Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
What’s the best low carb protein bar on the market?
If you’re struggling to find one that tastes good, doesn’t kick you out of ketosis, or crumble into a million tiny pieces before you even open it, this resource can help.
I’ll be comparing four different low carb protein bars to see how they rank for those on a ketogenic diet.
But we’ll be covering much more than macros here.
Low carb protein bars are more than just their ingredients. Their place in your diet also depends on how they affect your blood sugar levels.
So to put all the pieces together, this guide will cover:
When you know what to look for in a low carb keto bar, you can perform your own personal experiments to find out which one works best for you.
And while ingredient quality absolutely matters, there’s one aspect of choosing a low carb protein bar that might matter more: figuring out how certain foods affect your blood sugar levels.
Why does your blood glucose reaction matter when choosing a protein bar?
The short answer: You just can’t trust nutrition labels.
Even though many of the bars I’m going to compare are low in net carbs and companies promote them as low-carb or keto, certain ones raised my blood sugar levels to an alarmingly high number.
So despite the nutrition labels claiming that these bars are low sugar, the glucose response in my body suggested otherwise.
See, when you eat or drink anything, it naturally triggers a response in your blood sugar levels. The level of that spike depends on the food you eat.
It’s a common misconception that high carb foods are the only ones that can raise your blood sugar levels. Protein and fat can still cause your blood sugar to rise.
The difference is a spike caused by protein or fat won’t be nearly as big or have as much of an impact as one caused by carbs and sugar.
But food isn’t the only way to raise or lower your blood sugar levels.
Stress and a sedentary lifestyle can also cause your blood sugar levels to stay high for much longer than they should.
So if all these factors are working against your body, you’ll wind up with more sugar in your blood than your body can adequately handle.
The Problem With Chronic High Blood Sugar Levels
You may have heard in this podcast episode on all things glucose that chronically high blood sugar levels don’t just put you into fat storage mode; they also lead to insulin resistance.
High blood sugar levels and insulin resistance then contribute to chronic inflammation throughout your body and the development of deadly conditions such as heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer.
This means if you’re unknowingly consuming a low carb bar that’s supposed to be keto friendly, yet it raises your blood sugar to unnecessarily high levels, you’re doing your health a huge disservice.
The goal with your diet is to keep your blood sugar as low as possible.
Healthy blood glucose levels are:
If you stay within this range, you’ll flip the switch for your body to:
- Burn fat
- Regulate and maintain steady energy levels
- Stabilize your appetite
- Produce ketones
- Improve your brain function
- Reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases
It’s important to understand this before diving into the results of this comparison since the data is from postprandial (post-meal) glucose levels.
Finding the best low carb protein bars isn’t just about weight loss and ketosis; it’s also about helping your body return to and stay at its blood sugar baseline.
Blood sugar is a much better indicator than tracking your ketones to determine how you react to foods and whether they’re keto friendly.
Ketones have a slower physiological feedback loop than blood glucose, so ketones won’t give you an immediate or accurate picture of how you react to certain foods.
For example, when I recently traveled to Asia and ate sushi, I didn’t see the change in my ketones for at least two days later.
But had I checked my blood sugar levels at the time, I would have seen the difference in as little as 20 minutes.
Tracking your blood sugar can also help you narrow down which foods work better for you.
You may not react as strongly as I do to certain foods and vice versa.
Everyone has a different baseline.
My blood sugar baseline normally runs between 75 and 80 mg/dl, but this could be drastically different for you.
That’s why it’s crucial for you to establish your own baseline so you can see how certain foods hit your system.
Ideally, you should be choosing foods that create the lowest spike in insulin and make it easy for your body to return to baseline levels quickly.
The more you do this, the easier it will be to track which foods are keto-friendly for your body, so you can stay in ketosis without second-guessing your nutrition.
To show you how to do that, I’ll be sharing my experiment on how the four most popular low carb protein bars affected my blood sugar results next.
I tried a bunch of keto bars, so you don’t have to.
Here’s how they each stack up, in no particular order:
#1: Bulletproof Apple Pie Collagen Protein Bar
To be clear, I’m not a Bulletproof hater by any means.
I like their bars.
Before creating Perfect Keto, these were my favorite ones on the market and they continue to be one of the leading low carb protein bars out there.
While I normally reach for lemon, I decided to go with their Apple Pie Collagen Protein Bar flavor for this comparison.
Let’s look at the macros first.
Each bar contains[*]:
- 210 calories
- 12g of fat, 5g of which are from saturated fats
- 11g of net carbs thanks to the chicory
- 4g of sugar
- 0g of added sugar
- 12g of protein
Based on those stats, this bar doesn’t sound too terrible for you, despite the relatively high net carbs when you’re specifically talking keto.
As for the texture, I was pretty disappointed.
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to eating bars like these is that they crumble into a hundred different pieces, making it tough to eat one-handed and on-the-go.
Where this low carb protein bar scores high marks is in the ingredient list, which is also one of the reasons why I used to eat them.
