nugo stronger protein bars

While energy bars are still the primary interest of endurance athletes, protein is important. So look at these protein bars that are great for post-ride recovery.

You want both carbs and protein to not only rebuild muscles, but also to refuel before your next workout. Being endurance athletes, it’s okay for these bars to be high in carbs. (We want high protein, but don’t need bars to be low-carb or sugar-free!)

This list only includes protein bars with a minimum 15 grams of protein. Even with that requirement, narrowing down the list was not easy. But after testing many protein bars, these are the best protein bars for cyclists.

Best Protein Bar for Post-Ride Recovery

To be the best, the bar needs to contain lots of protein, be relatively healthy, and have a great flavor. One bar stands out above the rest: the NuGo Stronger Protein Bar.

The NuGo Stronger bar is excellent for post-workout recovery for all athletes. It doesn’t have the name recognition of Powerbar or Clif Bar, but rest assured, these bars are the real deal! They are high in carbs, high in protein, and high in calories, in a good way (the ‘refuel your body’ sort of way).

Specifically, the Chocolate Caramel bar provides: 320 calories, 11g fat, 37g carbs, 9g fiber, 14g sugar, and 23g protein.

23 grams of protein! That comes from a mix of whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, and rice protein.

The bars are gluten-free and soy-free.

Flavors include Chocolate Caramel, Caramel Pretzel, and Peanut Cluster. And they taste really, really good!

Retail price is $29 for 12, which is less than $2.50 each. That’s a great price for a bar this big.

The only reason to choose something else is if you follow a strict vegan diet.

Learn more about the NuGo Stronger Protein Bar at the NuGo website, or read my full review here.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Best Tasting Protein Bar

Here’s a secret: every protein bar on this list tastes good. (Honest!) But the best tasting protein bar is the ONE Protein Bar.

ONE Protein Bar is high in protein, low in sugar, and gluten-free. But what makes it so special is that it comes in crazy flavors like “maple glazed doughnut,” “birthday cake,” and “blueberry cobbler.” And yes, the flavors taste incredible! I got hooked when I tried the Maple Glazed Doughnut flavor and it tasted like… drum roll please… a maple glazed doughnut!

These bars contain a respectable 20 grams of protein and a minuscule one gram of sugar. (The Peanut Butter Cup flavor contains: 230 calories, 9g fat, 24g carbs, 8g fiber, 1g sugar, 20g protein.) The protein blend is milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate.

The bars are soy-free and gluten-free.

Important to note is that these are low sugar, but not low carb, so they are still good for post-workout recovery (and definitely not keto-friendly).

Another important point is that the bars contain maltitol (a sugar alcohol) and sucralose (an artificial sweetener). These keep the sugar low, but can result in gastrointestinal issues in some people.

Priced at $23.97 for 12, they are basically $2 each. (Though I’ve found them in grocery stores at $20 for a 12-count box.)

Learn more about the ONE Bar at the ONE Brands website, or read my full review here.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Healthiest Protein Bar

Which protein bar offers the best nutritional value? What if you want more than just a protein bar?

Turn to the refrigerated section, because the healthiest protein bar is the Perfect Bar.

The Perfect Bar, created in 2005, is billed as “the original refrigerated protein bar.” It contains whole food protein and 20 organic superfoods. The protein comes from peanut butter, dried whole egg powder, and rice protein. The superfoods include kale, kelp, spinach, and more.

The Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter flavor contains: 330 calories, 20g fat, 24g carbs, 18g sugar, 15g protein.

These bars taste great, and they’re the ones that most closely resemble eating real food.

Suggested retail price is $24 for a box of 8. (At my local Walmart I can find them in boxes of 4 for $6.98, so about $1.75 each).

Learn more about the Perfect Bar at the Perfect Snacks website, or read my full review here.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Highest-Quality Protein Source

A lot of bars save money by using a lower-quality type of protein. Not the Bonk Breaker Premium Protein Bar. The proprietary Bonk Breaker Protein Blend in this bar consists of Pasture Raised Collagen Hydrolysate and Grass Fed Whey Concentrate.

The “Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Chip” flavor contains: 230 calories, 13g fat, 18g carbs, 8g fiber, 7g sugar, 15g protein.

It’s quite likely that 15 grams of high quality protein like this is better than 20+ grams of regular whey protein concentrate or soy protein. Because the proprietary combo of collagen protein and grass-fed whey protein is designed for optimal amino blend and bio-availability.

The bars contain zero sugar alcohols and are certified gluten-free. They use stevia (rather than sucralose) as a sweetener.

Learn more about the Bonk Breaker Protein Bar at the Bonk Breaker website.

