I think by now we all know of my turbulent relationship with Quest bars. Yes, they’re great if I need something amazingly quick, and yes they also work wonders as pre-workout fuel. But they also, to me, taste far too sweet, and have an odd, elastic, pull-your-teeth-out texture (and I don’t see why warming them up should be necessary to eat them). As someone who is working to build strength and muscle, protein bars can come in handy, and Quest were the only half decent ones I could find. I’m not a fan of flapjack protein bars, nor the coated ones that look a bit like chocolate biscuits. And somehow I ended up in Holland & Barratt’s looking for alternatives. Which is where R-Bars come in.
They look like a quest bar. They aren’t a flapjack. They have similar nutritional values to a Quest bar. Similar price too, unfortunately- but they were on 3 for 2. They also didn’t have a weird candy-coating on them like the other bars on the shelf. A quick Google search later, and a quick read of some reviews on these, and I left with three bars to try.
We’ll cut straight to the important bit: what do they taste like? The flavours I managed to get hold of, as Holland & Barratt’s only stock three flavours, were:
- Cookies & Cream
- White Chocolate Raspberry Ripple
- Chocolate Peanut Caramel
I have to say, flavour-wise I’m impressed. As far as protein bars go, these taste great. My main gripe with most protein bars is how overpoweringly sweet they taste. R Bars don’t feel like they’re rotting your teeth with the first mouthful, and consequently actually taste like what you buy into when you read the flavour. The other flavours available include:
- Cherry Bakewell
- Double Chocolate Brownie
- White Chocolate Apricot
The flavour I would consider repurchasing is a toss-up between the Cookies & Cream, and the Chocolate Peanut Caramel, purely because I am not much of a white chocolate fan. But having said that, the main flavour in the White Chocolate Raspberry Ripple bar, is freeze-dried raspberries, not white chocolate. Cherry Bakewell appeals to me, purely because I am a fan of the cherry-and-almond combination.
The biggest issues texture-wise with protein bars are either that they’re too hard, too gritty, too tough, or too chewy (think curly-wurlys, if you had those as a kid). This means that many protein bars turn out to be more palatable when you microwave them. If you ask me, this can defeat the purpose of buying a protein bar. It’s for on the go, primarily. Second to the lack of over-sweetness, the texture of these bars is what impressed me most. They don’t turn into a flavoured rock when you’ve had them in your bag and it’s cold out, and they have a fudgy (not toffee-like) texture. However, they still heat up beautifully; what I’m impressed with is that I don’t have to heat them up to make them edible. This is, I’m guessing, down to the use of cocoa butter, and nut butters, in their recipe formula. In all of the bars you also get some chunks, which (although this is a small point) are usually well distributed, and not clumped together in one corner.
Okay, so the ingredients claims that R-Bars make are as follows:
- Use of healthy fats, such as cocoa and nut butters
- Naturally sweetened with stevia
- Each bar contains DeltaGold Tocatrinols, which are apparently antioxidants as they’re a potent form of vitamin E
- NO palm oil, glucose syrups, or GMO ingredients
- NO artificial colours, flavours, or sweeteners
- NO soy protein, or EU derived milk products
Obviously, the ingredients differ from bar to bar due to the difference in flavour. But each ingredinets list adheres to the above, and each ingredients list is clear, short, and simple. You can easily identify where the flavour in the bar is coming from on the ingredients list, which is something I always look out for. The first ingredient is always milk proteins, making up just over 1/3 of the bar, followed by soluble gluco fibre, which is something I want to take a quick look at…
One of the first reviews I stumbled upon directly compared the Quest bar, and the R-Bar. The simplified point was this: apparently the Quest bar uses IMO, not Soluble Gluco Fibre. IMO means Quest bars can be high fibre, but low sugar. But, IMO can cause blood sugar spikes in some, just as regular old sugar would. Soluble Gluco Fibre, on the other hand, doesn’t cause those blood sugar spikes. I’ve probably butchered that explanation horribly, and do remember I chose an English degree over Dietetics guys. I will link the reviews I found explaining all of this at the bottom of the page, a I would personally love to hear a dietician speak about soluble gluco fibre, if anyone can provide a link in the comments. Basically, R-bars don’t cause the blood sugar spike and crash that Quest bars, and other IMO containing bars, can cause. Let’s see what R-Bars had to say on this one:
‘Many alternative products on the market are swamped with dextrose, glucose syrups, invert syrups and IMO syrups. We were looking for something healthier. Did you know that the bar you eat with IMO syrup in the EU MUST BY LAW carry a health warning that states that the product is “not suitable for diabetics’? We chose an alternative ingredient that ticks all of our boxes; Soluble Gluco-Fibre. Our gluco-fibre, must be sourced from reputable EU companies, must be backed by scientific data to support the pre-biotic effect, must be non GMO and must come with double blind scientific data to show minimal effect on blood sugar.
We only use EU sourced vegetable glycerine, made from rape seed oil. Glycerin helps the body remain hydrated and has a low glycemic index and leads to a slow increase in blood sugar’
The above point brings me nicely on to nutritional values. The three R-Bars I purchased all had roughly similar nutritional values. Each contained around 200kcal, 20g protein, 9g fibre, 10g of low glycaemic index carbohydrate (meaning no blood sugar spike and crash), 1-2g sugars, and 0.4g salt or under. Nutritionally, they’re great for a pre or post workout. I tend to use them before my workout, as I need something that doesn’t lie too heavy on my stomach, but also helps me push through an hour of the gym. