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The Best & Worst Protein Bars in India

India’s top 10 Protein and Energy bars. Rated.

An honest, unbiased ranking of all that sells under the garb of Health Bars in India. Based purely on each bars ingredient quality and nutritional value.


Is snacking a major reason why you feel you’re unable to keep fit?

Unhealthy snacking, rather — the Haldiram bhujia, Bhelpuri, Nachos, Maggi noodles kind?

Given you’re reading this, chances are you’re trying to substitute these unhealthy snacks with healthier options. Home-baked granola, mixed nuts, edamame, health bars.

Sorry…did someone say…

Health Bars

What a category name! A general, utopian, unverifiable benefit, followed by a form factor. Maybe we should start calling doughnuts ‘Fat-Rings’ and colas ‘Death-Liquids’.

They put the word ‘health’ in the name, and our inclination to verify their claims reduces drastically. And our propensity to consume these bars, in copious amounts, thinking that we’re making a healthier-choice, increases drastically. Because…

C’mon! They couldn’t be lying so blatantly!!

Right?

Why don’t you read on and decide for yourself.

Defining the category

Health Bars, as I’ve been trying to say for a while, means nothing. So let’s define the category by what is being served in the market today.

Broadly speaking, there are 2 kinds of bars in the Indian market. Energy Bars and Protein Bars.

I classify a bar as ‘Protein Bar’ only if it has > 10gm of protein per bar. Doesn’t matter what the manufacturer chooses to call it.

These protein bars are generally the more expensive ones. Costing anywhere between Rs.60 to Rs.150 per bar. And with varying amounts of protein.

Energy bars, on the other hand, play in the Rs. 40–60 range. And they usually market themselves on the basis of clean ingredients. Claims like ‘High Fibre’, ‘Vegan’, ‘Anti-Oxidants’ and other such are likely to be found on these bars.

On the whole though, both types market themselves as a clean, low-calorie (no sugar), healthy and tasty alternative to other snacks. So it’s only fair, that when it comes to judging them, we do so on these parameters.

Review Mechanism

Here’s how I’ll be judging each bar. It’ll be a 5-factor judgement, each factor rated on a scale of 5. Where:

1 = ‘You’re lying. This isn’t what you claim. Kindly duck yourself.

5 = ‘Well done. You’re truthful and awesome and I will hug you when I see you. Till then, I’ll keep buying you.

The factors:

  1. Truthfulness of Claims: First up, I’ll verify what you’re shouting on Front of Pack. This, better be true.
  2. Quality of Ingredients: Anything that one doesn’t find in a normal kitchen gets negative points.
  3. Sugar: Anything apart from natural sugars is a no-no. The more of this, the less the score.
  4. Macro-Composition: The easiest way to make a cheap, clean bar is to fill it with oats or rice crisps. But then you’re just selling me carbs. What balance you’re able to strike between all 3 macros (Protein, Fat and Carbs), is how I judge goodness of recipe
  5. Taste: Because finally, I’ve got to want to eat it.

Bars under review

Protein Bars: Yoga Bar, Rite Bite, Max Protein, Plant-Power, Hyp Bar

Energy bars: Yoga Bar, Mojo Bar, Flat Tummies, Eat bar

This will be a 2 part series. I’ll cover a mixture of both types in each review.

Let’s begin.

Mojo bar

Truthfulness of Claim: 3

They claim ‘Nothing Artificial’ and then add Glucose and Emulsifiers and Yogurt Powder. I understand the need for all of these, but then please don’t make loud claims that state otherwise.

Also, not sure where the anti-oxidants are coming from. The yogurt? Which is actually dried yogurt powder.

Quality of Ingredients: 2

Apart from the ones mentioned above, they also have palm oil and vegetable fat and fruit-oligosaccharides or FOS* (which is claimed as dietary fibre on front of pack. You’ll see this name pop-up a lot in the future too. I explain what these are at the end of this article.)

So yeah. Not good.

Sugar: 1

This is where this bar really loses its Mojo.

Why, after putting in all sorts of sweet stuff already, would you top it up with both honey and added sugar?? WHY???

I’ll tell you. Because the palate that they’re trying to become a snack-replacement for, is used to eating sweets.

