Protein shakes. Protein muffins. Protein ice cream. Protein is such a saint that it not only turns sinners (i.e. sugar) into gold, but it stops you getting fat and eradicates all other medical conditions.
I know sarcasm doesn’t always translate across computer screens, so you’ll have to excuse me for going at it a bit heavy-handedly there, but I’m not going to beat around the bush. If you want a sweet treat, have a sweet treat. Enjoy it, relish it, and fill the rest of your diet with healthy, whole food-based balanced meals. Don’t kid yourself that because you’ve added some protein powder to your cake batter, you can eat as much of it as you like.
Although protein will almost always sort itself out, there are times when protein supplements are helpful (hence my alarmingly extensive list of protein shake reviews). The main reason I would ever encourage anyone to take a protein shake would be for convenience. While you could prepare a post-training snack or meal (I used to bring plastic containers full of pasta, lentils, and veggies), I like to sit down and enjoy my food rather than shovel it into my mouth in a corner of the changing room. I much prefer to have a shake as I leave the gym, then get home/showered/changed, cook something, sit down and enjoy it.
When not training heavily, I have been on and off regular protein shakes. I recognise that I do well on protein; it genuinely does keep me fuller for longer. On the other hand, many shakes do sometimes leave me a little bloated, and they give me very little enjoyment. Plus, I have to carry a shaker around all day, and space in my backpack is a premium.
Making your own protein bars makes sense. My interest has been peaked multiple times by protein bar recipes like Angela’s at Oh She Glows and Tiffany’s “High Protein, No Powder” e-book, but I stop myself every time, ultimately resolving that I would prefer to eat/drink the individual ingredients and save myself the hour or so it might take to make the bars. Which is really dumb, as I love a good healthy snack bar.
So when a friend sent me a link to ProteinMunchies.com, I knew I had my solution. Making my own bars would be cheaper, of course, but if I’d learnt anything in the last couple of years it was that I wasn’t going to. The first thing I checked was the price: £2.50 per 50g bar. At the higher end of the spectrum, but not unacceptably so.
The next thing I checked was the ingredients options: nut butters, fruit pastes, pea protein, agave, and additional cereals, nuts, and superfoods of your choice. An all-vegan bar was possible. A cereal-free bar was possible. Hello, cacao nibs.
I plugged a few combinations in to see how much the price per bar would rise – it didn’t. I can literally put all the most expensive ingredients into a bar full of wholesome ingredients for no extra cost? I’m in!
A few months ago, I speculatively listed Protein Munchies as one of my favourite things. I have no intuition with people, but I know a good edible product when I see one. Before I got a chance to order my own like a grown-up, Tony, the founder, got in touch and offered me some free samples! He instructed me to create my own recipe and email it to him, and less than a week later, the box was in my hands – all printed up with the fairly unimaginative name I chose for my bar. Can you guess what’s in it I wonder???
You build your own bar in seven guided steps: base, protein powder, glue, fruits and berries, nuts and seeds, cereals, and superfoods. Many of these are optional (I chose not to add any cereals), and you can add as much as you’d like. Each step comes with a little tip, for example to add “extra” glue if you’ve requested “extra” protein, to stop the bar being too dry. For someone like me who struggles with choice, I found it very easy to build what I thought was my perfect bar.
I love that as you go along, the nutrition panel updates automatically. For a pretty complex service, it’s incredibly user-friendly. And, once again, none of your choices alter the price!
I knew I wanted to use almond butter as my base, as I eat plenty of peanut butter and at the moment I’m making plenty of cashew yoghurt. I was intrigued by the apricot paste on offer, but decided to go with date paste. I’ll go a little more wild next time.
To make the bars vegan, you need to select pea protein and agave nectar (as opposed to whey protein and honey). Suits me fine. I added a “medium” amount of each.
I resisted the urge to add everything I could, and just added “a little” goji berries for my fruit component. I didn’t want a mouthful of dried fruit (well, I did, but I can do that using my bare hands), and goji berries are a little more special than the other options.
I then added some chia seeds and coconut chips. For a bit of a crunch and a little added nutrition without too much risk of making the bar crumble. I stayed away from cereals for the same reason, and also just because I’m not a fan of cereals in my bars unless they’re flapjacks.
Lastly, I excitedly added cacao nibs and cinnamon because I love them both and they’re healthy, and also some maca powder because it adds a delicious malty flavour and you don’t come across many bars which contain maca. And here, it doesn’t cost you any extra!
When I first saw the packets, I thought the bars were oddly thin but actually, once out of the packet, I really enjoyed having a big flat bar to break chunks off from (is that weird?). It holds together nicely with beautiful studs of colour. I know I couldn’t make something that looks that good out of those ingredients.
Oh and taste! Well, I love it. There is just the right ratio of ingredients for pleasant mouth-feel, and although it is slightly powdery from the protein I don’t find it off-putting; if it’s something you worry about, simply add less protein powder and more glue, or omit the protein powder altogether. With just over 200kcal, 12g of protein, 17g of carbs and 9g of fat – all from natural whole food ingredients plus cinnamon and maca – I’d buy something like this in store. For the full recipe and nutritional breakdown, see here.
If you don’t feel like creating your own recipe, Protein Munchies do offer ready-made vegan bars. They did send me a handful of those to sample too, but there must have been a glitch in their system as they were made with honey, so I can’t try them (they will go to good, non-vegan homes though, don’t worry). That’s been resolved now, so if you try them come back and let me know! (Bonus points to Protein Munchies for amending that within an hour of me pointing it out.)
The killer question: would I pay for these? The answer is a resounding YES from this cheapskate. I think you absolutely get what you pay for, not only in convenience and user-friendliness but in ingredient range and quality. I do still plan to make my own healthy snack bars – proteinated or not – but in the meantime I am totally happy to keep using Protein Munchies.