When most people need a quick energy boost, they opt for caffeine. It’s estimated that roughly 80 percent of Americans consume some form of caffeine at least once daily. Coffee, soft drinks, tea, and energy drinks are a few of the most commonly consumed caffeinated beverages.
The problem with relying on caffeine for energy is that it can have several negative side effects. So, can you get energy from protein bars without the side effects of caffeinated products?
What Are the Effects of Caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means that it has a stimulating effect specifically on your brain and nervous system. After consuming caffeine, the chemical messaging between the body and brain will speed up.
There will also be a corresponding increase in the circulation of cortisol and adrenaline in your blood. These stress hormones can help you feel more alert and energetic, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.
You can build up a tolerance to caffeine in as little as three days of regular consumption, meaning you’ll need to drink more caffeine to have the same effects as before.
The odds of overconsuming caffeine will also typically increase as your tolerance grows. You’ll become more likely to experience restlessness, dizziness, anxiety, dehydration, headaches, insomnia, and more.
There are many reasons to limit your caffeine intake. But what are you supposed to do the next time you need an energy boost? While you might be tempted to reach for a caffeinated beverage, one option that doesn’t immediately come to mind is a brain-fueling protein bar.
How Do Protein Bars Give You Energy?
As the name suggests, the key ingredient of a protein bar is protein. Protein is a macronutrient, meaning your body needs a lot of it daily to carry out its regular functions. Ideally, each person should aim to get about seven grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.
Practically every aspect of the human body uses protein in some form or another. More than 10,000 proteins are in your skin, hair, cartilage, muscles, bones, tissues, and cells. Protein is composed of about 20 amino acids that are either naturally produced or enter your system through your food.
Eating protein can affect your energy levels in a few different ways. The most significant boost occurs when protein is metabolized into glucose and used as an energy source.
Carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source, but protein can be used if you’re following a low-carb diet. Protein can serve as an energy booster when glycogen (the stored energy from glucose and carbohydrates) dips during intense physical exercise.
Another way that protein can boost your energy is that it’s responsible for producing hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in your red blood cells, and it’s actually why your blood is red. More importantly, hemoglobin is how oxygen is transported to your organs and tissues — efficient oxygen delivery means your cells are getting a critical ingredient for cellular energy production.
The last reason protein can affect your energy levels is that it plays a crucial role in absorbing and storing iron. Iron is a major component of both hemoglobin and myoglobin. Myoglobin serves the same function as hemoglobin, except that it specifically provides oxygen to your muscles.
Iron is stored in the liver as the protein ferritin. Extreme fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of iron deficiency (anemia), as your brain, organs, muscles, and tissues aren't getting enough oxygen.
How Much Energy Can a Protein Bar Provide?
There’s no way to accurately say how much energy you’ll receive by eating a protein bar. Protein bars come in all shapes and sizes with significantly different ingredient lists.
The ones that provide the most intense feelings of energy are most likely because of their added sugars. Eating a lot of sugar is a quick way to increase feelings of quick-lived energy temporarily, but it’s also an easy way to pack on weight, so it’s important not to rely on added sugar as your primary energy source.
On its own, one gram of protein contains roughly four calories, the same as a gram of carbs. The difference is that carbohydrates break down easier. The energy spike that you receive from eating carbohydrates will be much more intense than from eating protein.
However, the energy spike doesn’t last nearly as long since the body will take much more time to digest and metabolize protein. No protein bar will provide you with the same feelings of energy as caffeine or sugar.
What protein can provide is a more steady energy level that can last through your day until your next meal where you can get a whole ton of energy-supporting nutrients like carbs, proteins, and certain vitamins.
It’s easiest to think of caffeine and sugar as throwing gas on an open fire. The flames will jump up high and burn hot, but only for a short time. Protein would be the equivalent of adding a log to the fire instead. There won’t be a huge increase in the size or intensity of the fire, but it will burn for much longer.
Do Protein Bars Provide Other Benefits?
There are more benefits to eating protein bars than just the potential for sustainable energy. Depending on the protein bar you’re eating, there can be many health and wellness benefits. These are a few examples of the possible benefits that come from eating protein bars:
Supports Your Workout Routine
The amino acids found in protein bars can be a tremendous ally to anyone who frequently exercises. Exercise is an essential part of maintaining a healthy body and brain. The beauty of eating protein bars is that they can be beneficial whether you consume them before or after your workout.