Well, this, is just not cool.

Macro-Composition: 2

It’s a downward spiral from here on. With those ingredients, you can hardly make a well balanced bar (which is a big claim behind their pack).

This bar gets 60% of its calories from Carbs. Another 30%t from Fats. And just the remaining paltry sum from Protein. Need I say more.

Taste: 3

Some might like it because of all the sugar. I didn’t like it because it was too sweet. And because I’d already read the nutritional label.

Verdict: If you’re on a trek and need some on-the-go, high energy food, then maybe. Otherwise I’d give this a skip.

Mojo..not rising (had to say it)

RITE-BITE: Protein Bar

Truthfulness of Claim: 4

This bar doesn’t claim to be anything but a Protein + Vitamin laced bar. And on that it delivers.

The only reason I’ve cut one point, is because they claim to be ‘Sugar-Free’. But they use Maltitol instead. A trick used by many, to get away with calling themselves Sugar-Free, yet getting the sweetness of sugar.

Maltitol: (like Sorbitol), is a Sugar Alcohol. It’s 90% as sweet as sugar, but with half the calories (2.1 kcal per gram). These alcohols are used in various processed foods (even in toothpastes). And while not as bad, they have similar effects as sugar. Which kind-a defeats the whole point of going sugar-free in the first place.

So next time you find a product that claims to be ‘No-Sugar-Added’, do turn back and check if the nutrition info has a line called ‘Polyols’. That’s where you’ll find these substitutes.

Quality of Ingredients: 2

This bar has a chemistry lab worth of compounds in it. Glycerin, Oligosaccharides, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Gum, Maltitol, artificial flavors — you name it.

The only positive is that they don’t claim to be ‘Natural’ on pack.

Sugar: 2

As I said. No Sugar, but 8gm of Maltitol. Half the calories, so half the points. Plus an extra down-grade for shouting sugar-free on pack.

Macro-Composition: 4

With all those sins committed, they do attain a decently balanced macro-composition. P10: C14: F6.

Taste: 3

With all the chocolate and maltitol thrown in, the taste isn’t too bad. But it does taste a bit… artificial.

I ate this bar for a long time. At Rs.60, this was the most value-for-money protein bar on the market. That’s perhaps the reason why it is the market leader (Rite-bite + Max Protein have >50% share of the protein bar market) in India today.

But once I did the research and understood how they could afford to keep it so cheap, I could never go back.

When it comes to food, nothing comes cheap. You either pay now, or later.

Flat Tummies

I must admit, before I saw these in the store, I’d never heard of them. Found them lying in one corner of the shelf. The name made me smirk. ‘Another one of them’, I thought to myself. Only to be surprised.

Truthfulness of Claim: 4

Everything apart from low-calorie, is absolutely true. And ‘low’ calorie is such a subjective claim that it’s hard to make it true. This bar has more calories per 100gm than a bar of chocolate. So not really low calorie. And not really flat tummies.

Quality of Ingredients: 5

Look at that ingredient list. Just 8 things. All of them, you’d find in your fridge. What’s to judge!

Sugar: 5

All natural. None added.

Macro-Composition: 4

You can’t really go wrong with that ingredient list. Just that the fat count is a bit high on account of all the nuts and raisins. All else is good.

Taste: 3

For me. Because I don’t like peanuts in any other form apart from whole peanuts. I’m one of the few people who doesn’t like peanut butter!! And since this bar is largely peanuts, I didn’t sit too well with me.

But if you’re good with the taste, this is one of the best bars on the market. And the one that comes closest to being a health bar.

Yoga Bar (Energy bar)

Yoga Bars. The poster boy of the Indian health bar market. Comes in 2 forms. A Rs. 120 Protein Bar. And a Rs. 40 Energy Bar. We review the latter first.

Truthfulness of Claim: 4

The only claim they don’t live up to, is ‘High-Protein’. At just 4.7gms per bar, claiming High Protein is just a desperate marketing gimmick that I didn’t expect this brand to resort to. Tsk Tsk.

Quality of Ingredients: 4

All good ingredients. No Preservatives. No chemicals (apart from oligosaccharides).So it’s largely good.

Sugar: 2

This is where this bar disappointed me.