Best Value Protein Bar

To be the best value, the price must be under $2 per bar, and the bar should offer a good amount of calories and protein. Ideally, it’s available in a 12-pack box for $20 or less. Only one bar meets these criteria, and it is the Pure Protein Bar.

The bar is tasty and enjoyable, with a nice smooth texture, and lots of decadent flavor options. And the first ingredient is protein – a “protein blend” of whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, and whey protein isolate.

The devil is in the details, though. The bar also contains soy protein isolate further down the ingredients list. I suspect they intentionally left it out of the main protein blend in an effort to hide it (since some people are trying to avoid soy protein). The bar also contains maltitol, a sugar alcohol, and sucralose, an artificial sweetener.

Basically, don’t expect high-quality, natural ingredients in here. There’s a reason other bars cost more than double the price of this one!

When it comes to macros, the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor provides: 200 calories, 7g fat, 17g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugar, 6g sugar alcohols, 20g protein.

The retail price from the manufacturer is $8.94 for six, but at my local Walmart, it’s just $6.94 for six. That’s just $1.16 each.

Learn more about the Pure Protein Bar at the Pure Protein website.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Best Snack Bar

If you only need a snack bar – sort of a “mini protein bar” – to get some extra protein in your diet, and not necessarily for post-ride recovery, there are bars made for you.

In this case, you want to go easy on the carbs, and make sure there is a good helping of protein and fat. (More important than low carb would be low sugar.)

There are quite a few bars just for this purpose, but my favorite is the NuGo Slim Protein Bar.

NuGo Slim bars have 16-17g protein, 6-7g fiber, 6-7 net carbs, only 3g sugar, and are tested very low glycemic. Slim bars are gluten free with no artificial sweeteners or maltitol, and the line features four vegan, pareve flavors.

The Crunchy Peanut Butter flavor contains: 180 calories, 8g fat, 17g carbs, 6g fiber, 3g sugar, 16g protein.

Protein comes from a soy protein and rice protein blend.

Priced at $21 for 12.

Learn more about the NuGo Slim Protein Bar Bar at the NuGo Nutrition website.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Simplest Protein Bar (Most Natural Ingredients)

Want a good source of protein in the convenience of a bar, but not interested in a ton of ingredients?

I have just the ticket! The Rise Protein Bar.

They call it “the simplest protein bar” and I agree. It’s gotta be one of the most natural bars you could eat. Each one contains five ingredients or less!

But you still get 15 grams protein per bar! (Either whey protein, or pea protein in the vegan bars.)

The Chocolatey Coconut flavor contains: 270 calories, 13g fat, 25g carbs, 4g fiber, 14g sugar, 15g protein.

And the ingredients list is just: Cashews, Pea Protein, Coconut Nectar, Carob Powder, Organic Shredded Coconut.

Priced at $27.99 for 12.

Learn more about the Rise Bar at the Rise website.

Ready to buy? It’s available on Amazon.

Best Vegan Protein Bar

Surprisingly, many protein bars these days are compatible with a vegan diet. You may have noticed some of the other bars on this list offer some vegan flavors.

The best one is the Hammer Vegan Protein Bar. It’s vegan and soy-free.

The protein comes from pea protein and Sacha Inchi protein, which are high-quality, vegan-friendly proteins. You get 15 grams of protein and 250 calories per bar.

The bar uses stevia as a sweetener.

Bars are priced at $2.95 each.

Learn more about the Hammer Vegan Protein Bar at the Hammer Nutrition website.

Best Keto Protein Bar

I don’t expect many cyclists to be following the keto diet. But if you are, you would need a keto-friendly protein bar. That would be the MariGold Protein Bar.

This is another refrigerated protein bar, like the Perfect Bar, which should be stored in the fridge. But it does have a shelf life of 14 days at room temp, so it’s perfectly fine for on-the-go.

It has a homemade taste and texture.

The first ingredient is grass-fed whey protein.

It contains no grains, no gluten, no soy, no lactose, no sugar alcohols, and no sucralose. (It uses stevia as a sweetener.)

The Cookie Dough flavor contains: 203 calories, 9g fat, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g sugars, 20g protein

So, only 6 grams of net carbs.

Priced at $39.60 for 12.

Learn more about the MariGold Bar at the MariGold website.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other good protein bars that just didn’t make the cut.

Aloha Protein Bar
A plant-based, vegan protein bar that is gluten-free and USDA Organic. It uses a blend of brown rice protein and pumpkin seed protein, and uses organic monk fruit for sweetness. It’s a great quality bar, but a little expensive ($30 for 12) and too low in protein (14 grams).

Clif Builder’s Protein Bar
A great tasting bar containing 20 grams of plant-based protein. It’s gluten-free. I really enjoyed it and found the Mint Chocolate flavor to be incredible! Priced at $21.60 for 12 bars. This bar is pretty awesome for endurance athletes; the only downfall is that it uses soy protein.

