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Protein Bars vs Shakes: What's The Difference?

by Mara Welty April 06, 2023 7 min read

 Protein Bars vs Shakes: What's The Difference?


Increasing your protein intake by augmenting your diet with a protein supplement generally comes down to making one crucial decision: protein bar vs shake. 

On the face of it, choosing between the two might not seem particularly weighted. After all, both options are excellent protein sources that can significantly boost your intake. They’re both popular, easy to get your hands on and available in a wide variety of flavors and styles that may also contain a wealth of other healthy nutrients. Aside from the fact that one is a cold, sippable drink and the other a quick snack, how different could they be?

A lot, as it turns out. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that protein bars and protein shakes are more different than they are alike. And depending on your reasons for turning to a protein supplement, they may not be equally suitable options. Understanding the differences between them can enable you to make the right decisions. Here’s what you should know. 

The Differences Between Protein Shakes vs. Bars  

Although protein bars and shakes are both adequate protein supplements, their essential similarities end there. In almost every other regard, the two couldn’t be more different. And any one of their differences is likely to impact your decision. 

The general differences between protein bars vs shakes include:

  • The amount of protein they contain
  • How they are consumed 
  • Their overall nutritional value
  • The convenience they offer 

To an extent, the choice between them may be highly circumstantial, as both options have unique benefits, possible drawbacks and situational applications. Whether you have goals for exercise or weight loss can play a part, as can your time, interest or ability, to make a shake. And if a quick and convenient supplement is most important to you, that will factor into your decision as well.

To understand the differences between protein bars vs shakes, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in each and how the benefits they have to offer. 

What Ingredients Are In Protein Bars?

There are potentially hundreds of different protein bars on the market, and the specific ingredients, protein content and nutritional value of each are likely to vary across brands and styles. 

The average protein bar contains between 10 and 20 grams of protein, but this can depend on the primary protein source. Protein bars may derive their protein content from several different sources, including: 

  • Brown riceDairy proteins, such as whey casein protein
  • Egg whites
  • Pea
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soy
  • Yogurt powder

In addition to protein, protein bars contain varying levels of other nutrients. Depending on the ingredients, protein bars may contain 5 to 10 grams of fat and fiber, and between 25 and 35 grams of carbohydrates.

On the other hand, some protein bars contain ingredients like sugar or other sweeteners that may increase caloric value and diminish their nutritional impact. When you’re choosing protein bars vs shakes, you should carefully read the ingredient label to determine whether you’re selecting a bar that’s going to help you meet your nutritional goals or not.

What Are the Benefits of Protein Bars?

Protein bars present several potential health benefits beyond increasing your protein intake, depending on the specific ingredients. For example, they generally contain a number of secondary ingredients, from dates and dried fruit to healthy whole grains that may make a given bar a good source of important vitamins and nutrients, such as:

  • B vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Iron 
  • Potassium

That said, the possible benefits of protein bars are limited strictly to the nutritional value they provide. A large part of the appeal of protein bars is their ease and convenience. 

Unlike a protein shake, you can grab a protein bar from your home pantry in the morning and easily store it in your purse or gym bag until you need it. If you forget to grab your own, they're widely available in most grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies so you don’t have to worry about skipping a day. 

What Ingredients Are In a Protein Shake?

Though protein bars may be convenient, when you’re deciding between protein bars vs shakes, keep in mind that protein shakes have a slight edge over bars in terms of protein content. The average protein shake is packed with 20 to 30 grams of protein — which is at least double the amount a single protein bar holds.

Protein shakes are subject to the same variations in protein content, nutritional value and other important markers as protein bars. Just like with protein bars, the specific ingredients in a given shake can move those markers up or down rather significantly. 

However, detailing the ingredients for a protein shake is a bit more complicated, largely because of the two popular methods for enjoying them, which are: 

  • “Ready-made” or store-bought shakes
  • Homemade shakes 

The specific ingredients in store-bought shakes can depend on the brand name and flavor. Meanwhile, because the ingredients of homemade shakes are almost entirely chosen at the pleasure of whoever’s making it, which may lead to even greater differences in the nutritional content. 