Did you know: that labelling regulations require you to list your ingredients in the order of contribution to product weight?

Now check their ingredient list. The second item is honey. 20% of this product, is honey. And then they add palm sugar too!

That’s about 9gms of sugar in this 38gms bar (24% by weight) that I did not expect from a brand like Yoga Bar. Tsk Tsk Tsk.

Macro-Composition: 3

That sugar count throws off the macros on this bar. 24.5 gms out of 38gms is carbs. Of which 8.5 is sugar.

No way the remaining Macros can salvage this carb-density.

The only reason I’m not giving them a 2, is because this is a recurring theme across energy bars. To keep the cost low, they all need to load the bar with cheap carbs. So read this rating as relative to the energy bar category.

Taste: 4

This is the only flavor I tried and I liked it. Not too sweet, and thankfully the orange taste isn’t artificial.

Max Protein Bar

India’s biggest protein bar brand. Max Protein, and its lesser cousin Rite-Bite , are both from the same manufacturer. And combined form about 30% of the protein bar market.

The Max Protein variant comes in 2 protein doses, 20g and 30g. I’m reviewing the 20gm version here, but the 30gm is no different.

As you’d guess, Max Protein is a big hit with gym bros looking for a cheap, heavy-duty protein meal bar. And as we’ve discussed, nothing, when it comes to good food, comes cheap. Only the currency differs. You either pay with money or with your health.

Note: The pictures I’ve put above are the ones this brand has posted on their Amazon page.

Truthfulness of Claim: 2

The biggest claim on front of pack, apart from 20gm Protein, is Zero Added Sugar.

But if you’ve ever tasted one of these bars, you know how sweet and how chocolaty they are! Makes you wonder where the sweetness and the chocolate comes from, if these is no sugar?

Well, if you’ve read last week’s post, you know that it comes from Maltitol. A chemical that is a Sugar Alcohol. Yes, an alcohol, that has half of sugar’s calories and 90% of its sweetness.

Once the food industry realized that claiming ‘Zero Sugar’ is a great way to lure health-seeking consumers in, they promptly replaced all sugar in their food with these alcohols. Maltitol, Sorbitol — basically anything that ends with ‘ol’ is nothing but sugar in another form.

And to see how much of it there is, just check the nutrition label under ‘Polyols’. In one 67gm bar, there is ~13gm Maltitol and ~4gm Other Sugar. So ~25% of this bar is Sugar.

I rest my case.

Quality of Ingredients: 2

Now check the last picture I’ve posted.

This brand has taken meticulous care in talking about all the positives of their bar. About all the great ingredients that their awesome, cheap bar has.

I wonder why then, have they chosen NOT to post a clear shot of their ingredient list on Amazon!

Here’s the clearest picture I could find on Google. Once you zoom in, you find out why:

Every chemical ever put in a protein bar, is present in this one.

Maltitol, Glycerine, Sucralose, Multiple Emulsifiers, Gum, Citric Acid…you name it and they’ve got it. And to camouflage these, they add a ton of cheap vitamins and amino acids on top, so they get to talk about these and not those.

If they’d just chosen to use good ingredients, they wouldn’t have had to add all these, in an artificial form, on top. But then good ingredients are expensive.

Sugar: 2

Maltitol. Sucralose. Natural Sugar. All adding up to 25% of the product.

Macro-Composition: 3

With all those ingredient sins committed, they do achieve a good macro-composition. But then that’s what they were running blindly after when they chose to put any crap in their bar that got them there.

Remember though that this is truly a meal replacement bar. At 258 Kcal a piece, it is 60–70% of a full meal’s calories. And 40% of those come from carbs. 35% from Fat and the rest from protein.

Taste: 3

The bars taste good. With all the chocolate and sugar substitutes thrown in, they do achieve decent taste. And for a while, even I fell for it.

I consumed these bars for about 3 months. I was trying to bulk up and found these (as was intended) to be a great, low-cost, no-sugar, high-protein, post-workout meal. Had I said this line out aloud even once, I’d have realised that it’s too good to be true.

My wife, on the other had, from day 1, used to hate them. She said she could taste the artificialness. Once I did the research, I could taste it too.