Clif Whey Protein Bar
This bar is low in protein (14 grams) and very low in sugar (5 grams), but still packs a punch in terms of calories. That said, it’s based on “creamy nut butters, nut clusters, and chocolaty goodness,” so you’re getting natural fats from the nuts. People are really liking these Clif Bars; they have really good customer reviews, even from people who don’t normally care for protein bars! Reasonably priced at $15.60 for 8 bars. Try the “salted caramel cashew” flavor!

Hammer Whey Protein Bar
This bar contains 11 grams of protein, coming from whey protein concentrate, milk protein isolate, and pea protein. It’s rather low in protein and low in calories (170 calories), but the price tag is still on the high side at $2.50 each.

KIND Protein Bar
KIND makes a gluten-free, kosher protein bar. But it’s based on soy protein and provides a mere 12g protein per bar. They are tasty, but that doesn’t justify the price tag ($21.10 for 12 bars).

NuGo Protein Cookie
You could consider this the “best indulgence” on the list, because it’s basically a cookie, just with added protein. Check the Nutrition Facts for the Dark Chocolate Chip flavor: 400 calories, 18g fat, 48g carbs, 12g fiber, 23g sugar, 16g protein. But it’s certified gluten-free, vegan, OU kosher pareve, and contains no margarine or soy ingredients. Pea protein is the first ingredient. But it’s still a cookie.

ONE Plant Protein Bar
With 12 grams of plant-based protein, 1 gram of sugar, relatively low calories, and crave-worthy flavors that seem too good to be true, this is a really good bar. It was too low in protein to make the list, but it’s still worth a look. It’s soy-free, instead using a blend of pea protein, rice protein, peanut flour, and almond protein. It’s also gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO. It even uses monk fruit extract for a sweetener (which is preferable to the sucralose used in the normal ONE Bars), giving it a more natural taste. Retails for $27.99 per 12. Can be found in most grocery stores.

Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars
Every bar is non-GMO, gluten free, and soy free, and you get 20 grams of raw whey or vegan protein per bar. For the Peanut Butter Choco Chip flavor (295 calories, 12g fat, 28g carbs, 8g fiber, 15g sugars, 20g protein), the main ingredients are peanut butter, whey protein, and dates. It also contains various fruits and spices – and chocolate chips, of course. On the pricey side at $34.88 for 10 bars.

Powerbar Protein Plus Bar
These bars contain no artificial colors or flavors, no trans fat, and no gluten. And they pack 20 grams of protein each. It’s a pretty good choice unless you’re vegan or prefer to avoid soy protein. (The Tri-Source™ protein blend consists of soy protein isolate, calcium caseinate, and whey protein isolate.)

ProBar Protein Bar
Looking for a protein bar that resembles nature rather than a science experiment? This one is packed with 20 grams of plant protein and plenty of real, recognizable ingredients like chia and flax seeds. It’s non-GMO and certified gluten-free. Unfortunately, the first ingredient is soy protein isolate. And these are priced at $39.99 for 12. I’m not paying upwards of $3 for a soy protein bar!

The RXBAR is ranked as one of the best energy bars.

SIS Protein Bar
These bars contain a blend of easily digestible proteins (20 grams per bar) in the form of whey, casein, and soy protein. They’re also low in fat, low in fiber, and rather high in sugar, making them ideal for endurance athletes looking for immediate post-ride recovery. The downside for some people is that these are not gluten-free.

Quest Protein Bar
The Quest bar wrappers are rather enticing, mainly because of the bright colors and the shine, and not so much the ingredients list. The protein – milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate – is totally fine. But there’s a strangely high amount of fiber: 13 grams! That looks to be from the “soluble corn fiber” ingredient. There’s also erythritol, a sugar alcohol. Some of them contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener. There are good flavors, though, and quite the variety. And they’re certified gluten-free. At $24.99 for 12, the price is reasonable.

How to Choose a Protein Bar That’s Right for You

Here’s what to look for when choosing a protein bar. Consider what is most important to you and then make your own decision.

Ability to Digest It

Fortunately this is not as critical as it is with an energy bar, since you’re eating the protein bar post-ride, rather than during a ride or race. When you’re at rest, your digestive system tends to be less picky.

But it’s still important – you don’t want to be all gassy and bloated because you chose a crappy protein bar!

And it’s tricky, because you encounter some crazy ingredients in protein bars. A lot of them will contain sugar alcohols, which can be a problem for many people. Many of them contain very high amounts of fiber.

