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6 Best Protein Bars for Muscle Gain in 2024

While protein powder is typically a more popular option, protein bars have their own advantages for muscle gain. They’re super convenient for taking on the go, and they can be a great source of fiber as well as protein. If you’re looking for the best protein bars for muscle gain available today, check out this list. 

Our team of certified nutritionists and professional athletes has reviewed 20 products and the best ones made it to this list. We’ve based our evaluations on 7 key factors and we have spent 3 weeks testing most of these products out. Additionally, we have also analyzed hundreds of online user reviews. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section because our list is regularly updated.

best protein bars for muscle gain

Top 6 Best Protein Bars for Muscle Gain Reviewed

  1. Protein Bars by Legion – Top-Pick
  2. Kirkland Protein Bars – Budget Pick
  3. Quest Protein Bars – Best with No Added Sugar
  4. Pure Protein Bars – Best Chewy Bars
  5. No Cow Protein Bars – Best Plant-Based
  6. Protein+ Bars by TL – Best High-Calorie Bar
ProductTotalMacro BreakdownIngredientsFiber
per Serving
Micro BreakdownTaste +
Texture
Nutrition Lable
Transparency
Price /
Quality
Legion67.5109.5109.59.59.59.5
Kirkland66.5109.51099910
Quest65.5109108.599.59.5
Pure Protein65109899.5109.5
No Cow651091098.59.59
Transparent Labs649.5108.58.59.59.58.5
TOP PICK

1. Protein Bars by Legion

Legion protein bars
  • Protein Source: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate)
  • Flavors: Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter
  • Vegan: No
  • Protein per bar: 20g
  • Fats per bar: 11-12g
  • Carbs per bar: 24-29g
  • Fiber per bar: 6-9g
  • Added Sugar: 3-4g
  • Sugar Alcohols: Erythritol
  • Calories per bar: 240-250
  • Sodium per bar: 150-170mg
  • Bars per Package: 12
  • Bar Weight: 63-68g
  • Price per Bar: ~$3.33
  • Recommended by Athletes: Gage Clark, Grant Tinsley, Machaela Brabham

First on our list is Legion’s protein bars, which is our overall pick for protein bars to build muscle. 

With solid protein and fiber content as well as high calories, these will make a great addition to anybody’s bulking diet. 

Each serving is 250 calories, which is one of the highest calorie bars on our list. There’s 20g of protein per serving, which is fairly standard for our list. There’s also 11g of fat and 29g of carbs which make up the rest of the bars’ calories. You can expect 6-9g of fiber, which is fairly low compared to other options on our list, but it’s still a good amount. 

legion protein bars

While all of Legion’s products are made without any artificial ingredients, it does contain the sugar alcohol Erythritol, similar to most other options on our list. Erythritol may cause some stomach discomfort and may lead to possible health complications, so keep this in mind when making a decision. Also, Legion has decent flavor variety, although it’s nothing exceptional with 4 different options to choose from. 

Each bar will cost you about ~$3.33, which is one of the most expensive products on our list. While you’ll be getting a very high-quality bar, keep this premium price point in mind.

67.5 EXPERT SCORE

Legion is a brand well known for its all-natural formulas and high-quality supplements. The high-calorie content of these bars makes them perfect for anybody looking to put on muscle.


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Positives:

  • One of the highest-calorie options on our list
  • Good protein and fiber content
  • All-natural formula

Could be better:

  • Premium price point
  • Contains the sugar alcohol Erythritol if this is something you’d prefer to avoid
Budget Pick

2. Kirkland Protein Bars

kirkland protein bars
  • Protein Source: Protein Blend (Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate)
  • Flavors: Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk
  • Vegan: No
  • Protein per bar: 21g
  • Fats per bar: 6-7g
  • Carbs per bar: 23-24g
  • Fiber per bar: 10g
  • Added Sugar: 2g
  • Sugar Alcohol: Erythritol
  • Calories per bar: 180-190
  • Sodium per bar: 150mg
  • Bars per Package: 20
  • Bar Weight: 60g
  • Price per Bar: ~$1.70

While Legion is an excellent pick, its high price point may be prohibitive for some. If this is the case for you, our top budget pick is Kirkland Signature’s protein bars. Kirkland is a brand that produces pretty much everything under the sun, consistently delivering great value, and these bars are no exception.