So now, I can never buy one of these. And I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone either. Just have a glass of whey protein in water, if you need your protein. This isn’t a great way to have it.

But the fact remains that these are the largest selling bars in the country.

Sigh.

PS: I hate them so much that I didn’t even buy one for the review

EAT Bars

A regular energy bar that tries to shout out ‘healthy’ from it’s cardboard box packaging that’s supposed to make it look premium.

Truthfulness of Claim: 2

They don’t claim much up front. But they do write ‘Health’ and ‘ZERO Sugar’, both of which are only partially true, at best.

Sugar: Well, it’s true they haven’t added any separately. And you’ve got to compliment them for resisting to use Maltitol. But then they went and scored an own goal by using Dextrose. Which is an artificial sweetener, like Splenda and Sugar-Free. Probably worse.

But still, one could’ve excused them, until one saw the nutrition label. This bar has about 11gm of Sugar. And none of it is added. So where is this sugar coming from?

Well, one of the ingredients in the bar is ‘Dark Chocolate Chips and Cream’, which has a ton of Sugar. So much for Zero Sugar and Health.

Quality of Ingredients: 3

Relative to other Energy bars I’m giving them a 3. On absolute grounds I’d give them a 2.

All these bars need a cheap carb to form a bulk of the bar. Oats and Rice Crisps usually form bulk of this bulk. This bar is no different.

Sugar: 2

We spoke. But let me clarify, 11gm of sugar, if it was all natural (from fruits or dates) would’ve been cool. But adding sugar in the garb of another ingredient just isn’t cool. Not when you want me to pick the bar for ‘Zero Sugar’.

Macro-Composition: 3

Again, just like any energy bar. 50%+ calories from Carbs. 35% from Fat. A paltry amount from Protein.

Buy them if you’re on a trek I’d say. Else these are just candy bars in disguise.

Taste: 3

It tastes ok. Should’ve been a lot better with all the dark chocolate and carbs thrown in. The least such bars can do is be extremely tasty.

Yoga Bars (Protein Bar)

The most premium bar in the market. And the hippest face of the Indian snack bar portfolio. And ofcourse, Yoga.

Truthfulness of Claim: 5

Can’t fault them here. Not because they live up to their claims. But because they don’t make any in the first place. They just say 20gm protein and that this bar has. Simple.

Quality of Ingredients: 4

Again. A short list of easily recognizable ingredients. My only grouse is the artificial sugar in the dark chocolate and then honey on top. And also, because they’re doing so well till now, the oligosacharides which aren’t harmful, but are avoidable.

Maybe I’m being too stringent with them. Because I like them.

Sugar: 4

Largely natural. And the rest from Honey.

I remove one point not because of the honey. But because of fruit-oligosaccharides. Or what you see listed there as ‘Dietary Fibre’.

This, linked to ‘Net Carbs’, is a very recent fad and also a bit of a sham. I’ll expand on this in a future post. But for the time being, do not let yourself be fooled by a brand saying, ‘hey, we have 15gm total carbs but only 6gm net’. It’s not that simple.

Macro-Composition: 4

Again. Good ingredients can’t lead to a bad composition. So Yoga Bar does well.

I strike off one point due to the excessive fat here. 50% of the 270 Kcal per bar, comes from Fat!! That, is a LOT of fat.

Taste: 3

With all that fat and dark chocolate thrown in, I feel they could’ve done better with the taste. It’s good. But could’ve been better.

Overall, definitely one of the best protein bars on the market. And that reflects in the price.

HYP Protein Bar

This brand never came up in my Mumbai research. It was only when I saw an office colleague eat this (she’d ordered it online and it got shipped from Delhi), that I came across it. And the fact that my highly educated, well-read colleague was spending money on this, got me intrigued.

Truthfulness of Claim: 2

This bar is a good recap of all the ways in which food marketeers lie. You’re all trained in spotting these lies by now. So let’s go at it.

Claim 1: ZERO Sugar

Truth: 10.5gm Maltitol in a 40gm bar. That’s 25% by weight.

Claim 2 (behind pack): For Low Carb dieters (they’ve written a whole paragraph on this)

Truth: 20gms of carb in a 40gm bar. That’s 50% by weight!! How is this low carb. My blood boils every time I see such trickery.