Sometimes, even the protein itself is a problem. For example, quite a few people struggle with whey protein. Sometimes it’s just whey protein concentrate, though, and if you opt for a bar containing whey protein isolate, which is more pure, you can digest it fine.

Dietary Restrictions

While you are carefully reading the ingredients list to check for anything weird, also read the allergen statement.

Many bars contain nuts or nut butters. Many contain soy (soy protein) or dairy (whey protein). Some contain wheat. Some are just processed on equipment that also processes these ingredients. Read the label!

Fortunately, there are quite a few bars that are certified gluten-free and soy-free. There are also vegan bars, kosher bars, dairy-free bars, and more.

Protein Content

Once you get past questionable ingredients, the main concern is the protein content. After all, it’s a protein bar, it should be packed with protein!

I look for at least 15 grams of protein. Twenty grams of protein is even better.

You have to be careful because there are so-called “protein bars” that contain 10 grams of protein. That is NOT a protein bar. (Honey Stinger is very guilty of this and that’s why they didn’t make the list, despite offering two protein bars in their product selection.)

You also want to make sure you’re getting a high-quality source of protein. There are so many protein sources you could encounter. And they’re not created equal.

In my experience the most common sources are whey protein and milk protein. Most bars are even using whey protein isolate rather than concentrate (isolate is better).

Soy protein is also very common. It’s vegan, so that’s good for some people. But a lot of people are trying to eliminate soy from their diet. Soy is probably not a big problem unless you are consuming it in large quantities, but still, I think you can find better vegan proteins.

Examples of high-quality vegan proteins include: pea protein, rice protein, and pumpkin seed protein.

Some of the high-end bars are even using grass-fed whey protein and/or collagen protein.


While you might not be dieting or even counting calories, it’s still worth looking at the number of calories in a protein bar.

Most seem to contain 180-360 calories. That is a wide range!

It’s kinda crazy – you can get 20g protein in 250 calories or 15g protein in 350 calories. So watch out.

You can easily get more calories than expected. And it throw off your macros. Some protein bars give you more calories from carbs and fats than they give you from protein!


Just because you want a fair amount of protein does not mean you should avoid carbohydrates. The carbs keep your energy levels high, and consuming carbs post-ride will help replenish your glycogen stores!

One reason the NuGo Stronger bar took the top spot is because it offers ample protein and carbohydrates!

Quality of Ingredients

All else being equal, I prefer natural, real food ingredients. You might want a bar that’s certified organic or non-GMO.

Whatever your preference, stick to it, and don’t settle for less.

Also – and I know I’ve said this before – read the ingredients list carefully.

A lot of protein bars will contain sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners. They want to keep the sugars down, and keep it low carb, but still make them sweet enough for the typical American palate. You might still find artificial colors and flavors sometimes.

Taste, Texture, and Flavor

Of great importance is the experience you get when eating a protein bar. It should taste good and the taste/texture combination should be pleasing and enjoyable to eat.

See, you’re not in the middle of a bike ride, so you can eat these slowly and really savor them.

It’s also a very personal choice. Maybe you’re all about flavor, so you really appreciate the ONE Bar’s flavor assortment and realistic flavors, and you don’t mind that the texture is sort of bland. Maybe you really like the Perfect Bar, Rise Bar, and Epic Bar because the texture is just like homemade!


Protein bars typically cost about $2 per bar, or even less if you buy them by the dozen. But some are $3-4 each, even when you purchase a box.

So if you’re going to eat them often, consider your budget.

Why trust Coach Levi?

I’ve been eating protein bars for the past 20 years. I’ve tried so many that I’ve lost count.

Unlike some “reviewers” that create these lists, I’m actually in the gym breaking a sweat and burning calories to where I can make use of the extra protein. And I’m taste testing each and every flavor.

I’m also a certified nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition Level 1) so I like to combine my practical experience with scientific evidence.

Crafting Your Own Sports Nutrition Plan

A proper fueling strategy is more than choosing the best protein bar. You need to eat properly before your rides and during your rides. And stay hydrated.

If you’re looking for energy bars, these are the best energy bars for cyclists.

If you’re looking for energy gels, these are the best energy gels for cyclists.

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  1. is there an energy bar that’s a good for rides and after rides?

    • @Julie

      If you could only choose one bar to give you lots of energy during rides and enough protein after rides… hmm… maybe the RX Bar?

      The trusty ole Clif Bar is not a bad option either.

  2. What about simply eating real food?

    • @Cap

      Real food is certainly an option. A good option, even! Especially when it comes to post-workout recovery. It’s certainly easier to blend a protein smoothie or even prepare a full meal after a ride compared to during a ride when the convenience of energy bars is majorly helpful.

      So feel free to eat real food after your workouts. It’s great. But if you do want a protein bar, these are the ones I recommend.

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