It was nearly impossible to find a straightforward “protein bar” in a women’s interest magazine. Most bars were made of rolled oats and nuts with sweeteners like agave or honey. It’s fascinating how different the male and female fitness markets are, yet both gender remains confronted with unrealistic ideals on the covers of their targeted magazines: ultra thin women and impossibly ripped men. Behind the thin women are pages of weight loss and toning tips and behind the men are pages of protein-heavy meat meals and ways to build muscle mass. Because I love an extreme workout, I wanted to try a “real manly” protein bar. I went with a “Cranberry Orange Power Grab Protein Bar” from Men’s Fitness. (I imagine if this recipe were in Women’s Fitness or Self it would be called something like “Post Burn Pick Me Up.”)
With fresh zest and more than a cup of protein powder I was hopeful these bars could come to replace the store-bought ones I force down: metallic-tasting Luna Bars, chewy Clif Bars, and Balance Bars (Let’s be honest, KIND bars are closer to a Snickers bar). My protein bars were off to great start with my Vitamix whirring the required oats into a powder in about 20 seconds but once the protein powder went in, the thick mixture almost stopped the motor. I wasn’t sure which powder to use because the recipe doesn’t specify so I went with my absolute favorite protein powder: Vega One. The recipe also didn’t specify what type of nut or seed butter so I went with peanut butter. In retrospect I think almond butter or tahini would have paired better with the cranberry and orange. Two tablespoons is also a ton of orange zest, all the skin from about 2 large oranges.
When all is said and done, these were not delicious protein bars. They were close in consistency and flavor to a Power Bar and I didn’t enjoy them before or after a workout. I made a batch on Sunday and had a 2-inch piece before a yoga class and found that my mouth felt completely dried out for the duration of the class, even with water. Still, they were highly effective, delivering the nutrients I needed before an early morning hot yoga class and after a particularly grueling kickboxing class. Taste aside, cost was a big issue for me. I followed the recipe exactly, which only produced about half of an 8-inch square baking tin. Taking into consideration the fact that I spent $19.99 on protein powder and another $10.00 on oats, dried cranberries, oranges, and cooking spray (I had peanut butter and milk in the fridge, and yes, I keep my peanut butter in the fridge) I spend about $30 total for about ten servings which is $3 per bar. Arguably I could have made many more servings with the $20 protein powder, bringing the cost down, but I don’t think I’ll be making these again.
Taking into consideration the cost, time and taste I’m going to mark homemade protein bars a NOT WORTH IT. I’ll stick to the store-bought ones and buy them in bulk when they go on sale.