The Truth Behind Low Carb Protein Bars

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Low-Carb Doesn't Always Mean Low-Carb 

Low-Carb Protein Bars are not always what they claim to be.  Many brands falsely advertise their protein bars as "low-carb", when in reality, there are "hidden carbs" lurking in those long ingredient lists. Don't worry! We have dissected 20 different protein bars and are here to tell you what their actual carb counts are. 

We've sorted all 20 protein bars into five categories ranging from "Avoid These" to "Best Bars". Keep reading or check out the video below to find out which bars we stay away from and which ones we enjoy on our keto diet. 

The HUGE list of keto friendly foods.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are our opinions and we are not to be held responsible for the accuracy of this information.

The Best Bars for Keto

All of the low-carb protein bars in this review are available in stores like GNC, Whole Foods, and Publix, but if you want some good quality keto bars, we recommend shopping online. The following is a list of our favorite keto bars you can find online.

Perfect Keto Bars - Rich and chocolaty. Twice as much fat as protein.

Bhu Fit BarsReally tasty refrigerated keto bars that come in a number of flavors. We like the Double Chocolate.

IQ Bars - Fruity and fresh flavors. Uses Allulose sweetener which we have personally tested and is keto friendly.

Keto Bars - The original and still one of our favorite keto bars. Contains very little sugar alcohols and no added fiber. Yum!

Stoka Bars - Tastes almost like a Nature Valley Granola Bar. The crunchiest keto-friendly bar. We also have a copy cat recipe you can try at home!

Adapt Bar - Small and sweet, and comes in a number of flavors. Contains the lowest total carbs of any keto-friendly bar.

What Ingredients Make Up These High-Fiber Low-Carb Foods?

Isomalto-Oligosaccharide (IMO): Unlike most fibers, IMO fiber is partially digested by the human body. Therefore, it should not be completely subtracted from the carb count. We count every listed gram of IMO fiber as .5g of carbs. 

  • Count: 50% of total carbs
  • Glycemic Index: 35 (White sugar has a GI of 65)

Soluble Corn Fiber (SCF): There isn't a lot of research on the impact SCF has on the human body, but it does not impact blood glucose.

  • Count: 10% of total carbs (our educated guess)

Other Added Fibers: These fibers are commonly found in low-carb protein bars and you can fully subtract them. They will not impact blood glucose. 

  • Chicory Root Fiber
  • Polydextrose
  • Tapioca Fiber
  • Glycerin

Maltitol: This sugar alcohol will have the biggest impact on your blood glucose. It is used in a lot of "low-carb" packaged goods, but we recommend avoiding it at all costs. Since it can have same impact on blood glucose as regular white sugar, we count ever gram of maltitol as one gram of carbs. 

  • Count: 50% of total carbs
  • Glycemic Index: 35-65

Erythritol: This is our favorite sugar alcohol since it's undigested by the body and contains zero carbs.

  • Count: 0% of total carbs
  • Glycemic Index: 0

Sucralose: A lot of low-carb bars contain sucralose since it's non-digested by the body. Because the long term effects of sucralose aren't fully understood yet, it's not our first choice of sugar alcohols. Check out our guide to low-carb sweeteners

  • Count: 0% of total carbs
  • Glycemic Index: 0

Allulose: This rare sugar is relatively new on the scene and is featured in the new Quest bars (Cereal and Hero). Allulose is undigested by the human body and won't impact blood glucose. 

  • Count: 0% of total carbs
  • Glycemic Index: 0

Testing Keto-Friendly Bars 

Matt ran to our local Whole Foods, GNC, and Publix and bought every single low-carb protein bar he could find. It turned out to be 20! 

  • ONE Protein Bar 
  • Grenade Carb Killa
  • Bulletproof Protein Bar
  • Dang Bar 
  • Epic Bar
  • Robert Irvine's FITCRUNCH Bar
  • Mighty Bar 
  • No Cow Energy Bar
  • No Cow Bar 
  • Nugo Slim Bar
  • PaleoKrunch Bar 
  • Power Crunch Bar 
  • Primal Kitchen Collagen Nut & Seed Bar 
  • Primal Kitchen Protein Bars (squares)
  • Purely Elizabeth Grain-Free Bar 
  • Quest Hero Bar 
  • Quest Protein Bar
  • Raw Rev Glo Bar 
  • Suzie's Good Fats Bars
  • thinkThin Bars

Let's Get Started

When grading protein bars, we look for a few things. We want the fat to be higher than the protein, we prefer prefer bars with less fiber and sugar alcohols (to avoid bloat and discomfort), and avoid deceiving ingredients like IMO fiber and Maltitol. 

The truth is, just about every bar contains more carbs than is listed on the label. Whether it be due to rounding, subtracting, or false advertising, it's safe to assume any bar you eat is actually higher in carbs than it claims. While all of these bars are great for convenience, they should be limited as much as possible.

ONE Protein Bar

Category: Avoid 

The Claim: 10g Net Carbs
Our Estimate: 18g Net Carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: Maltitol and IMO Fiber

Fat to Protein Ratio: .35

Grenade Carb Killa Bar

Category: Avoid 

The bar contains maltitol which isn't keto friendly, and also xyltiol which can impact blood glucose for some people.

The Claim: 2g Net Carbs
Our Estimate: 10+g Net Carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: Maltitol 

Fat to Protein Ratio: .35

Bulletproof Bar 

Category: I'd Eat It 

Good when you're in a pinch, but not the best flavor. Contains better ingredients than most protein bars, but is higher in carbs.

