preserve some lean meat, season it with spices, and pack in some chia seeds good measure. Fifteen grams of fiber and zero sugar–can you complain? Well, yes, if you want fiber: there isn’t any of that in an Epic Bar, either. 

6. No Cow Protein Bar

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No Cow keeps the focus on plant-based protein, using a blend of rice and pea protein for a full-spectrum amino acid profile. Its sweetness comes from a variety of natural non-caloric sweeteners, including sugar alcohols. It’s very high in fiber, and to top it off, it’s vegan-friendly.

Though it’s missing a few of the perks found in other competitors, like a broader micronutrient profile, it’s still a solid option.  

7. ONE Bars

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They call it the ONE bar because there’s only one gram of sugar per bar. With that, 21 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber, those stats are pretty impressive.

The ONE bar is heavy on saturated fat, so if that’s an issue for you, take note. It also uses 10 grams of sugar alcohols to improve the taste. Again, depending on what you are looking for in your protein bar, that may or may not be a problem.

8. Pure Protein Bar

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Want tons of protein and almost no sugar? One option is a Pure Protein Bar. 21 grams of protein and only 3 grams of sugar! How do they do it? Artificial sweeteners. All the sweetness is provided by a sugar alcohol, so if that’s not your thing, steer clear of this one.

9. Atlas Bar

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Atlas Bar takes a keto-friendly approach: the protein content is solid, at 16 grams, but the sugar content is very low, at only 3 grams. There is a moderate amount of total carbs, but they are offset by an excellent fiber content (13 grams). It’s a favorite among the keto crowd, but this bar is applicable to anybody who wants a high protein and low carb snack on the go. 

10. BSN Protein Crisp Bar

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BSN is a big name in protein powder, and their products are well-known for their great taste. This one is no exception, though purists definitely won’t like the artificial flavoring and coloring used to achieve this great taste.

Category winners

Best protein bar overall: Built Bar

The Built Bar has an excellent balance of protein (15 grams per bar) and fiber (6 grams per bar), making it great for a wide variety of purposes: workout recovery, weight loss, or meal replacement. With a great taste and clean ingredient design, they’re an easy choice for the top spot. 

Best protein bar for men: ONE Protein Bar

Men serious about getting quality protein in high quantities should opt for the ONE bar. With a whopping 20 grams of protein and only one gram of sugar, it’s an excellent post-workout pick-me-up or a meal replacement for men with a busy schedule. 

Best protein bar for women: RXBar

Are you a health-conscious woman who needs an all-natural source of protein? With a radically simple, whole-food design that provides ample protein and fiber, RXBar can’t be beat.

Best protein bar for athletes: Optimum Nutrition Protein Wafers

If you need to pack in protein and calories after a tough workout, Optimum Nutrition is the way to go. With high-quality whey protein isolate and only a few grams of sugar, they’re great for post-workout recovery. 

Best protein bar for meal replacement: NuGo Slim

NuGo Slim provides a nice mixture of protein sources (whey, soy, and rice), plus all-natural flavoring and very little sugar or fat. With its solid fiber content, it makes an excellent meal replacement bar.

Best protein bar for weight loss: Built Bar

High in fiber, low in sugar, and providing plenty of protein to accelerate fat oxidation, the Built Bar is peerless when it comes to stopping hunger cravings without overloading your body on sugar or calories. It’s the ideal choice for weight loss. 

Who should buy protein bars?

Protein bars are stereotypically connected with weightlifters and bodybuilders, and indeed they are very useful for adding on muscle mass if you are an athlete, but that’s not the only kind of person who can benefit from a protein bar. Anyone in the following categories can make good use of a protein bar:

People on a diet who want a healthy meal or snack on the go. Protein has incredible benefits for weight loss, and if you want something more substantial than a meal replacement shake for a mid-day meal, a protein bar is a great way to go.

People who need a healthy mid-day energy boost. Even if you aren’t looking to lose weight, a protein bar can be an easy way to get a boost in energy while on the go, without dealing with the unhealthy sugars and refined carbohydrates that you’d find other processed foods.

People with a busy, travel-filled lifestyle who don’t want to rely on unhealthy snacks. If you know you have a busy, unpredictable lifestyle, it never hurts to have a supply of protein bars in your office, your car, or your backpack.

Watching out for your own wellbeing in this way in particularly important if you are trying to gain muscle or lose body fat, because both of these endeavours are reliant on your ability to consistently take in healthy food and avoid overindulging in processed carbohydrates, low-fiber foods, and sugary snacks.

Athletes and bodybuilders who need consistently high protein intake. Sometimes, eating your prepped meals is impossible. A protein bar can keep your body supplied with the building blocks it needs to continue synthesizing muscle tissue even when you’re traveling or away from healthy food options.

