Quest Protein Bar Review
I’m not a huge fan of protein bars and have always looked at them as a last-resort, necessary evil in a real world where there’s not always time to whip up fresh greens, clean carbs and fresh, lean protein. Fact is, sometimes you need something super-portable and protein bars can fit the bill while punching the hunger monster right where it counts.
Here’s my problem: Mainstream bars are too “candy-like”. Pure Protein bars are filled with all kinds of crazy oils, fillers, polymers and stuff you can’t pronounce, much less fathom where it came from without dusting off your grad-level chemistry book. Clif Builder’s Bars are high in sugars (“evaporated organic cane juice” is still sugar) and both ladle on the candy coating (which is melt-tastic) or use sugar alcohols (which can cause some people tummy trouble). The natural stuff (Lara Bars, regular Clif Bars) don’t get any better as they’re not really “protein” bars at all; they’re carb-bars that happen to have a few grams of protein*.
You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to come up with a protein bar using quality protein and minimal ingredients at the same price point, right? And then it was like the protein bar heavens opened as fellow coach Sean C. introduced me to Quest Protein Bars– a true protein bar that’s not loaded with sugar and has a simple, 100% transparent ingredient list you can read in a single breath. By now you know I’m not the guy to push something I don’t use and after ordering them up and sampling them for a month now, Quest Protein Bars are a game-changer as far as I’m concerned (-gulp- and they’re not even made by Beachbody).
Quest Protein Bar: The Review (It’s a Doozy)
The Bar: You’re not going to find Quest bars readily available at the local GNC or supermarket. I had to order mine from the Quest Protein Bar website and that was cool with me as they arrived at my door within two days of confirming the order. The bars themselves are pretty standard in size and very dense. If they’re chilled, they can be tough to bite through, but at room temperature they’re nice and chewy. I’ve heard of some people popping them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds where they get a soft with “right out of the oven” texture.
Taste: After eating Clif Builder’s “candy” Bars and all their sugar, the Quest bar taste took some getting used to. My first introduction was the Quest Chocolate Brownie flavor and to be honest, they came off very salty. Still, after having eaten
“candy bars” more sugar-loaded protein bars, I expected Quest might taste a little different. Other flavors (Berry, Peanut Butter, Vanilla, Apple Pie) didn’t have that same “salty” taste but after a second and third try, the chocolate has snuck up to become my favorite flavor– it’s really, really good. I attribute the “new taste” to the Lo Han Guo– a natural sweetener very similar to Stevia. I’ve also sampled Vanilla Almond Crunch, Apple Pie and Mixed Berry Bliss. All equally awesome tasting.
Ingredients: There’s 10: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Isomalto-Oligosaccharide (100% Natural Prebiotic Fiber), Almond Butter, Dry Roasted Almonds, Raw Almonds, Water, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Lo Han Guo, Sucralose. That’s an ingredient list I can live with. They’re also gluten-free.
Quest bars do have sucralose which seemed a little strange for a natural bar and while I don’t head for the hills at the first sight of sucralose, I’m not a huge fan of this artificial sweetener either. On further request and investigation, Quest uses a ridiculously trace amount of Sucralose which they do list as an ingredient, despite using only .008g per bar. That’s almost non-existent. As for everything else, you can actually SEE the ingredients– chunks of almonds and even big chunks of dried apple (in the apple pie flavor) are packed into the bar. This stuff is the real deal.
Portability: Super-Portable. Quest Bars are individually wrapped in a single serving. With no “candy coating”/frosting, Quest Protein bars don’t melt into a mess if left int he sun. In fact, they “warm up” for a soft, chewy treat.
Cost: Quest bars are a little more than you may be used to if you’ve been trying the Pure Protein bars that run less than a buck fifty. I’ve got no problem paying for quality and with the whey (no soy- heyo!) and whole ingredients, these bars come out to match the price of a Clif Builder’s Bar: $2.00 a pop. You’ll have to buy them in a package of 12 at $24.99, but I was spending close to that amount every week with sub-par protein bars anyway.
Side Effects: Quest Protein Bars contain 19g of fiber. If I was a cartoon, that’d have my eyes popping out, my hair standing on end and my pants falling down. That’s a ton. Still, there’s no fiber-iffic overload side effects that I’ve experienced. In short, this is some worry-free eatin’.