We’ve already covered how protein can provide sustainable energy. Eating a protein bar before working out can benefit your routine. It can help you maintain healthy energy levels and support your overall performance.
On the other hand, eating a protein bar after a workout can also provide benefits. During exercise, your muscles will slightly tear due to the stress you apply to them. The amino acids inside protein can help support your body’s healing of these tears and build the muscles back bigger than before.
There is a long list of essential vitamins and minerals your body and brain need to function properly. Some of them can be produced naturally, but most will need to come from your food.
It can be challenging for many people to meet their daily recommended requirements for these vitamins and minerals. Eating a highly nutritious protein bar can help you get a head start meeting your recommended daily value of essential nutrients.
Not every protein bar will have the same focus on vitamins and minerals. You’ll need to look for one that contains the nutrients you struggle to get in the rest of your diet. The best protein bars include some of these more elusive nutrients, including vitamins in the B complex, vitamin D, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.
Loaded With Fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that provides a few key benefits to your digestive system. Fiber helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, gives you the feeling of being full, and softens the stool, making it easier to pass. Oddly, a lot of fiber’s benefits are made possible because the body can’t fully digest and break down fiber.
You can find fiber in a variety of foods — beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are especially high in fiber. Increasing your consumption of these foods is one way to get enough fiber. On the other hand, you could look for a protein bar with a high amount of fiber.
Most protein bars contain fiber, as the two major nutrient types have a very friendly relationship with one another. Remember that the body takes a long time to metabolize protein and can’t properly digest fiber. Eating a fiber-infused protein bar can help maintain your energy levels for a long time while keeping your appetite satiated.
Contains Healthy Fats
Fat is often viewed negatively, but fat is a macronutrient, just like protein and carbohydrates. Your body needs fat to function properly, and it’s recommended as a regular part of your diet. The key thing about eating fat is that there are healthy and unhealthy fats, just as there are good and bad sugars and carbs.
What many experts consider the healthy types of fat to be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats can provide your body with energy and play key roles in cellular function, organ protection, hormone production, and nutrient absorption.
The fats that should generally be avoided are saturated and trans fats. These unhealthy types provide virtually no nutritional value and can damage the body. You’ll need to check your protein bar's label and ensure the fat content isn’t from one of these two sources.
It’s virtually impossible to beat the convenience of a protein bar. You don’t have to refrigerate it or store it in any special way. You don’t have to cook it or heat it up. You don’t need to use a plate or utensils. You don’t even have to leave your house to get them.
All you have to do is tear off the wrapper and enjoy. The combination of convenience and nutritional benefits can make protein bars an excellent option for meal replacement, too.
Instead of spending the time to prepare a hearty breakfast every morning, you can simply grab a protein bar for the road. The protein can provide energy, the fiber will help you feel full, and (with the right bar) you’ll get a ton of essential nutrients — all within a fraction of the time.
What Should You Avoid in Protein Bars?
Not all protein bars are created equal. Many of them can provide some of the benefits listed above, but very few can provide all of the benefits.
That said, you shouldn’t just be on the lookout for the potential benefits of a protein bar — you should also be aware of the potential downsides.
Here are a few things that are worth avoiding when looking for a protein bar:
- Added Sugars. It’s common for protein bars to rely on sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or honey to improve their taste. These added sugars can do harm to your body and brain when consumed in excess over time, which is unfortunately fairly easy to do in the modern day. Try to look for a protein bar with as few added sugars as possible.
- Excess Fat. A protein bar with healthy fat can be a good thing. However, there are plenty of protein bars that contain an excess of the wrong kind of fat. Common sources of saturated fats include highly processed plant oils such as canola, palm, peanut, and soybean oil.
- Calorie Content. Protein bars have a lot of ingredients that can quickly add up from a calorie standpoint. It’s worth it to make sure that the protein bar you’re eating isn’t overloading you with calories. A good best practice to follow is keeping that protein bar calorie count to 200 calories or less per bar.
Try MOSH To Enjoy the Benefits of a Brain-Fueling Protein Bar
Eating a protein bar won’t give you the same feeling of an energy boost as drinking coffee might. However, protein can provide energy that serves to steadily fuel you through the day.
Finding a protein bar isn’t very difficult — the difficult part is finding a protein bar to fuel you without also bringing along added sugars and other not-so-welcome ingredients.
Let us help cut your search for the nourishing protein bar you want and need — order a trial pack of MOSH protein bars today to experience the benefits and see for yourself!
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