How we ranked

We set specific criteria for our rankings to ensure all of our recommended protein bars fit the needs of people who benefit most from protein bars. 

High protein content. First, we only looked at protein bars that provided at least 15 grams of protein.

While other macronutrient configurations are appropriate for a more generic energy bar, a protein bar simply needs high levels of protein. Anything with less than 15 grams of protein per bar was dropped.

No sugar-laden protein bars. After that, we started to take a look at specific ingredients. We heavily punished or completely eliminated products that were high in sugar.

That’s why, despite their popularity, you won’t find Clif Bars on our list. They have way too much added sugar to be considered as a serious option for a protein bar.

Some products, like RX Bars, manage to deliver a good serving of protein and a moderate amount of sugar, but in this case it’s the sugar that’s naturally present in dates, not added in the form of cane syrup or molasses.

Keeping sweeteners natural. We made allowances for some protein bars that use sugar alcohols or other artificial sweeteners, but preferred products that used all-natural non-caloric sweeteners like monk fruit or stevia extract.

High fiber content for satiety and weight management. We also looked closely at the fiber content of each protein bar.

While fiber is not so important for building muscle, it’s a big part of dropping body fat. A higher fiber protein bar will fill you up for longer and make you less likely to overeat at your next meal.

Key indicators of overall quality. Finally, we took stock of any particular benefits, such as all-natural or organic ingredients, and the particular kind of protein used.

After summing all products’ scores on these criteria, we came up with our final rankings of the best protein bars on the market.


Q: Can you get a pure protein bar?

A: You can get somewhat close with some of the offerings on the market. For example, the Optimum Nutrition Opti-Bar contains 20 grams of protein and only one gram of sugar.

That being said, it still has a fairly high amount of carbohydrates overall. It’s hard to hold a protein bar together without some kind of carb-based or fat-based binder, so as a result, even the purest protein bars tend to have a moderate amount of fat and carbohydrates.

In terms of purity of ingredients, our research team likes RX Bars, which scored highly in our rankings in no small part thanks to their incredible purity and simplicity: with only a handful of ingredients, all of them natural, it’s hard to get much better when it comes to a pure protein bar.

Q: When should you eat a protein bar?

A: For building muscle mass, you want to take some protein within about half an hour of finishing your workout. That protein could come in the form of a protein shake, or it could come in the shape of a protein bar.

Regardless, to kick-start your post-workout recovery and to maximize your muscle mass gain, you want to get protein in ASAP. For weight loss, the story is a little different.

You should eat a protein bar for weight loss earlier in the day, perhaps even as part of your breakfast.

A high protein breakfast improves metabolic health and also kick-starts the dual processes of thermogenesis and satiety, which help you burn more calories and eat fewer calories later in the day.

Q: What is a good protein bar for weight loss?

A: Our research team combed through dozens of protein bars, rating them based on quality. Our top overall pick was NuGo Slim thanks to its high protein content and low sugar content, but it also happens to be an excellent choice for weight loss specifically.

On the same front, we also like Epic All-Natural Meat Bars and Pure Protein bars for similar reasons. They’re very high in protein and fiber, and make no excuses for sugar content.

Q: What should you look for in a protein bar?

A: The most important criteria should, of course, be protein: when formulating our rankings, we looked for products that had at least 15 grams of protein per bar.

Any less than that and you’re in energy bar territory, not protein bar territory. Second, and nearly as important, watch the sugar content.

A lot of second-rate protein bars mask the taste of protein with high amounts of added sugar, which will wreck any plans for weight loss and can add unnecessary body fat if you are trying to build muscle mass.

Beyond that, you can use your personal preferences to inform your choices: if you want simple, natural ingredients, you’ll find plenty of options; likewise if your priority is minimal carb content.

We kept these first two criteria in mind when building our rankings of the top protein bars on the market, so our top products are a good starting point.

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When you are busy or on the road, it’s hard to beat a protein bar when it comes to a quick pick-me-up that fills you up and gets you the protein you need.

The ideal protein bar has lots of protein and fiber, and as little sugar as possible–while still tasting good. It’s that last part that often proves tricky once you’ve found the nutritional value that you want. Fortunately, our top-rated protein bars check all of these criteria. 

For Bodynutrition‘s #1 protein bar recommendation, click here.


John Davis

John Davis is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer with over 7 years of experience researching the science of high performance athletics, long-term health, nutrition, and wellness. As a trained scientist, he digs deep into the medical, nutritional, and epidemiological literature to uncover the keys to healthy living through better nutrition.