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Protein Bar vs. Shake: Which is Better for You?

Protein bar vs. shake: Which is better for you and your specific nutritional needs?

You start losing muscle at age 30 so meeting your protein needs becomes increasingly important.

In this article, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of protein bars versus shakes to determine which one is right for you!

Understanding the Importance of Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient that aids in muscle growth, repair, and maintenance.

Getting enough protein is important because it helps us grow muscles, and helps us heal faster after illness or injury.

A balanced diet includes sufficient protein and is key to optimal health and well-being.

The word "protein" written in protein powder surrounded by dumb bells.
Adequate protein is crucial for optimal health!

Protein and Aging

As we age, our bodies undergo physiological changes, including a natural decline in muscle mass and strength.

In fact, every decade we lose 3-8% of our muscle mass starting at age 30. This rate of decline accelerates after the age of 60.

Maintaining muscle mass is crucial as we age, as it directly impacts our mobility, metabolism, and overall quality of life.

Protein needs can vary based on a number of factors, however, below are general protein guidelines:

  • Adults (19-64 years): 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day
  • Adults (65+ years): 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day
Older woman making a muscle with her bicep.
Maintaining muscle mass is crucial with age.

Learn more about nutritional strategies to build and maintain muscle in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post to learn more – “How To Build Muscle Over 40“.

Age-Related Muscle Loss

Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of muscle mass, strength, and function. It is a natural part of the aging process.

It is a major public health concern, as it can lead to disability, falls, and premature death.

A combination of the following factors contribute to sarcopenia:

  1. Decreased efficiency in building muscle
  2. Increased rate of muscle breakdown
  3. Reduced physical activity

Both protein bars and shakes can play a role in preventing age-related muscle loss/sarcopenia.

Chalkboard that reads "fight sarcopenia; muscle loss related to age. A set of dumbbells and a kettle bell are close by.
Sarcopenia is a public health concern.

Protein can also improve your skin and prevent age-related skin issues. You can learn more in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post – “How to Maximize Protein for Skin Health & Vitality“.

Protein Bars

A protein bar is specifically formulated to be high in protein.

These nutrition bars are made with a variety of ingredients, such as protein powder, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

The amount of protein in a protein bar can vary widely, from around 5 grams to over 30 grams per bar.

Protein bars provide a convenient way for people to supplement their daily protein intake, especially those who may have difficulty meeting their protein needs.

Woman biting into a protein bar
Protein bars are portable and convenient.

Pros of a Protein Bar vs. Shake

  1. Convenience: Protein bars can be carried anywhere and do not require refrigeration, making them more convenient than shakes.
  2. Nutrient-Dense: Bars contain added fiber and healthy fats, whereas shakes are mainly protein and liquid.
  3. Increased Satiety/Fullness: Protein bars typically contain more fiber than a shake, and therefore, will keep you feeling fuller longer.
  4. Lighter: Bars are lighter in weight, making them a good option for hikers and endurance athletes who carry their fuel.
Cyclist eating a protein bar
Bars are lightweight, a plus for endurance athletes.

Cons of a Protein Bar vs. Shake

  1. Added Ingredients: Bars may be high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories.
  2. Digestibility: May not be easy to digest, especially for individuals with a sensitive stomach.
  3. Cost: Bars tend to be more expensive and are time-consuming to make at home as compared to shakes.
Various homemade protein bars on a wooden cutting board
Bars tend to be more convenient than shakes.

Even though protein bars are more labor-intensive, you can easily make them at home. Check out this protein bar recipe from Tastes Better from Scratch!

Protein Shakes

Blending protein powder with a liquid (typically water or milk) creates a concentrated source of protein: the protein shake.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts use protein shakes as a supplement, especially after workouts or when aiming to increase protein intake.

In addition, people use protein shakes for weight gain, weight loss, and recovery from illness.

Man drinking a protein shake after a workout
Shakes are popular after workouts

Pros of a Protein Shake vs.Bar

  1. Rapid Absorption: Protein shakes are quickly absorbed, providing a fast infusion of protein to aid in muscle recovery and growth.
  2. Customization: Shakes can be tailored to specific nutritional and taste preferences.
  3. Lower in Sugar: Protein shakes tend to be lower in added ingredients, including sugar, as compared to bars.
  4. More Affordable: Shakes are more affordable than bars when prepared at home. Ready-to-drink shake options will be more expensive.
Woman making a protein shake
Shakes are customizable!

Cons of Protein Shakes vs. Bar

  1. Preparation Required: Protein shake preparation, including mixing the protein powder with a liquid of choice take time. This might not be as convenient as grabbing a pre-packaged protein bar.
  2. Less Satisfying: Some individuals may prefer to eat their calories rather than drink them, finding it more satisfying to consume whole foods.
  3. Heavy: Shakes are heavier than bars, making them a less appealing option for those who need to carry their fuel (hikers, endurance athletes).
Protein Bar vs. Shake Comparison Chart

Are you interested in more beverages that support your health and wellness goals?

Check out this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post “Wellness Drinks: A Complete Guide“.

My Expert Opinion: Protein Bar vs. Shake

Protein bars and shakes are not mutually exclusive.

Both can play a role in your health and fitness goals, including age-related muscle loss.

The best option for you will depend on your unique nutritional needs and preferences.

To find the right balance, consider consulting a registered dietitian to determine your ideal protein intake and the most suitable form—protein bars, shakes, or a combination of both!

2 protein shakes next to a plate of protein bars; protein bar vs shake
Both protein shakes and bars offer benefits.

Hungry for More?

Interested in more information on nutrition for healthy aging?

Check out the Age-Defying Dietitian’s Blog for more healthy aging content!

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