And I know what the brand’s response will be. ‘We are low on net carbs and hence on blood sugar spikes’.

Give me another week. I’ll bust this myth too.

Quality of Ingredients: 3

Maltitol. Something called Humectant, which is a Glycerin. Oligosaccharides. Emulsifiers.

You get the drift.

Sugar: 2

Yes they have no refined sugar. And have ~11gm Maltitol instead. I would’ve given them a 3, since everyone seems to be using this same trick. But they went too far with claims.

Macro-Composition: 3

They achieve decent macros. And all that Maltitol allows them to check fat usage. So this bar gets 35% calories from Fat. 25% from Protein. And the rest is Carbs.

Taste: 3

Strictly Ok.

When you see a Rs. 60 bar claiming to be high-protein, please become vary of the ingredients. Quality doesn’t come so cheap.

Plant Power

And finally, let’s end on a positive note.

This little know brand, is perhaps the only Dairy-free, Vegan option available in the market today.

Truthfulness of Claim: 4

It says it is Gluten Free, Vegan and Natural.

The first two I corroborate. The third doesn’t mean anything for a bar that has chemically derived protein isolates (which aren’t bad, just not natural). So that’s one point off.

Quality of Ingredients: 4

Very good ingredients. They’ve gone out of their way to make this bar vegan. Brown rice protein isn’t a standard option, and I appreciate the effort that goes into procuring such items.

The only negative is the brown rice syrup that they could’ve done without.

Sugar: 4

All natural. And the added bit is from Jaggery and Brown Rice syrup. I take away one point only for the latter.

Macro-Compostion: 4

~15gm of vegan Protein. That’s commendable.

~22gm Carbs & ~17gm Fat.

Two problems here. One, is the high Fat. About 50% calories in this bar too come from Fat. Which is a lot but I understand that when you have to keep it dairy-free and vegan, this is a natural outcome. And since a lot of it comes from seeds and nuts, it isn’t bad fat.

I’ve actually take a point off because they’ve listed nutritional info of 100gm of product. While the bar is 65gm. So I (and every consumer) had to calculate the macros of the bar.

Why list macros for 100gms when the unit I consume in is 1 bar!!!

Taste: 2

This is where the Veganism takes it’s toll. I don’t like it.

But then I don’t care for ‘Vegan’ either. Those who do might like (or not care about) the taste.

So if you’re Vegan or off dairy, go for this. If you can find it, that is. It’s expensive, which is a good surrogate for ‘good’.


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Also published on Medium.

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9 thoughts on “The Best & Worst Protein Bars in India

  1. Hi Shashank! Stumbled on your blog this morning and have devoured all of your articles since then.
    Should you be forced to choose, which protein bar would you recommend (with atleast calories)?

    Also, I am a big fan of Bang energy drink which is a pre-workout drink which ALSO enhances focus (it has 300+mg of caffeine, besides BCAA, Creatine and other nutrients). In your extended research, is there a similar drink that you might be able to recommend with (decreased/zero calories+Increased energy+increased focus/brain fuel) (And i don’t mean coffee!!).. I’m clueless and this would be very helpful

    1. Hi Dr Shashank…thanks for the kind words. Forced to chose, I’d go for the Flat Tummies bar. Cleanest ingredients. I personally don’t like choosing by calorie density. Because if the ingredients are nutritious, you can’t overeat anyway.

      Haven’t done a full review of pre-workout drinks. Don’t use one myself. But I’ll add it to my list of things to research.

      Cheers!

  2. Hey Shashank,

    This is really helpful. Stumbled upon this while trying to figure out if it made sense to have a Max Protein bar for lunch, in place of the usual roti sabzi. Thanks much for exposing the lies and busting the myths and for arming lay people like me with a tonne of useful info. Now every time I see the claim ‘Zero Sugar’, I’ll check for Matitol! Please keep doing more of this.

    Sangeeta

  3. Hi Shashank, excellent piece, loved your writing style and the info of course! Nowadays one can figure out if a so called neutral review is actually paid or not, so reading your piece is a breath of fresh air. Keep writing man.. Wish you good health always.

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