The Fullness Factor: A single Quest bar, with all its fiber (which is most of the carbohydrates in the bar), protein and nut content lasts me about 2- 2.5 hours. For a single bar, they go a long way.
Overall: I’m not gonna lie- these bars rule. Like Shakeology, there’s not a competitor on the market when it comes to these. As far as I’m concerned, everything else is now obsolete. While the taste was something to get used to, I’ve found all the flavors I’ve sampled are surprisingly delicious. Taste is not a deal-breaker here– in fact, it’s a plus.
Quest Protein Bar: The Details
As with anything that’s “too good to be true”, I wanted to get the details so I went right to the Quest bar source with a list of questions. Quest was ridiculously forthright and answered them all. Here’s what I found out:
With such a natural ingredient list, why do Quest Bars use Sucralose?
With so many people questioning the sucralose ingredient, Quest is spinning up a NEW line of naturally sweetened bars using Stevia, Lo Han and Erythritol instead of sucralose. And while Erythritol IS an alcohol sugar, it’s different than all of the other sugar alcohols. It’s so different in fact, that it really belongs in a category by itself as it doesn’t cause digestive distress and has almost zero calories (0.2/g to be exact). They will be 6 totally new and different flavors but contain the same ingredients and protein, etc. How’s that for choice.
I’ll be sampling the new bars when they come out and will keep you posted.
“In my opinion, people’s distrust of sucralose is misguided (remember that it’s NOT Splenda which is 99% maltodextrin but pure sucralose that we use) and have an article on our blog which discusses this if you want to read about it: http://blog.
questproteinbar.com/ artificial-sweeteners-vs- natural-sweeteners/.”
So if sugar alcohols were avoided in the first place, why add them to another line of Quest Bars?
Erythritol is different than the other sugar alcohols because it doesn’t cause GI distress and because it has almost zero calories (unlike other sugar alcohols which sometimes have more).
I see “Natural Flavors”–sometimes that’s a code word for MSG. Do Quest Bars use MSG?
The FDA has mandated if MSG is used, it must be listed on the ingredient list as “Monosodium Glutamate”. In Quest bars case, this is another question they receive often. While they have been assured by the manufacturer there is no MSG in the “natural flavors”, the manufacturer isn’t required to get much more specific.
“Because the flavor companies are concerned about protecting their proprietary info, they don’t elaborate much more than by telling what is NOT in the product (MSG for example) and saying that the natural flavors all come from fruit extracts and things found in nature. They have much more reporting requirements for their artificial flavors but we don’t use any of those.”
Whey comes in all shapes and sizes, most mass-market stuff being crap. What’s Quests protein source?
First, the fact they don’t use soy but the more expensive whey is a plus as far as I’m concerned. Still, what’s the story on their whey– is it high grade?
“Quest uses only 100% whey protein isolate that comes from a cross-flow filtration process (superior even to ion-exchange). It is almost nothing but protein (no lactose and almost zero carb and fat) and easily the most expensive protein you can buy. Just about every other bar that uses whey used whey concentrate (in addition to soy protein, etc.)”
Why isn’t anyone else making a protein bar you can actually qualify as food?
“It took two years to be able to make the bars the way we do. Our product is so hard to work with we couldn’t get a contract manufacturer to make it. We had to invest in our own equipment and production facility to make it all happen. While it was a very difficult process, being in control of manufacturing allows us to ship customers bars in many cases the same day they were made.We’ve also filed a couple of patents on the processes we had to develop to make this product possible.”
As the theory goes, fiber cancels out carbs as fiber isn’t digested by the body. How about a breakdown of the “Net Carb” theory?
“Our bars currently contain between 4-6g of carbs that don’t come from fiber. This is very important as the FDA currently figures carbs by a method of subtraction. In the future, they will most likely change this as fiber is treated VERY differently by the body than “usable” or “active” carbs. Almost all of the non-fiber carbohydrates in our bar come from the nuts.The concept of subtracting fiber from total carbs is not something we made up. Pretty much all of the top science-based low carb advocates agree that it’s a much more accurate method of determining carbs. For example, if you were eat all of your calories from a 100% fiber source, even though according to the FDA you would be eating a lot of carbohydrates, you wouldn’t be getting any calories and would ultimately die.”