The best protein bars that actually taste good, tested by 200 gym-goers

best protein bars for women
The best protein bars for womenHearst Owned

At times, getting enough protein from your three daily meals can feel like an impossible task, especially if you’re counting macros with a view to building muscle. That's where our round-up of the best protein bars for women comes in, providing a satisfying snack to fight pre- and post-workout hunger.

Sure, on-the-go snacks should never replace a healthy balanced diet. But for those moments when you need a boost and don't feel like downing yet another protein shake, these bars deliver on the nutrition front while *actually* tasting delicious.

Note, the bars in this round-up are all whey-based. If you’re a full-time vegan or you’re just trying to cut back on dairy, check out our guide to the best plant-based protein bars.

The best protein bars for women 2023

How much protein do women need?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the average woman consumes 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 60kg, that means getting 48g of protein down you.

But if you’re highly active or training hard in the gym, these protein guidelines may be too low, says Olga Hamilton, Head of Nutrition at NGX. She suggests getting in between 1 and 1.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day, depending on your activity levels.

Don’t overdo it, though. 'Chronic high protein intake – more than 2g per kilo of bodyweight – can result in all sorts of digestive, renal and vascular issues, and should be avoided,' warns Hamilton.

Why is protein so important for women?

It’s important to include protein in our diet for muscle growth, strength development, injury prevention and our overall health.

'Protein plays a vital role in just about every function of the female body, including tissue and cell repair, hormone production, bone health and immune function,' explains Hamilton. 'It can also help minimise age-related muscle loss, and supports healthy skin, hair and nails.'

The best protein bars can help us reach our protein goals when life gets hectic (basically always then) and, thankfully, there are a plethora of vitamin- and mineral-enhanced products on the market designed for women's needs.

WH Lab Approved Protein Bars

For the Women's Health Sports Nutrition Awards, we enlisted a panel of 200 industry experts and fitness fans to test a range of protein bars from some of the buzziest brands out there.

They tried the bars for a month before scoring them on their nutritional value, flavour, texture, ease of use and, crucially, their impact on gym performance. In-depth feedback from testers was shared with our team of in-house experts, who awarded each bar a final score. Our winners below are stamped with the coveted Women's Health Lab Approved logo.

The rest have been selected by our WH editors, who have chomped their way through many a protein bar in their time.

So, without further ado, here are the best protein bars to *add to basket* RN. Happy munching!

1. Best protein bar

Barebells Protein Bar: White Salty Peanut

Per 56g bar: 209kcal, 20g protein, 14g carbohydrates, 9.3g fat

You’ll spot our winner on pretty much every protein bar round-up, and with good reason. This salty peanut delight delivers an impressive 20g of protein and just 1.5g of sugar, and it’s legit delicious. Our testers likened it to an 'indulgent' white chocolate Snickers (um, yes please?!) and found it filling, easy to digest and helpful for curbing their sugar cravings – all without an artificially sweet aftertaste.

2. Best innovation

The Protein Works Protein Grazers: Salted Caramel Crunch

Per two biscuits: 220kcal, 11g protein, 23g carbohydrates, 12g fat

Not a bar per se, but these protein-enriched biscuits are a fun alternative. Our testers couldn’t get enough of their buttery caramel taste and satisfyingly crunchy texture, declaring them a refreshing change from your bog-standard protein bar. They’re not the biggest hitter in the protein game, but they’re a mega tasty way to bump up your macros come 3pm and the slow-release carbs will keep you full until dinner.

3. Best for flavour

Fulfil Vitamin & Protein Bar: Chocolate Salted Caramel

Per 55g bar: 204kcal, 20g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 8.3g fat

Forget scouring the internet to bag your favourite fitness fuel. Found on the shelves of just about every supermarket, Fulfil is certainly fulfilling a need for accessible protein bars. There are 12 temping flavours to choose from, but our panel tried the chocolate salted caramel – think a combo of malty chocolate and chewy caramel for that classic chocolate bar taste. Not just a sweet treat, it’s fortified with vitamins, including B1, B2, B3 and E for an extra health kick.

4. Best for recovery

Foodspring Extra Chocolate Protein Bar: Double Chocolate Cashew

Per 65g bar: 240kcal, 21g protein, 21g carbohydrates, 10g fat

High-level athlete or not, this bar is brimming with a mighty 21g of protein and a decent hit of carbs to help you recover and make gains after a big session. Sure enough, our testers declared it a satisfying post-workout snack and reported a noticeable energy surge after chomping. They also loved the Nutella-esque flavour and chunky nutty consistency. Just one word of warning: the texture is a smidge dry so eat it with a glass of water.

5. Best for variety of flavours

Grenade Protein Bar: Peanut Butter & Jelly

Per 60g bar: 230kcal, 20g protein, 20g carbohydrates, 10g fat

It’s easy to see why Grenade remains a cult favourite among protein bar aficionados. The PB and jelly flavour is high in protein, low in sugar and will keep you going from AM to PM, according to our trusty testers.

The blend of earthy roasted peanuts, sweet milk chocolate and fruity caramel makes it a must if you’re craving something sweet. Some may find it a tad sickly, but given the exciting array of flavours – hello white chocolate cookie and lemon cheesecake – there's bound to be something for everyone.

6. Best healthy swap for a Snickers

Optimum Nutrition Protein Crisp: Fruit & Nut

Per 70g bar: 256kcal, 20g protein, 20g carbohydrates, 9.7g fat

Okay, so nothing can truly imitate a good old Snickers bar, but our testers reckon this is a great healthy alternative thanks to the combo of roasted peanuts, oozing caramel and sweet, sweet chocolate. Flavour aside, it ticks the nutrition box, providing 20g of the muscle-building macro plus a mega 11g of fibre to support a healthy gut.

Our only niggle is the slightly dry texture, but that’s a recurring theme with many protein bars, so just sip some water as you tuck in.

7. Best for texture

Maxi Nutrition Creamy Core Protein Bar: Peanut Caramel

Per 45g bar: 182kcal, 14g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 9.2g fat

This is an ace little sweet treat, coming in at just over 180 calories. It doesn’t skimp on flavour – our testers raved about the taste and texture of its crunchy chocolate peanut coating, soft nougat centre and oozing caramel core – but it contains next to no sugar and zero artificial flavours or colours.

The tempting other flavours include blueberry muffin, strawberry yoghurt and dark chocolate coconut. Drool!

8. Best for sweet tooths

Warrior Crunch High Protein Bar: Birthday Cake

Per 65g bar: 242kcal, 20g protein, 24g carbohydrates, 11g fat

Control post-workout hunger with this sweet protein-rich snack bar, made with a squidgy protein layer, a jammy filling, crunchy pieces and covered in white chocolate. Heaven! The birthday cake flavour is delicious but if that's not your jam, there are 12 others to choose from, including peanut butter cup and white chocolate mocha.

9. Best low-calorie protein bar

Vitl Glow Bar: Chocolate & Raspberry

Per 40g serving: 143kcal, 14g protein, 12g carbohydrates, 5.5g fat

If you're not in the mood for a massive snack but want a little something packed with protein to tide you over until dinner, this Vitl offering is your guy. The 40g bar packs a decent hit of protein (14g) and, according to the brand, includes 'classic beauty superheroes' such as hydrolised collagen and biotin. Sounds good to us!

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