These are a slightly lower calorie option than our top pick with 180-190 calories depending on the flavor. They have a similar amount of protein to Legion with 21g per serving. There’s also 6-7g of fat and 23-24g of carbs. Also, with 10g of fiber per serving, Kirkland has a good amount of fiber, although still not as much as some of the options further down our list. 

Kirkland protein bars instagram
Photo by @nicole_ann86

Similar to Legion, Kirkland is made with the sugar alcohol erythritol in case this is something you’d prefer to avoid. It does appear to be made of all-natural ingredients otherwise. There’s also limited flavor variety with only 3 fairly similar flavors on offer. 

Arguably the best part of Kirkland’s bars is their price. At only ~$1.70 per serving, these are one of the cheapest options on our list, making them an excellent budget pick.

66.5 EXPERT SCORE

Kirkland consistently delivers great value for money across their entire product line, and these high-quality, budget-friendly protein bars exemplify this.


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Positives:

  • One of the most budget-friendly picks
  • Good protein and fiber content
  • All-natural formula

Could be better:

  • Limited flavor variety
  • Contains erythritol
Best with No Added Sugar

3. Quest Protein Bars

quest protein bars
  • Protein Source: Protein Blend (Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate)
  • Flavors: Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Blueberry Muffin, Double Chocolate Chunk, Chocolate Brownie, S’mores, Birthday Cake, Lemon Cake, Sprinkled Doughnut, Dipped Cookies & Cream, White Chocolate Raspberry, Caramel Chocolate Chunk, Mint Chocolate Chunk, Crispy Chocolate Coconut, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Crispy Chocolate Caramel Pecan, Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter, Crispy Blueberry Cobbler
  • Vegan: No
  • Protein per bar: 18-21g
  • Fats ber bar: 7-9g
  • Carbs per bar: 22-23g
  • Fiber per bar: 12-13g
  • Added Sugar: 0g
  • Sugar Alcohol: Erythritol
  • Calories per bar: 180-190
  • Sodium per bar: 220-290mg
  • Bars per Package: 12
  • Bar Weight: 60g
  • Price per bar: ~$2.59
  • Recommended by Athletes: Leanne Wong, Tonya Spanglo, Jorge A. Orderique

Next, we have one of the most recognizable protein bar brands around in Quest. Along with delivering a solid macro breakdown, Quest has a crazy amount of flavor variety with 18 different flavors to choose from!

At 180-190 calories, these have a similar calorie count to Kirkland. These bars contain anywhere from 18-21g of protein, 22-23g of carbs, and 7-9g of fat. Also, with 12-13g of fiber per serving, these are the highest fiber options we’ve covered so far. 

Similar to our top 2 picks, these bars do contain the sugar alcohol erythritol, as well as some artificial ingredients like sucralose. As mentioned, if you’re looking for flavor variety, with 18 options to choose from, Quest is sure to have something for everyone. 

At about ~$2.59 per serving, these are around the average price for our list. Considering the excellent reputation of Quest and the vast flavor variety, these bars offer great value for money.

65.5 EXPERT SCORE

Quest delivers a ton of flavor variety and a solid macro breakdown for an overall excellent pick for a muscle-building protein bar.


