9 protein bars to try ASAP

**Edited & updated 12/8/2018

Confession: I’m obsessed with snacks.

Living a busy and athletic lifestyle has forced me to rely on snacks. I do try to focus on real food snacks like fruit and nuts, but sometimes you need some extra oomph before or after a workout, on hikes, during competitions, or even just to amp up your meal.

If you look at the back of many protein bars, you'll see a ton of weird ingredients. These include many different forms of added sugars, oils, and processed protein. It's my strong belief that if I'm going to fuel/refuel my body, I want to do it with bars that are as close to real food as possible.

I've tried almost every single bar out there (no joke) that's gluten free and dairy free and these are my favorites. I like each of them for different purposes, but they all taste good by themselves, with a large cup of coffee, with some fruit and/or nuts, or even in a yogurt/cereal/sweet potato bowl.

Bar you ready? (This is why I don't make puns often...) Keep reading for my top 7 (in no particular order) — and stay tuned for 4 bonus bars at the bottom!

P.S. If you're doing Whole30, a lot of these bars are Whole30 Approved!

1. RXBars

Paleo, Gluten Free, Whole30 Approved (some flavors)

These bars proudly proclaim "No B.S." — and it's true. The only ingredients they contain are listed proudly on the front, unlike most bars that try to hide it on the packaging fold on the back. The protein comes from egg whites, which is awesome if you're Paleo. They're sticky, which takes a little getting used to, but come in a ton of awesome flavors (especially seasonal ones).

Favorite Flavor: Coffee Chocolate
Best For: I eat 1/2 pre-workout and 1/2 post-workout or an entire bar as a filling afternoon snack. Sometimes I'll use some of a bar as a bowl topping!

2. Atlas Bars

Gluten Free, Low Sugar

I normally get indigestion (sorry, TMI) from whey protein and stevia, but the grass-fed whey in combination with MCT oil makes this bar 100% OK with my stomach. Which is a blessing, because it's not only filling but amazing-tasting. Like, legit tastes like a brownie (chocolate flavor) or blondie (vanilla flavor). They just came out with a Peanut Butter Chip flavor too!

Favorite Flavor: Chocolate Cacao
Best For: Post-workout

3. RawRev Glo Bars

Vegan, Gluten Free

These bars contain pea protein, making them a great vegan protein bar. It's my go-to alternative for RXBars, and work wonderfully as an afternoon pick-me-up if you're craving something sweet without the sugar crash. They're light enough for pre-workout as well.

Tip: Keep these cold if you want a less chewy bar! Since there's coconut oil in here, it can melt quickly under heat. Then, warm in between your hands a little so that the chocolate-y chunks get all melty.

Favorite Flavor: Double Chocolate Brownie Batter
Best For: Afternoon snacking, dessert

4. RISE Bars

Photo by Rise Bar

Photo by Rise Bar

Vegan, Gluten Free

These bars also contain pea protein, which makes them super filling. They only have 3-4 ingredients: just pea protein, nuts, coconut nectar, and natural flavoring.

Favorite Flavor: Lemon Cashew
Best For: Post-workout

5. IQ Bars

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Keto

I love supporting local brands, and this Kickstarted-funded bar brand is no different. Their bars are all about optimizing brain function. We spend so much time thinking about our muscles that we forget about our brain sometimes! The founder is a Harvard graduate and has done awesome scientific research to support the ingredients in this bar. They're less about protein and more about boosting your brain, so I'd eat this with a rainbow salad or as an afternoon brain boost.

Favorite Flavor: Almond Cacao
Best For: With a salad, afternoon snacking

6. Perfect Bars

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free

The sad part: there's only 2 vegan flavors. The great part: they’re full of superfoods and are super filling (they contain a lot of fat). It's pretty sweet, so I'd only eat 1/2 at a time or pair it with a strong cup of black coffee, like this one. If you're not dairy-free, go wild with all their amazing flavors!

Tip: This needs to be refrigerated, which proves how fresh it is, but also means that you should only take it with you to places with a fridge accessible.

Favorite Flavor: Almond Coconut / Chocolate Walnut Brownie (the only dairy-free flavors)
Best For: With yogurt bowls or with coffee

7. Epic Bars

Photo by @epicbar

Photo by @epicbar

Paleo, Gluten Free, Whole30 Approved (some flavors)

You can't get closer to real protein than straight-up meat. Epic Bars are insanely filling (especially when paired with some fruit or veggies) and have a ton of protein (duh). They also came out with RXBar-copycats that taste pretty good!

Favorite Flavor: Uncured Bacon or Lamb, Currant & Mint
Best For: With a meal, on a hike

8. Perfect Keto Bars

Photo by Perfect Keto

Photo by Perfect Keto

Paleo, Gluten Free, Keto

With 10g of protein from collagen (my favorite form of protein) and tons of healthy fat (cacao butter, almond butter, coconut oil), these bars don’t weigh you down or give you an afternoon sugar crash. I love to eat it with a slab of nut butter!

Favorite Flavor: Almond Butter Brownie is the only one, but it’s fab
Best For: Breakfast replacement, a pick-me-up snack

9. LÄRABAR

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Whole30 Approved (some flavors)

I've been a fan of LÄRABAR for a long, long time. These don’t count as protein bars, per se, but they are a go-to snack bar.

I would have 1/2 a full-sized bar or a mini bar before swim practice or especially during swim meets — they're basically just dates, which is great for quick energy. They've expanded their offerings; I like their nut and seed bars as yogurt toppings instead of grain-free granola or their superfood bars for when I'm teaching back-to-back boxing classes.

Favorite Flavor: Nut & Seed (Maple Cinnamon — $3 off coupon on Amazon), Original (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough — $2 off coupon when you buy on Amazon), Superfoods (Turmeric/Ginger/Beet)
Best For: Pre-workout


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