The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Popular snack may make it harder to get that summer body

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Dozens of different kinds of protein bars line the shelves at a Dallas Tom Thumb Photo credit: Catherine Stacke


You know that protein bar that you just ate after spending an exhausting hour on the treadmill? Put it down. Now.

In the past decade, protein bars have hit grocery store shelves like a tidal wave. A recent trip to a Dallas Whole Foods offers over 50 different types of the bars in a single aisle. Many of them feature mouth-watering images of cookie dough, Oreo’s, or peanut butter on their wrappers. These bars, which are market as healthy, give us an excuse to eat what we crave, and lose weight…right? Wrong.

“Most experts agree that although protein bars provide the literal components, it doesn’t come close to nourishing the body the way real food does,” says Cooper Aerobics Center dietician Meridan Zerner.

Protein bars are what nutritionists consider “engineered food”, because the nutrients found in them are scientifically made to nourish the consumer in a certain way. Engineered food is made in mass quantities in factories, as opposed to grown naturally.

“There are over 40,000 components in food that the body needs, and protein bars only provide a measly 22 at most,”says Zerner.

But with their convenience, healthy claims, and flashy advertisements, protein bars are hard for consumers to pass up.

One popular bar, for instance, boasts the ability to fuel athletes for “optimum performance” and is endorsed by big names in fitness like Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps. But a glance at the label shows that the bars contain 250 calories, 45g of carbohydrates, and a whopping 25g of sugar, which is the near equivalent of chowing down on a Snickers candy bar before your work out.

Although the body does use sugar as an energy source, eating it in quantities as large as 25g will lead to the majority of it being stored as fat. Some bars can have as many 30 ingredients in them, which nutritionists say is a red flag.

As a member of the cross-country team, SMU senior Caitlin Keen needs workout fuel that can last for hours as she pushes through long endurance runs. She agrees that protein bars, with all their ingredients, are not the healthy choice.

“I don’t really eat protein bars because I think they’re too processed,” she said. “I eat really naturally. A rice cake with almond butter that I grind at the grocery store is my go to, and a banana.”

Kamilah Todd, a junior SMU student says she prefers egg white omelets as her post workout protein source, a meal that comes highly recommended by nutritionists and personal trainers alike.

Not only are these snacks more healthful, they’re more cost-efficient. At Tom Thumb in Snider Plaza, a dozen eggs cost $2.68 which can be used to make at least three omelets. At the same grocery store, a protein bar can cost anywhere from $1.50-$2.25 each.

“Cost is always a factor to consider when it comes to nutrition,” says Zerner. “There are often much more economical ways to infuse protein into your diet than through energy bars.”

SMU football player Blake Poston says that the diet of a student athlete before a game is heavily protein and carbohydrate based, but these come from natural foods, as opposed to processed bars.

“Before our games they serve us chicken, rice, corn, green beans and stuff like that,” he said.

Although the team does occasionally snack on protein bars during games, Poston says they are eaten as a quick, convenient snack in between quarters as opposed to a nutritional supplement.

Nationally recognized fitness expert Danny Connolly of the Inciner8 fitness studio in Dallas, who has trained celebrities such as Whitney Port, insists that despite the temptations out there, he does not endorse protein bars of any kind.

“Hidden sugars are harmful, the body doesn’t absorb and assimilate as efficiently as it would a natural protein source, such as hard boiled eggs,” said Connolly.

Protein should be infused frequently throughout the day, but the absorption of protein is most important in the morning, to jump start your day, and at night, as a recovery tool. So how much protein should you be putting in your body per day? Well, it varies from person to person. As a general rule, sedentary individuals should ingest about half as many grams of protein as their weight in pounds. If you’re more active, up that number to one gram of protein per pound, but no more than that.

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