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These Protein Bar Mistakes Could Be Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss Efforts
With their nearly identical packaging and healthy-sounding labels, it's easy to assume that all protein bars are probably pretty good for you. But in reality, some of these bars could easily road block your weight-loss goals.
One factor many people tend to overlook: Protein bars can be a optionor a meal replacement, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., the manager of nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. So it's essential to look at the nutrition label to find out if you're reaching for a mid-day nosh or something you could sub for your lunch.
Below, experts weigh reveal three protein bar mistakes many people make—and how to choose a better bar.
Mistake #1: You Ignore the Calorie Counts
Protein bars can be delicious and they're ridiculously easy to eat (duh, just unwrap it and chow down). But that means you might overload on calories without realizing it, says Brian St. Pierre, R.D., C.S.C.S., director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition.
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So before you grab one, check the calories in your bar, says Kirkpatrick. If you typically eat about 2,000 calories a day, consider the 300-calorie mark the limit for a protein bar you're eating as a meal replacement, she says.
But if you’re just , think lower. "In terms of consuming protein bars as a snack, you should generally stick to 100 to 200 calories, so as to not over do it before your next meal," she says. (Start working towards your weight-loss goals with these workouts from Women's Health's .)
Mistake #2: You Don't Double Check the Protein
Your package maysayit’s a protein bar, but here’s the truth: "Oftentimes, a ‘protein’ bar doesn't actually have that much protein in it," says St. Pierre. "Without sufficient protein, the bar won't satisfy your hunger for long," he says. Obviously, this can lead to overeating.
On top of that, if your bar is loaded with twice as many carbs as protein, you're in for a blood-sugar spike, says Kirkpatrick. "The body does not need to utilize insulin to process protein as it does with carbs." And the insulin surge and subsequent drop that occurs after eating a bar loaded with carbohydrates can create more hunger and cravings, she says. So not ideal for weight loss.
Try to hunt down a protein bar that has at least 15 grams of protein (but 20 grams is ideal) and no more than half as much fat as protein, says St. Pierre. That means for every 20 grams of protein, the bar should only have 10 grams of fat, max. You'll also want to make sure your bar has no more than 1.5 times as many carbs as protein. So if your bar contains 20 grams of protein, there should be no more than 30 grams of carbs, he says.
And don't forget fiber! "Protein bars with at least three to five grams are an excellent choice," says Kirkpatrick. That amount will keep you feeling satisfied and aid in maintaining a regular, healthy bowel regimen, which is always good for weight management, she says.
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Mistake #3: You Don't Listen to Your Belly Post-Bar
Keep an eye out for inulin and oligosaccharides, says St. Pierre. "These improve the taste of the bar and add lots of fiber," he says, But they can also cause a lot of bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort for some. We all know that no matter how much weight you lose, bloating won't help you fit into your clothes any easier. If your stomach gets upset, always skip bars that include those ingredients.
The bottom line:When you're short on time or traveling, reach for protein bars as a quick meal or snack to hold you over until your next healthy option. But keep an eye on what your go-to bar contains, so you can stay on track with your weight-loss plan.
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