* Prices may differ from that shown
Every so often, I will substitute a protein bar for a chocolate bar in my diet, normally on days when I want to feel full for longer, since protein has that benefit. My general opinion, though, is that Protein bars are a more expensive, inferior tasting (though nutritionally superior) version of a standard candy bar.
"Pure Protein" is a bit of a misnomer since the bars contain 20g protein but 30g other stuff (18g carbs, 5g fat and so on). However that's still a whole lot of protein in one little bar. It's not a low-carb product, but then really neither are the Atkins bars that sit next to this one in the supermarket, and which contain about the same amount of carbs, less protein and more than double the fat.
This bar looks a bit like a chocolate bar on steroids. The packaging is what I would call a bit 'busy', with the bright purple wrapper drenched in print. There's the grammatically dubious slogan for the company, "Eat Good...Look Great", the amount of protein (20g) in big, prominent letters, and a long, long list of ingredients. Next to this, however, is an equally long list of the nutritional make up of the bar, and it makes quite interesting reading. In addition to being a good source of protein, the bar has been fortified with vitamins and minerals and not just a token amount like with some products: a single bar will give you 46% of your daily Vitamin E, 23% of your calcium, 130% of your B12 and so on. At a pinch, you could eat one of these with a couple of pieces of fruit in place of a proper meal, once in a while, and not come out of it too badly. However as we'll see later, these aren't quite the convenient, on-the-go product they would like to be.
The one thing I can't tell from all the info splattered on the wrapper, however, is exactly what I am going to be eating. The description of this flavour is "Chewy chocolate chip...with chocolate flavour coating". That's a bit brief really. Most bars of this sort go into more detail, and "chewy" on its own is open to interpretation - do they mean a runny caramel, or a thicker nougat? What flavour will it be? From the picture on the front it's also a bit hard to make out what you'll get, but it looks like a Mars bar with the addition of chocolate chips, nice and chunky and all covered in chocolate.
The bar is quite heavy - 50g is quite a lot, since most chocolate treats are nearer the 40g mark - but contains 'just' 201 calories, i.e notably less than a chocolate bar of the same size which would be at least 250 calories, if not more. From the outside it looks ok - the chocolate has a slight powdery sheen to it, but looks fairly appetizing, and the coating is even, covering the whole of the bar, its sides and underneath. It smells, rather interestingly, everso slightly of coffee, combined with an artificial chocolate smell - not like cheap chocolate, per se, more like chocolate flavoured sweets that contain none of the real stuff. This does contain both cocoa powder and cocoa butter, but perhaps not in huge quantities.
In an attempt to make my chocolate last longer, I have taken to slicing up bars which don't come pre-sectioned into neat segments. I cut this into about 8 pieces, which also let me see a cross section of what was inside. The main part of the filling looks like shortbread with chocolate chips, as it's a nice golden colour but biscuity, not entirely smooth. However, looks can be deceiving and this is actually a chewy nougat not a crumbly cookie. The texture is not as melt in your mouth as a Mars bar, but it's not too bad. The faux-chocolate coating is not very thick, but you get enough - given the flavour of it (ok, but not mouth-watering) you don't really need, or want, more.
The nougat bit is more sticky toffee than runny caramel, and has a fairly neutral taste, slight sweet and creamy, like a dull vanilla (not a strong vanilla bean like in some yogurts). You can see plenty of chocolate chips, but not really taste them, and they pretty much blend in to the overall texture too. The aftertaste of this bar comes with a slight almond flavour, and even a hint of peanut, and checking the long ingredients list, I see both of these flavours feature in the recipe. Finally, it does have a distinctive protein bar taste - a tiny bid powdery, a tiny bit artificial (as if a Mars bar were an all natural product...)
Overall this is not a bad bar, and certainly edible. It's not something you'd be likely to binge on since it's not tasty enough, but equally you wouldn't have to pinch your nose and force yourself to chew and swallow. In a way, it's like a shop's own-brand version of a Mars bar - close, but clearly not the real thing.
With all that said, this is a nice, chunky bar you can really sink your teeth into. It takes a while to eat, and requires proper chewing, giving you the satisfaction of munching away for a decent length of time. It's not as dense as you might think for a quite compact, 50g bar. That's not to say it's full of air, but equally it's not like chewing a brick, which I had thought it could be from the size, shape and weight.
Did it fill me up? Well considering I got from 1pm to 7.30pm without an afternoon snack but with a cardio workout thrown in, I'd say yes. I wasn't hungry during the afternoon as I often am, and wasn't craving proper chocolate either. I felt fuller immediately, but this may just have been down to the 2-3 glasses of water you are advised to drink with the bar. This is why I made the comment earlier about convenience: if you stick to their recommendations, you'll find this isn't really a bar with which you can grab and go since you'll need to down a bottle of water at the same time (protein can tax the kidneys if you're dehydrated) and then not stray too far from a loo immediately afterwards.
The bar is low in fibre - only 0.5g per bar. But as for the 20g protein, it also helped me towards my RDA yesterday. Depending on who you listen to, you should be consuming at least 0.8g of protein per kg body weight (38g per day for me) or a standard population recommendation of 46g. Protein bars are a good supplement for a diet without being something you should rely on for all your protein needs. However, since most decent sources are excluded from a vegetarian diet, I can struggle to get in as much as I should, while knowing how important it is for muscle maintenance and growth among other things.
I am currently eating my way through a variety of protein bars, and this one is not my favourite but is one I would buy again, especially if I can find it on special offer. I bought mine from Asda for about £1.50 which makes it, to me, something I wouldn't justify eating every day at full price, but will rotate into my diet now and then, especially on days when I need a convenient bar to keep me up and about for a prolonged period of time without the chance to grab an afternoon snack.
You can buy these bars in supermarkets, from Holland & Barrett or online. Buying them in bulk (e.g. from eBay) makes the unit price cheaper, but I'm not sure I'd really want 12 of these in my kitchen at any one time, even with their extended shelf-life.