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Editors' Choice

Best Protein Bars for Golf

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September 07, 2022
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While many golfers default to a greasy, ketchup-covered snack at the turn, if you're looking to replenish the body and boost energy, a nutritious protein bar is often the smarter play. The only hitch? With so many bars to choose from, it can be difficult to decipher which one is best for golf and which are just sugar-traps. Our testers and experts evaluated bars on nutritional value, ingredient list, taste, texture and how each bar held up on the golf course after being shoved to the bottom of a golf bag under the hot afternoon sun. Here are our winners for Best Protein Bars for Golf.

Winners: Best Protein Bars for Golf

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RXBAR (Mixed Berry)

The nutritional values and clean ingredient list are what put the RXBAR above the rest of the field. Known for simplicity, the bars have just seven recognizable ingredients, most of which are listed clearly on the front of the package. The mixed berry flavor tested in these trials was not the top-ranked flavor and the bar is extremely chewy (and will get stuck in your teeth), but the almonds and cashews give it a slight crunch and nutty flavor that is pleasant overall. One tester compared the taste to their favorite rolled-up fruit snacks they ate as a kid. The RXBAR also held up extremely well after being shoved at the bottom of our golf bags on a hot day; the shape, consistency and taste of the bar were relatively unchanged after four hours in the sun.

$41 (for 24 bars) | Amazon
Aloha Bar Organic Plant-Based Protein Bars (Lemon Cashew)

These plant-based bars have quickly become a favorite of fitness-minded snackers since launching in 2018. The texture was chewy-but-not-too-chewy with a mild lemon taste (the flavor we tested was Lemon Cashew). One of our testers compared it to a Fig Newton for its grainy, nutty profile. The Aloha bar has 14 grams of protein, one of the higher values in our field, and 9 grams of fiber. Fiber is a great add to protein bars because it will help you feel fuller longer.

$33 (for 12 bars) | Amazon
Clif Bar White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Flavor

CLIF Bar performed well in our on-course tests, with almost no change to the shape or taste when we pulled it out of the golf bag post-round. It has a pastry-like texture and taste, very sweet flavor and is clean to eat without crumbling. There is an oat-forward flavor profile that leaves a bit of dryness in the mouth after eating, but doesn’t last too long. It’s a trusted brand that golfers know and is available at almost any grocery store. The White Chocolate Macadamia Nut flavor (tested in this Editors’ Choice testing) is apparently Ernie Els’ favorite. He’s been a brand ambassador since 2019.

$15 (for 12 bars) | Amazon

Runners-up

IQBAR Keto + Vegan Protein Bars (Lemon Blueberry)

Great for those looking for a lower-carb option, these bars are made with pea protein that also make them vegan. Our testers were split on taste, half enjoyed the lightness of the Lemon Blueberry flavor and the other found the citrus overpowering. The texture is on the dry side, with a bit of a grainy aftertaste that is common in many vegan-alternative foods. It’s a great source of fiber (8 grams), has 12 grams of protein and a fairly clean ingredient list.

$30 (for 12 bars) | Amazon
Perfect Bar (Peanut Butter)

This fan-favorite excelled in taste tests and surprisingly held up better than most after several hours on the golf course, considering it is the only refrigerated bar on the list. It’s a filling and fairly clean bar with 17 grams of protein and only 50 milligrams of sodium (the lowest in the field.) The Perfect Bar was among the most expensive on the list on average and contains the most sugar at 19 grams—although primarily the sugar is from honey and natural sweeteners.

$25 (for 10 bars) | Amazon

More 2022 Editors' Choice Winners
Best Pushcarts
Best Golf Umbrella
Best Travel Covers

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One of the several rounds of testing that went into selecting The Best Protein Bar for Golfers.

Honorable Mentions

These are the bars we tested and believe are worthy of mention. We were impressed by the ultra-clean ingredient list from 88 Acres, the high-protein and cake-like taste of the Pure Protein Bars and unique flavor offerings from Unite. The Luna Bars, Think! and Kind Bars both ranked highly in taste tests, but melted rapidly in the sun—making them a great option for cooler days or a pre-round bar. 

Everything you need to know to find your perfect protein bar for the course

With grocery store aisles lined with protein-bar options boasting colorful packaging and promising adjectives, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is right for you. To solve this golfer dilemma, we sat down with Dr. Liz Applegate, Distinguished Senior Lecturer and Director of Sports Nutrition Emerita at the University of California-Davis, to talk about how your body actually uses protein bars, as well as what ingredients to look for and what to avoid. Here, we answer all of your burning questions and help you figure out the right protein bar to fuel your game.

Firstly, what even is a protein bar?

While there’s no FDA guideline determining what qualifies as a protein bar, in consumer lingo a protein bar is generally a packaged snack that provides the three macro-nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and an amount of protein that would be comparable to what you would find in a balanced meal or a higher protein food, like eggs or chicken breast.

You might also have heard of energy bars or power bars—these are just marketing differences, though they may prioritize different nutrients. With a protein bar, you can be sure to get a food packed with one of the most crucial nutrients your body requires for strenuous exercise: protein.

So what should I look for in a protein bar?

You want to look for a bar that has at least 15-25 grams of protein, Dr. Applegate advises. “The daily value for protein is 50 grams,” Dr. Applegate said, “so 5 grams would be 10 percent; that’s not much of what you need for the day.”

Dr. Applegate also advised looking for a bar with at least 5 grams of fiber so it can act more like “real food” when ingested in your body. You also want to look for a bar that has less than 4 grams of added sugar, which Dr. Applegate said equals a teaspoon of sugar. “You’d rather it be sweetened with dried fruit,” she said. “The closer the ingredient list looks to actual food items, the better.” She advises looking for bars that use ingredients like egg whites and nuts, real foods high in protein. Essentially, you want to look for a bar you can understand: when reading through the ingredient list, you should be familiar with the food items listed.

There are some common ingredients Dr. Applegate mentioned that might use unfamiliar names to many consumers. Those are whey and casein, which comes from milk, and albumin, which comes from egg whites. These isolated proteins still come from real foods, so they’re excellent in protein bars, they just have to be called different names in this form.

When should I eat a protein bar?

Let’s say you have a bar with 20 grams of protein that’s somewhere between 200-400 calories, Dr. Applegate said. That, along with something to drink (like water or a sports drink) and a piece of transportable fruit like an apple or banana, is an excellent meal replacement or heavy snack mid-round.

“Most people need about 80 to 100 grams of protein a day,” Dr. Applegate said. “That is above the requirement, because we know that exercise increases the amount of protein that’s needed by the body.”

So a bar with 20 grams of protein is a great option for golfers whose bodies need protein throughout the day to keep functioning. If you have 4 meals/snacks a day, each averaging 20 grams of protein, you’re in great shape. Especially if eating your protein bar means you say “no” to that bag of cheese puffs, soda and hot dog on the food cart, Dr. Applegate said, it’s a much healthier option and will provide your body with the nutrients it needs.

Anything else golfers should know about protein bars?

Dr. Applegate said the biggest thing golfers should think about is preparation. “You need to have your stash in your bag,” she said. “Think always when you start off your 18 holes, have a plan.”

This could be as simple as: I’ll be out for six hours, I have plenty of liquid and two protein bars, plus one piece of fruit, which I’ll spread out throughout the day. It’s about equipping your body just as you do your game; you fill your bag with the right irons and amount of golf balls—your body needs the same consideration.

“You need to have a plan for hydrating and fueling yourself,” she said.