Quest Bars - should you try them?

Heard of the Quest Bar? A high protein, low carb bar that's a little different to the usual.

Instagrammers, fit foodies, body builders, personal trainers and those on a higher protein diet have been raving about them for some time. But are they really all that good for us?

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In short, use occasionally. 

Quest bars come in 2 'styles' based on how they're sweetened.

  • Lo han guo & sucralose 
  • Stevia & erythritol 

Lo han guo is a plant from China, which the Chinese have used to sweeten for thousands of years. Stevia is also a plant, containing sweet glycosides. Both plants have a sweetness hundreds of times sweeter than traditional table sugar, and they have nil to minimal impact on your blood sugar levels. 

Sucralose is another non-nutritive sweetener, meaning it purely adds sweetness, and has no nutrients or digestible/usable calories. It's also known as Splenda. 

Non-nutritive sweeteners such as Splenda are legally allowed and considered safe for commercial use in America and Australia. The highly respected European Scientific Committee on Food analysed available evidence in regards to different concerns including: toxicity, and it's potential to upset our gut. They concluded that based on the current evidence, sucralose is deemed safe for human consumption at 0-15mg/kg of body weight. For a 60kg woman, that's a max dose of 900mg. As it is 600x sweeter than sugar, manufacturers use only very tiny amounts. Therefore consuming 900mg would be very difficult to achieve. However, for those who prefer to avoid sweeteners such as sucrose, stick to the stevia and erythritol versions.  

Erythritol is completely absorbed, but passes through the body in our urine essentially untouched. Even though it's an alcohol sugar (which can cause tummy upset in those with sensitive guts or IBS), studies show that even with high doses, there is minimal gastro side effects. 

The bottom line on the sweeteners:

Whilst deemed safe for consumption, regularly consuming artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners is not something I'd recommend, as they are usually in processed and/or packaged foods as part of a crazy mix of ingredients. They have no nutritional value, and studies have shown they don't help with weight loss.  In fact, when consumed in diet foods such as soft drinks, they can end up resulting in you eating more! 

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What about the other ingredients?

  1. Whey protein isolate - one of the most effective proteins available for replenishing muscle stores post workout, and boosting your protein intake. On a side note though, one study in men showed it increased the amount of acne in participants. Something to be cautious of if you have acne prone skin. 
  2. Milk protein isolate - a slow release protein of both casein and whey can help you to stay feeling full. 
  3. IMO Fibre (isomalto-oligosaccaride) - a fibre similar to chicory root (often found in tea and other products). It has prebiotic properties, has minimal impact on your blood sugar, and again helps you to stay satisfied. 
  4. Nut butters - almond and/or peanut - without anything added. A healthy dose of fats, a little fibre and other micronutrients.
  5. Sea salt and natural flavours - though still chemically extracted, the natural flavours make up less than 2% of the total ingredients.  They are added to boost the flavour. 
  6. Other ingredients depending on flavour e.g. cocoa for chocolate varieties

 

So how does this look in terms of nutrition?

Let's compare a few very low carb protein bars first. 

It's pretty easy to see which protein bar is closest to the wholefood approach to eating. Though I don't appreciate the emphasis on low to no carbs being the way to go. This isn't necessary for healthy eating.

I would always recommend eating natural foods, as nature intended, over any formulated, packaged products with powders and additives. However, I also understand that life just doesn't let us eat that way all the time. If you're starving and need a snack, forgot breakfast (this shouldn't be breakfast everyday), or have to grab something post-workout (for very athletic men and women doing more than 60 mins of high intensity exercise, not the average gym goer), a Quest bar is a good option.

How much are they?

Around $2.20-$5.00+ (depends where you buy them from)

Who shouldn't eat them?

Those who have digestive difficulties with dairy and whey. Those with IBS - they are very high in fibre, and may cause gas and bloating. 

Where to get them:

Buy in bulk on iHerb.com or sample some flavours from ASN or GNC stores. 

All that's left to decide now, is which flavour to choose…. 

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Sources:

http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(13)00219-0/abstract

http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scf/out68_en.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9862657

http://www.zsweet.com/pdf/erythritol_bio_96.pdf

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167779905000491

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/143/4/410.short

http://omicsonline.org/effectiveness-of-whey-protein-supplement-in-resistance-trained-individuals-2161-0673.1000130.pdf