As you can see, there are many clean ingredients on the label, like[*]:
- Organic cashew butter
- Grass-fed collagen protein
- Inulin (chicory)
- Bulletproof XCT oil power
- Organic apples
- Organic cashews
- Bulletproof Brain Octane
- Organic maple extract
- Organic coconut oil
- Vanilla extract
- Organic cinnamon
- Organic stevia leaf
Again, these don’t sound too bad.
But here’s where things get interesting:
Before eating this low carb protein bar, my blood glucose baseline measured at an 80.
Within 20 minutes of consuming it, my blood sugar shot up to 108.
Just 40 minutes later my blood sugar was 109 and eventually reached 116 at the one-hour mark.
My blood sugar dropped back down to 109 when I reached 1 hour and 20 minutes. However, it was still high three hours later when I clocked it at 93.
This means my blood sugar never got the chance to return to baseline because I became too hungry to wait any longer for it to level out.
Not only is a 36-point increase in blood sugar levels (at its max) a huge problem, but taking over three hours to get anywhere close to baseline is also troublesome.
And this is coming from a well-known and supposedly keto-friendly protein bar.
Before sharing my final verdict, let’s see how the next protein bar compares.
#2: Quest Bars Birthday Cake Flavor
Similar to Bulletproof, Quest nutrition protein bars have become a household name for many low carb dieters.
And it’s no wonder since people buy them for their high-protein and low net carb counts.
To be honest, I have to admit I’ve never been a huge fan of Quest bars because of their ingredient list. And I don’t think they taste that great.
So I do have a bit of a bias here.
Pushing these aside, let’s dive into the data and look at the cold hard facts.
First up is the nutritional breakdown of these Birthday Cake Quest bars.
Each bar contains[*]:
- 180 calories
- 6g of total fat, 3.5g of saturated fat
- 24g of total carbs, technically only 4g net carbs
- 1g of sugar
- 6g of erythritol (sugar alcohol)
- 21g of protein
These bars are slightly lower in calories and more than double the grams of protein of others on this list.
While the Bulletproof bar may be double the fat — including total and saturated — it’s also more than double the net carbs of Quest bars too.
That’s because the Quest manufactures subtract 14g of fiber along with 6g of erythritol to cut the 24g of total carbs to just 4g net.
However, don’t rush to make a final decision on macros alone.
The consistency and taste of this bar had some pros and cons:
On the plus side, it was a good, solid bar.
It didn’t disintegrate into tiny pieces upon opening it and it required me to chew for a while, which is a good thing since chewing can make you feel full and like you’re actually eating real food instead of a meal replacement or snack.
But I have to say, this bar did not taste like a slice of birthday cake as advertised.
The taste was strange and a bit off — and it was definitely too artificially sweet for me.
This isn’t a surprise since you’ll find sucralose listed as one of the sweeteners in this Quest Birthday Cake bar flavor.
Here’s what else is lurking behind the label, which is not as clean as the Bulletproof bar:
- Protein blend consisting of milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate
- Soluble corn fiber
- Palm kernel oil
- Natural flavors
- Sodium caseinate
- Sea salt
- Gum arabic
- Spirulina extract
- Red cabbage extract
- Turmeric extract
- Radish extract
- Sunflower lecithin
The soluble corn fiber and sucralose are two questionable ingredients that stick out to me. I try to avoid both at all costs.
Here’s how my blood sugar reacted to this popular high protein bar:
First, my baseline started at 80 mg/dl.
Then 20 minutes after I ate the bar, my blood sugar went to 85.
At the 40-minute and 1-hour marks, it jumped to 97 and 107 respectively.
An hour and 20 minutes later, my blood sugar finally started going back down and reached 95.
It eventually took my body two hours to return close to baseline at 84.
Overall, the spike in my blood sugar was pretty significant at 27 at its peak. But that’s still nine points lower than the 36-point increase the Bulletproof protein bar caused.
Before you call this one a win, taking two hours to get back to baseline should be a red flag because it’s still a more substantial spike than it needs to be.
Find out how the Perfect Keto Almond Butter Brownie bar compares and you’ll see what I’m referring to.
#3: Perfect Keto Almond Butter Brownie Keto Bar
Before you claim bias on this low carb protein bar, I’ll show you the stats first this time before explaining my thoughts on the bar itself.
Our Perfect Keto Almond Butter Brownie bar has a similar macro breakdown to Bulletproof’s Collagen Protein Apple Pie bar.
It’s not super high in protein like a Quest bar, but it’s higher in healthy fats and lower in net carbs than both bars.
So you’ll see the following macros on the nutrition label:
- 230 calories
- 19g of healthy fats, 5g of which are saturated
- 12g of total carbs, 3g of net carbs
- 0g of sugar alcohols
- 10g of protein
You’ll also find a clean ingredient label with our keto bar packed with:
- Organic almond butter
- Soluble tapioca fiber
- Cacao butter
- Collagen protein
- Organic cocoa
- Sunflower lecithin
- Organic coconut oil
- Sea salt
- Natural flavors
And while there are a few similarities with the macro breakdown and high-quality ingredient list, that’s about where the similarities stop in this comparison because my blood sugar results are drastically different.