On the most basic level, protein shakes are a simple combination of a supplemental protein powder and either water or milk. The common types of protein powder are usually derived from casein, egg, milk or whey, or from a plant based protein like nuts and rice. However, shakes aren’t the only method to use them, there are several ways how to use protein powder. Just be sure you check how long does protein powder last before you start using them. 

Beyond that, common protein shake ingredients include the following: 

  • Flours made from brown rice, oats or tapioca
  • Plant oils made from coconut and sunflower
  • Nuts, seeds and their nut butter
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, including vegetable juices and powders 

Finally, the nutritional content of protein shakes includes carbohydrates and fats. The more nutrient-dense shakes contain less than 10 grams of fat and less than half as many carbohydrates as protein.

Additives in Store-Bought Shakes

While store-bought protein shakes may contain healthy ingredients like those listed above, many of them contain additives like sugar and sweeteners as well. Be sure to double-check the label not just for sugar, but also for sugary ingredients, like glucose, fructose and honey. 

Additionally, you can seek out ready-made protein shakes from brands that swap out sugar and sweeteners for healthier alternatives like:

  • Monk fruit
  • Natural sweeteners like Stevia
  • Sucralose 

What Are the Benefits of Protein Shakes?

People turn to the extra boost of protein offered by protein shakes in particular for several reasons. They’re often used in conjunction with exercising and dieting, however, because of the connections between high-protein diets and exercise goals like weight loss and increased muscle mass.

Because they contain such large servings of protein, it’s possible that drinking them could unlock many of the same benefits, most of which are linked to those amino acids we talked about earlier. The benefits associated with high-protein, essential amino acid-rich diets include:

  • Enhanced muscle health– Amino acids help the body grow new muscles and repair damaged ones, which could equal greater gains in the gym.
  • Appetite control– Amino acids may encourage your body to produce certain hormones that control your appetite. The hormones GLP-1 and PYY are believed to reduce feelings of hunger, while ghrelin acts as an appetite suppressant. 
  • Calorie control– Because it takes a greater number of calories for your body to metabolize protein, it’s possible that drinking protein shakes could help you burn off calories more quickly. Likewise, protein plays a part in stimulating gluconeogenesis, a metabolic function that may also help get rid of extra calories. 

Choosing Between Protein Bars vs. Protein Shakes

Choosing to supplement with protein bars or opting for protein shakes largely depends upon your reasons for deciding to increase your protein intake. What do you hope to get out of a protein supplement?

If your goal is to get more out of your exercise regimen by adding proteins to your diet that may help you grow muscle faster or recover after a workout, drinking a healthy protein shake before or after exercising could be helpful. 

Likewise, increasing your protein with a shake could help speed up the effects of a well-balanced diet. 

But ultimately, if you’re seeking a higher boost of protein that can be added to other healthy foods and ingredients to your taste, protein powder can offer these elements more than a protein bar. 

Boost Your Proteins & Your Health With Invigor8 Superfood Shake

If you’re working toward a specific exercise goal, whether that’s losing body weight or building muscle, increasing your protein intake with a supplemental protein shake could help you get there faster — especially if it’s from a best-selling company with a proven history of effectiveness, like Superfood Shake from Invigor8

Packed with healthy ingredients that contribute to your overall health by supporting your digestive system, immune system and aiding in nutrient absorption, the Invigor8 SuperFood Shake is one your body will love. There aren’t any hormones, dyes, refined sugars or harmful antibiotics — just quality, non-GMO ingredients and eight unique Invigor8 complexes you won’t find anywhere else.

When it comes to protein shakes, what’s on the label makes all the difference. The label you can trust for a protein shake that works is found on the Invigor8 shake


Healthline.Are Protein Bars Good For You?  

Fit Father Project.Best Protein Shakes: Homemade vs Premade.

Healthline.Do Protein Shakes Work? Muscle Gain and Weight Loss.

Mayo Clinic.Guidance On Selecting Protein Powders, Shakes, and Bars.

Cleveland Clinic.When You Should Drink an Energy Bar. 

Medical News Today.Health Benefits of Protein Powder.

PubMedCentral.The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. 

About the Author

 Mara Welty
Mara Welty

Mara Welty is a copywriter who specializes in health, wellness and CBD topics. With a background in journalism, she aims to deliver engaging, research-based content that builds trust and engages readers through informative storytelling.

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