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Positives:

  • Best flavor variety on our list
  • High fiber content
  • Reviews on Iherb.com suggest a great taste

Could be better:

  • Contains both Erythritol and artificial sweeteners
  • Some flavors have fairly high sodium content
Best Chewy Bars

4. Pure Protein Bars

pure protein bars
  • Protein Source: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate)
  • Flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Birthday Cake, Chewy Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Mint Cookie, Chocolate Salted Caramel
  • Vegan: No
  • Protein per bar: 19-20g
  • Fats ber bar: 4.5-7g
  • Carbs per bar: 17-20g
  • Fiber per bar: 0-2g
  • Added Sugar: 1-2g
  • Sugar Alcohol: Maltitol
  • Calories per bar: 200
  • Sodium per bar: 100-220mg
  • Bars per Package: 12
  • Bar Weight: 50g
  • Price per bar: ~$1.42
  • Recommended by Athletes: Jordan Morello, FlyxSky TV, Garrett Miller

Next up is Pure Protein, which narrowly beats Kirkland out as the cheapest option on our list. On top of this, these have a unique chewy texture and a delicious flavor. 

At 200 calories per bar, these are around the average calorie count for our list. The same goes for most of the macros, with 19-20g of protein per bar, 4.5-7g of fat, and 17-20g of carbs. The biggest downside to these bars is their low fiber content. With 0-2g per bar, these are easily the lowest fiber option on our list. 

Similar to most of the other options on our list, this product contains sugar alcohols, although they come in the form of Maltitol instead of the more common Erythritol. Similar to Quest, these bars also contain artificial ingredients like Sucralose. Pure Protein also offers a decent amount of flavor variety with 5 unique options. 

While there are some notable downsides to Pure Protein, at ~$1.42 per serving, there aren’t any options on our list that are more affordable.

65 EXPERT SCORE

Despite lacking in fiber, Pure Protein delivers delicious, budget-friendly bars that have an otherwise stellar macro breakdown.


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Positives:

  • Most budget-friendly option on our list
  • Most reviews on Amazon suggest a delicious taste and texture
  • Solid protein content

Could be better:

  • Lowest fiber content on our list
  • Made with sugar alcohol maltitol and artificial sweetener sucralose
Best Plant-Based

5. No Cow Protein Bars

no cow protein bars
  • Protein Source: Protein Blend (Brown Rice, Pea)
  • Flavors: Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Salted Caramel, Chocolate Sea Salt, Chocolate Sprinkled Donut, Cookies ‘N Cream, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Smores, Sticky Cinnamon Roll
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Protein per bar: 20-22g
  • Fats ber bar: 4.5-8g
  • Carbs per bar: 23-27g
  • Fiber per bar: 14-17g
  • Added Sugar: 0g
  • Sugar Alcohol: Erythritol
  • Calories per bar: 190-210
  • Sodium per bar: 150-220mg
  • Bars per Package: 12
  • Bar Weight: 60g
  • Price per bar: ~$2.75
  • Recommended by Athletes: Sabina Kim, Morgan Little, John Thomas

While all the other options on our list so far are made with dairy products, as you’d expect from the name, No Cow bars are our first option to be 100% vegan-friendly. With this being said, they’re still able to deliver an excellent macro breakdown, despite coming at a fairly high price point. 

Each of these bars is 190-210 calories, which is fairly standard for our list. You can expect 20-22g of complete protein, which is high, especially for a plant-based bar. The rest of the macros come from 4.5-8g of fat and 23-27g of carbs. One of the standout features of these bars is the fiber content. With a solid 14-17g per bar, these have the highest fiber content out of all the bars on our list. 

While these are made without any artificial ingredients, like most products on our list, they are still made with the sugar alcohol erythritol. Also, while they don’t quite rival Quest, No Cow still has a large amount of flavor variety with 11 different options to choose from. 

It’s worth noting that these are some of the more expensive options on our list at ~$2.75 per serving. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another vegan protein bar with the same quality as these.

65 EXPERT SCORE

No Cow is the best vegan protein bar for muscle building on the market. With high protein, high fiber, and tons of flavor variety, these are easily able to rival most dairy-based bars available.