Here’s what happened:
I started at an 80 baseline.
Twenty minutes after eating a Perfect Keto Almond Butter Brownie bar, my glucose rose to an 84.
At the 40-minute mark, I dropped down to 83.
And one hour later, I was at 81, and I returned to baseline in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
That’s the biggest difference between our bar and the other ones on the market.
Instead of raising your blood sugar by 36 points and keeping it there for over three hours, Perfect Keto bars only increased my readings by four points at its max — and for less than one and a half hours.
Now that you know the stats, you’re probably wondering what these bars taste like.
The good news is you don’t have to settle for a crumbly texture or the taste of cardboard just to stay healthy.
I admit I’m a freak about taste and it took me a solid 18 months to perfect the flavor of these bars.
But now our Almond Butter Brownie bar actually tastes like a real brownie with almond butter.
And since we only use high-quality ingredients and no artificial sweeteners or added sugars, these bars aren’t too sweet on the taste buds, and they don’t leave you with a weird aftertaste.
Now, if you’re wondering if this bar will arrive in a million different pieces by the time you finally get to crack it open, the answer is no, it won’t.
I also spent a great deal of effort tweaking the recipe several times to get a consistency that’s solid and compact enough that it stays together until you’re ready to eat it, but is also soft and chewy like a decadent brownie.
Before handing out the final verdict, there’s one more low carb protein bar to compare that’s extremely popular on the keto diet.
#4: Keto Almond Vanilla Dang Bar
Aside from ours, Dang bars are the only other ones on this list marketed explicitly to keto dieters.
You’ll even see this in Dang’s online spec snapshot[*]:
To find out if all this hype is true, I tested their Keto Almond Vanilla bar.
Here’s what the macronutrient breakdown looks like:
Each Almond Vanilla Dang bar is[*]:
- 200 calories
- 14g of total fat, 4.5g of saturated fat
- 11g of total carbs, 5g net carbs
- 9g of protein
So this bar is closer in calories to Bulletproof, but not as low as Quest bar’s 180.
It also has more fat than both those bars — 14g as opposed to 12g and 6g with Bulletproof and Quest, respectively.
But they still aren’t as high fat as ours, which clocks in at 19g of fat, or the highest of all the bars on this list.
This Dang bar also has the lowest amount of protein when compared to the rest.
Now for the ingredient list.
For the most part, this Almond Vanilla flavor is pretty clean and contains:
- Chicory root fiber
- Pea protein
- Cocoa butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Pea protein crisps (pea protein and rice flour)
- Natural flavors
- Chia seeds
- Sea salt
- Stevia extract
- Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E)
Now, the chicory root fiber stands out only because I’ve had problems with it in the past. I’m also not a giant fan of isolated pea protein and pea protein crisps.
Other than these ingredients, I’d say the Dang team did a pretty good job here.
I also will say they nailed the consistency of these bars.
There’s nice chunks of almonds and the inclusions are really visible in this bar.
As for the taste, there was definitely vanilla coming through, but there was also a hint of something sour. And the bar itself was a bit dry to me.
Here’s how my blood sugar reacted when I ate this keto bar:
First, I started at 84 blood glucose.
After 20 minutes, I shot up to 99.
Another 20 minutes later and I reached 105.
This went down about 20 points after that (at the 1-hour mark), but took approximately three hours to return to baseline.
I would expect normal foods to take one to four hours to do this, but not one listed as keto-friendly.
So while the macros of this bar are ideal for a keto diet, the blood sugar response is just the opposite.
With all this information in mind, here’s how these bars stack up against each other.
So which one wins the award for best low carb protein bar?
Based on the results from this test, the best to worst choices on a keto diet are:
- Perfect Keto Almond Butter Brownie bar
- Quest Birthday Cake nutritional bar
- Keto Almond Vanilla Dang bar
- Bulletproof Apple Pie Collagen Protein bar
And, as I proved in the experiment, this isn’t just a personal bias to promote my own bars.
I spent months perfecting the formula to ensure these bars taste good, don’t fall apart, meet the right keto macros, and most importantly, won’t cause unnecessarily high spikes to your blood sugar.
Remember, the lower you can keep your blood sugar, and the shorter the time it takes your body to return to baseline, the better.
Do this and you’ll drastically reduce your risks of developing deadly chronic diseases and inflammation.
I wish more companies would test how their products affect blood sugar levels before making claims that they’re keto-friendly.
As mentioned in the video, you can send me your questions or requests for new products to test and I’ll reply back and may even include one in my next video.
Find me on Instagram and shoot me a DM to do that.
In the end, you should test your own blood sugar after eating anything, keto-friendly foods or not.
Not only will this help you narrow down the foods that react well with your body, you’ll also uncover the supposedly healthy foods that could be kicking you out of ketosis.
I had no idea Bulletproof bars were raising my blood sugar levels like that, and now that I do, I won’t be eating them anytime soon.
Try this experiment for yourself and you’ll be shocked by the results too.
You can even start by testing our new Almond Butter Brownie bar first.