Why use protein bars and protein shakes? What is the difference?


If you are a gym-goer or play sport, you are bound to have seen fellow enthusiasts eating protein bars or drinking protein shakes. Both options are rich in protein: a nutrient which plays a key part in supporting recovery after exercise, helping to rebuild your muscles.

That's right: protein isn't just about building larger muscles. Recovery after sport or exercise is incredibly important for men and women, helping everyone from runners, to weightlifters, to improve their fitness.

Conquer those hunger pangs

But protein isn't just crucial to recovery. Take weight and body fat loss. Even the most hardened sportspeople struggle with the mental challenge of subdueing hunger pangs when carefully monitoring their calorie intake. Thankfully, higher protein foods are linked with satiety. Protein digests slower than carbohydrates, helping you feel fuller for longer.

There are countless protein bars and protein shakes on the market designed to regulate feelings of hunger and help your body recover. The only question is: should you reach for a protein bar or protein shake? Let's explore the right choice for you.

man cycling graphicProtein content

The beauty of protein shakes and protein bars is the choice of protein content: both are available with various concentrations. In general, protein powder shakes offer slightly more protein per 100g of product.

Research from the May 2010 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise indicates that consuming protein powder prior to your workout can enhance calorie burning in the 24 hours following exercise, so a high protein formulation like Whey Protein Deluxe is the perfect option. Formulated with BCAAs and hydrolyzed glutamine peptides, it is best taken between training sessions, within 30 minutes of sport or training, or anytime, as a high protein snack.

Below is a list of all Real Nutrition Co protein products and their protein levels.

products 1Protein shakes

Protein bars

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Calorie content

Appearances can be deceiving: despite their convenient size, protein bars are typically higher in calories than protein powder. Bars like the 28% Diet Protein Bar and 33% Recovery Bar provide around 200 calories each, while protein powder like Deluxe Premium Whey Protein contains about 150 calories. The reason for this is it is necessary to have carbohydrates and a small amount of fat in protein bars to achieve the right texture.


Nutrition according to your needs

If you are looking to top up protein levels regularly throughout the day, the purity of protein powder can help you to avoid excess calories. However, if you are only looking to consume a couple of servings per day to help with a general balanced or high protein diet, the more complete nutrition offered in protein bars offers a great snack option between meals.

Additionally, the balanced level of carbohydrates is important when you are using a product for recovery after exercise, and to help refuel your muscles. Not to say that protein shakes can't also offer complete nutrition: all-in-one powders like Lean Protein and Muscle Shakes Build offer a full range of nutrients and specialist sports supplements in one convenient product tailored for specific goals.


Carbohydrate content

Carbohydrates fuel your body for exercise and can support recovery, so if recovery after exercise is your main goal, a product containing both protein and carbohydrates is more beneficial.

Research from the December 2010 issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that a combination of protein and carbohydrates is optimal for recovery, so a pure protein powder alone would be less effective than a protein bar or shake that also includes some carbohydrates.

Below is a list of the carbohydrate content in Real Nutrition Co products.

Protein shakes

Protein bars

(Back in stock soon)

protein bars and powderFat content

If you are on a low-fat diet, protein powder is preferable to protein bars as it typically contains less than 2g of fat per serving, while protein bars contain more.

Dietary fat can be beneficial because it enhances feelings of fullness, but don't be tempted to eat too much! If you are looking to lose weight, aim for around 35-45g per day. At the same time, eating too little fat is dangerous, as every cell in your body depends on fat to operate normally. The fat to be conscious of is saturated fat.

Fat can also help to enhance muscle growth, as it is calorie-dense, while a study from the December 1996 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that fat can even help to increase testosterone levels.


Protein-based snacks and drinks are all about convenience. After all, they are much faster to prepare than a protein-rich meal. However, you may still find that one is more convenient than the other.

women with protein shakesIt all depends on your lifestyle

For many, protein bars are more convenient to use, as they are ready to eat and don't require further preparation. Protein powder, on the other hand, most commonly comes in jars and containers, rather than individual servings, so it can be inconvenient to travel with. We have overcome this by offering all protein powders in single serving sachets, so they are just as easy to transport as protein bars.

While you can pre-mix your protein shake, it should be refrigerated for optimal freshness, which creates another little inconvenience. That is, unless you use a shaker! With liquid fill levels for each product, the shaker offers an on-the-go solution for protein powders.

So, the winner is...

Whatever is right for you! But, ultimately, a bit of variety when using protein products doesn't go a miss, and keeps things varied. 

What's your goal?

Sometimes, the protein powder or protein bar debate all depends on your end goal. Take a look at the combinations below.

Build muscle and recover after strength exercise

Get leaner, slimmer and more defined

Increase daily protein for improved recovery and health

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