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Positives:

  • High protein content, especially for a plant-based option
  • Highest fiber content on our list
  • Great flavor variety

Could be better:

  • Fairly high price point
  • Made with sugar alcohols
Best High-Calorie Bar

6. Protein+ Bars by TL

tl protein bars
  • Protein Source: Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate
  • Flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
  • Vegan: No
  • Protein per bar: 15g
  • Fats ber bar: 16g
  • Carbs per bar: 23g
  • Fiber per bar: 3g
  • Added Sugar: 5g
  • Sugar Alcohol: No
  • Calories per bar: 280
  • Sodium per bar: 280mg
  • Bars per Package: 12
  • Bar Weight: 60g
  • Price per bar: ~$3.33
  • Recommended by Athletes: Hafthor Bjornsson, Paul Sklar, Sean Harris

The final option on our list comes from Transparent Labs, a brand well-known for delivering all manner of high-quality supplements. While this is the highest calorie option we’ll be covering, and the only bar on our list to be made with no sugar alcohols, it does have a few major drawbacks. 

As mentioned, at 280 calories, this is the most calorically dense option on our list. However, it’s also the lowest protein option with only 15g per serving. You can expect 16g of fat and 23g of carbs to make up the rest of the macros. Also, with only 3g of fiber, it’s easily one of the lowest fiber options we’ve covered as well. 

transparent labs protein bar instagram
Photo by @leviimack

Of course, Transparent Labs’s bar is made with no artificial ingredients or sugar alcohols which is a plus. However, they also have the least amount of flavor variety on our list with only 1 option available. 

Also, at ~$3.33 per bar, they’re tied with Legion for the most expensive option we’ve covered. While these are still a solid choice if you’re prioritizing calories, the high price point combined with the low protein and fiber content make this far from the most ideal option on our list.

64 EXPERT SCORE

Despite its premium price point and high-calorie count, Transparent Labs is on the lower end in terms of protein and fiber content.


Macro Breakdown:0
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Positives:

  • High calories make this great for bulking diets
  • No artificial ingredients or sugar alcohols
  • Comes from a highly trustworthy brand

Could be better:

  • High price point
  • Low protein and fiber content

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How Can Protein Bars Help with Weight Gain?

Beyond consistent weight training, the 2 main factors you’ll need to consider when looking to put on muscle are staying in a caloric surplus and getting adequate protein intake. 

For most people to gain weight, they should aim to eat in a 250-500 calorie surplus every day depending on how fast they want to gain weight. On top of this, they should aim to eat somewhere between 0.7-1g of protein per pound of body weight every day as well. 

With this being said, are protein bars good for muscle gain?

Protein bar one bite

When bulking, protein bars won’t magically help you gain weight. However, if you use them to strategically hit your protein and calorie goals, they can be a valuable tool. If you’re looking for the best protein bars for weight loss and muscle gain, a lower-calorie, higher-protein option may be especially beneficial. 

How to Choose the Best Protein Bars for Muscle Gain

If you want to incorporate protein bars into your bulking diet, there are 2 main factors we recommend prioritizing, namely protein and added sugar content. 

1. Look for Bars with 15g+ of Protein per Serving

First, one of the main things we considered for our list was the protein content of each bar. We prioritized options that have at least 15g of protein to ensure these bars will make a difference in hitting your protein targets for the day. 

We also considered the protein to calorie ratio of each bar, to ensure our recommendations prioritize protein over carbs and fats. While having fairly high carb and fat content isn’t bad, especially if you’re trying to gain weight, protein should still take precedence. 

2. Prefer Bars with Low Added Sugar

Speaking of carbs, you’ll want to make sure the bars you choose don’t have an unnecessary amount of added sugar. Most Americans already consume far more added sugar in their diet through processed foods than is recommended. As a result, it’s a good idea to limit added sugar intake when possible. 

a box of protein bars

All of the bars on our list have next to no added sugar, making them a good choice, especially if you’re trying to limit your sugar intake. 

3. Choose Bars with High Fiber Content

While most Americans eat too much added sugar, they typically don’t eat nearly enough fiber. High fiber intake is generally related to overall better health, making it important to prioritize in your diet. Fiber content is also a major advantage protein bars have over standard protein shakes. With some of the options on our list containing up to 15g+ of fiber, protein bars are a great way to skyrocket your daily intake. 

In What Cases can a Protein Bar be a Better Alternative to a Protein Shake?

