Marketing is a hell of a practice. The best marketers in the world make you feel things and want things that you didn’t know you wanted yourself… mostly because you didn’t. Companies pay billions of dollars every year to the people who can harness the science of persuasion and influence in order to plant seeds into your subconscious. They offer all kinds of shortcuts, miracle cures and promises and the best of the noise will find itself woven into pop culture. Bad science and misleading health trends have a striking way of overstaying their welcome.
The protein bar that you grab from 711 when you are in a hurry and want make a healthy choice is one of those trends. I want to start a petition changing the name of this category to carb bars because in reality, the majority of them have far more carbs than they do protein. What’s worse is that the carbohydrates used are normally sourced with simple sugars meaning as far as fuel sources go, they are pretty lackluster. Nothing like overpaying for the same garbage energy source that is sitting in the candy isle!
While recognizing that there has been a shift to low carbohydrate protein bars lately, this presents a problem all on its own. Typically a form of sugar alcohol is used in place of the actual sugar. Unfortunately these sugar alcohols aren’t all created equally. Many of them will cause the same glycolytic response in your blood that you get from sugar, meaning there is no point in opting for the low carb bar in the first place. Many of the Atkin’s products cause a pretty extreme blood sugar response. Although Quest bars have recently downgraded some of their ingredients, they seem to be a decent option as a whole when it comes to controlling blood sugar response so if you don’t mind parting with the better part of five dollars, grab them.
The second problem with sugar alcohols are the associated GI issues that many people experience. Mannitol in particular has a bad reputation for putting people in the hurt locker… or the bathroom… for hours. I can attest to this. If intervals to and from the porcelain goose aren’t in your plans today, I would stay away from mannitol. Erythritol is widely accepted as a much better source so when you see sugar alcohol on the packaging, check your source! Of course stevia in the raw would be a better source altogether but manufacturers will rarely use this as an ingredient as it is expensive as far as sweeteners are concerned. You can of course opt for aspartame (Splenda) if you have no issues putting napalm into your diet.At the end of the day, navigating the “health food” isle in any grocery store is almost impossible without doing your research before hand. Most of the population is better off just grabbing the fucking Snickers bar. The protein and carbohydrate counts are going to be similar, the price is going to be lower and the taste is going to be better. The key is to make it work in your diet and to plan for it. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to rely on the behest of health food marketers because their agenda is almost never your health.