The Claim: 9g net carbs
Our Estimate: 9g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: 1.08

Dang Bar

Category: Good

With only 6g of fiber and zero sugar alcohols, Dang bar is easy to digest and tastes great.

The Claim: 4g net carbs
Our Estimate: 4g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: 1.67

Epic Bar

Category: The Best

We prefer to eat a whole food like meat which is high in nutrients instead of a processed protein bar. This Epic bar also tastes really good. 

The Claim: 0g net carbs
Our Estimate: 0g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: .46

Robert Irvine's FITCRUNCH bar

Category: Avoid

The ingredient list is excessively long and contains maltitol making it a poor keto option.

The Claim: 9g net carbs
Our Estimate: 25g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: Maltitol

Fat to Protein Ratio: .5

Mighty Bar

Category: Good

A little expensive for something that's only 35 calories. The ingredients are good, but it's not very filling.

The Claim: 2g net carbs
Our Estimate: 2g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: .31

No Cow Energy Bar

Category: Meh

We don't like the concept behind "No Cow" . They remove the animal proteins and replace them with ingredients that are less nutritious. This bar is also quite high in total carbs, added fiber, and sugar alcohols. 

The Claim: 9g net carbs
Our Estimate: 9g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: .67

No Cow Bar

Category: Avoid

Contains 17g of added fiber (some of which is IMO fiber) which is hard on our digestion. Also has a very low protein to fat ratio. 

The Claim: 3g net carbs
Our Estimate: 8g+ net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: IMO Fiber

Fat to Protein Ratio: .3

NuGo Slim Bars

Category: I'd Eat It

This is a decent option when you can't find anything else. It's higher in added fiber and uses soy protein, which are both demerits for us. 

The Claim: 5g net carbs
Our Estimate: 5g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: .26

PaleoKrunch Bar 

Category: Good

Not too sweet, very satisfying, and has a short list of wholesome ingredients. 

The Claim: 9g net carbs
Our Estimate: 9g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: 1.86

Power Crunch Bar

Category: Best

The ingredients aren't terrible, and they're low in total carbs and low in added fiber. It's tasty, fills us up, and doesn't hurt our digestion. 

The Claim: 7g net carbs
Our Estimate: 7g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: .93

Primal Kitchen Collagen Nut & Seed Bar 

Category: Meh

The ingredients are really good, but the carbs are on the higher side and it doesn't have a good flavor. 

The Claim: 13g net carbs
Our Estimate: 13g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: 1.0

Primal Kitchen Protein Bars

Category: I'd Eat it 

This bar doesn't taste very good, but the fat to protein ratio is good. It also doesn't contain any sugar alcohols or added fiber. 

The Claim: 8g net carbs
Our Estimate: 8g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: 1.67

Purely Elizabeth Grain-Free Bar

Category: I'd Eat it 

This bar may be higher in carbs, but the ingredients are really good, there's no sugar alcohols, and zero added fibers, and it tastes really good. It's a good option if  you're in a pinch. 

The Claim: 11g net carbs
Our Estimate: 11g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: 3.0

Quest Hero Bar

Category: Meh

This bar tastes better than a candy bar and can increase your sugar cravings if you're not careful. They are extremely high in total carbs and added fiber making them hard to digest. 

The Claim: 4g net carbs
Our Estimate: 4g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None 

Fat to Protein Ratio: .41

Quest Bar

Category: I'd Eat It 

Our longtime favorite bar is slowly moving down the ranks as more keto bars hit the shelves. The Quest Bar is tasty, but so high in added fiber that sits in our stomachs like a brick! It's also really low in fat. 

The Claim: 5g net carbs
Our Estimate: 5g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: None

Fat to Protein Ratio: .4

Raw Rev Glo Bar

Category: Meh

These taste good, but the net carbs are deceiving because they use IMO Fiber. 

The Claim: 3g net carbs
Our Estimate: 6g+ net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: IMO Fiber

Fat to Protein Ratio: .73

Suzie's Good Fats Bars

Category: I'd Eat It

Though the coating on these bars contain some IMO Fiber, they still are relatively low in carbs and are a decent keto option. 

The Claim: 5g net carbs
Our Estimate: 6g+ net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: IMO Fiber

Fat to Protein Ratio: 1.4

thinkThin Bar

Category: Avoid

This bar is a fraud. It has 21g of maltitol, which is like eating 21g of sugar! This bar claims to be "Low-GI" but it isn't diabetic-friendly or keto-friendly. 

The Claim: 1g net carbs
Our Estimate: 21g net carbs

Undesirable Ingredients: Maltitol

Fat to Protein Ratio: .45

Our Takeaways

As the low-carb keto movement continues to grow, so does the number of products on the market. While many of these protein bars make the keto diet more enjoyable and convenient, some brands are just trying to make a buck off of the "keto" label. 

Always read the ingredient list and look for the IMO fiber and maltitol. If you're like us, you may find you prefer bars that are low in total carbs and don't contain a bunch of added fiber and sugar alcohols. 

Let us know what bars are on your list and which ones you can't wait to try.

References

IMO Carb Counts: 
http://easacademy.org/trainer-resources/article/isomalto-oligosaccharides

Soluble Corn Fiber Insulin Response: 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19155430

Glycemic Index and Sweetener Carb Counts: 
http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/

Short Chain Fatty Acids Help With Weight Control:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26260141

Soluble Corn Fiber Info(corn industry site):
https://fiberfacts.org/soluble-corn-fiber/

Megha Barot

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