You may be wondering, “Why would I choose a protein bar over a protein shake?” While they aren’t directly comparable, we’ll be covering a few reasons why you may prefer protein bars, whether it’s because of convenience or flavor preferences. 

1. If You Need a Snack on the Go

First, protein bars are typically much more portable than protein shakes. Whether you’re going to work, school, or out with friends, you can easily bring a protein bar along with you for a quick protein-packed snack. While you could bring a shaker bottle full of protein everywhere you go, keeping bars on hand will be a lot easier. 

Legion protein bars

2. If You Can't Stand the Taste and Texture of Protein Shakes

Also, protein shakes just aren’t for everybody. Maybe you’ve tried mixing protein shakes and can’t stand the taste or texture. While taste and texture can be improved by blending protein with additional ingredients like fruit and nut butter, this isn’t always an option – especially if you’re on the go. Especially if you’re mixing protein powder with water in a shaker bottle, protein bars will almost always be a much more enjoyable alternative. 

FAQ

Are Pure Protein Bars Good for Building Muscle?

Yes, Pure Protein Bars are an excellent budget-friendly option to incorporate into your muscle-building diet. As long as you’re eating in a moderate caloric surplus, hitting your daily protein goals, and practicing consistent weight training, you should build a significant amount of muscle. 

Is Protein Powder or Bars Better?

This is largely a matter of personal preference. Protein powders will likely be the go-to for most people because of their versatility and high protein-to-calorie ratio. However, protein bars have their own unique advantages including convenience and high fiber content. It’s worth noting that carbs are important when trying to gain muscle, which will also make bars more appealing to some. 

What to Avoid in a Protein Bar?

There are several things you’ll want to avoid in protein bars for muscle building. These include high added sugar, as well as low protein and fiber content. If you prefer to avoid artificial ingredients, keep an eye out for things like sucralose which are commonly included in protein bars. 

Conclusion

Protein bars can be a valuable tool for building muscle. They’re aa delicious way to consume calories, which is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to gaining weight. Whether you want to use them as a tasty high-fiber alternative to protein powder, or you just want a convenient snack for on-the-go, you can’t go wrong with any of these protein bars for muscle building. 

With that being said, our top pick for the best protein bars for bodybuilding is the Protein Bars by Legion for their excellent macro breakdown and high-quality formula. 

Have you tried any of these bars? Do you have any favorite protein bars we missed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Also read:

References:

  1. David M Storey, et. al, “Gastrointestinal tolerance of erythritol and xylitol ingested in a liquid” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61(3):349-54 (2007).
  2. Marco Witowski, et. al, “The artificial sweetener erythritol and cardiovascular event risk” Nat Med. Mar;29(3):710-718. (2023).
  3. Everson A. Nunes, et. al, “Systematic review and meta-analysis of protein intake to support muscle mass and function in healthy adults,” Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 13, 795–810, (2022)
  4. The Nutrition Source, “Added Sugar in the Diet,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/ (Accessed Jan. 9, 2024)
  5. The Nutrition Source, “Fiber,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/ (Accessed Jan. 9, 2024)

Why Trust Us?

With over 20 years in Olympic Weightlifting, our team does its best to provide the audience with ultimate support and meet the needs and requirements of advanced athletes and professional lifters, as well as people who strive to open new opportunities and develop their physical capabilities with us.

All products we select are primarily approved and tested by the Olympic Weightlifting Champion Oleksii Torokhtiy. Under his guidance, we provide honest and reasonable assessments of the products we review by checking their characteristics, packaging, design, comfort and durability features, and general product rating. We select products from only high-quality and trusted sports brands, thus vouching for their quality.

The product testing process is described in more detail here

Camila Parente Santos

Author: Camila Parente Santos
Nutrition and Sport Nutritionist

Experience: 7 years

Camila has worked as a Nutritionist for 7 years. In addition to being a nutritionist, she is an amateur weightlifting athlete for 2 years. Camila has experience at Flamengo’s football base and in a food supplement company and currently provides services at a clinic. At the moment she is coursing a postgraduate study in Sports Nutrition.

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