Protein is increasingly being recognised as one of the most - if not the most - important nutrient for endurance athletes. Not only does protein build muscle and protect lean muscle from the catabolic effects of aerobic exercise, it's also crucial for a healthy immune system, digestive system and proper maintenance of skin, hair and nails. If you're exercising regularly, your protein requirement will increase in turn - that's according to research from the Journal of Sports Sciences.
You can source most of your protein from a healthy and balanced diet, but for an efficient and convenient hit after training - or just for a sweet treat - protein bars can be a great supplement. We recruited Caspar Rose, CEO of Fresh Fitness Food and nutritionist, to assess the nutritional content of the 7 best on offer.
CLIF BUILDER'S PROTEIN BAR
273kcal | Protein: 20g | Carbs: 27g | Fat: 9g
High in protein and definitely tasty – but this CLIF bar is perhaps more suited to weightlifters than your typical runner. Its whey protein can be difficult to digest, so it might not be ideal post-run when your body prioritises central nervous system (CNS) functions – like getting your breathing back to normal – over digestion.
CHIA CHARGE PROTEIN BAR
202kcal | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 23g | Fat: 9g
Flavour-filled sultanas, cranberries and dates in this dairy and gluten-free bar from Chia Charge are not only easy to digest but provide a natural source of sugar to replenish depleted glycogen stores after a long run. Chia seeds – you’ve heard how amazing they are, right? – are high in calcium, too, an important mineral for protecting bone health.
255kcal | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 25g | Fat: 12g
Although 10g of natural protein is enough to kick-start repair of muscles after a training session, it’s the carbohydrate profile which makes this Tribe bar such an effective post-run snack. A delicious mixture of honey, berries and banana fuel you up with this crucial macronutrient.
THE PRIMAL PANTRY PALEO PROTEIN BAR
174kcal | Protein: 10g | Carbs: 22g | Fat: 4g
The hemp protein in this Paleo bar – which contains all 20 essential amino acids, vital for muscle repair – combined with energy-boosting dates, creates a great post-run pick-me-up. It’s a quick source of energy to ensure optimal recovery and refuel – the delicious taste is just an added bonus.
HOMEMADE PROTEIN BAR
352kcal | Protein: 19g | Carbs: 31g | Fat: 17g
A swift one-two punch of energy sources in this delicious bar makes it perfect for soothing flagging muscles and accelerating recovery. Dates and honey provide an instant hit of natural sugar, while the oats and toasted buckwheat contain slow-digesting carbohydrates to drip-feed your muscles with energy. To ensure this bar is crawling with protein, we’ve added Mophagy cricket powder – as a sustainable food source, it’s the green way to get your fill!
Chop 10g of dates and cover with 15ml of boiling water before mixing them up with a fork. Add in crushed walnuts, oats, cricket protein, coconut oil, honey, vanilla essence, salt and toasted buckwheat, then mix thoroughly. Set the mixture in a tray before cutting out bars and cooling.
PULSIN' MAPLE & WHEY CRISP
207kcal | Protein: 15g | Carbs: 15g | Fat: 9g
Whether you’re looking for a pre-run boost or a light post-workout snack, this pocket-sized bar from Pulsin' is the perfect balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats. The combination of whey and pea protein is easily absorbed and simple to digest, which makes this a far more convenient and versatile snack than other bars.
292kcal | Protein: 12g | Carbs: 22g | Fat: 16g
This ProteinSnack bar isn’t just a great source for muscle recovery – it’s packed with nutrient-rich goji berries, providing the antioxidant defence that runners need as part of a well-balanced diet. Also, its crunchy Brazil nuts provide selenium, an enzyme that helps off-set free-radical cell damage resulting from endurance running.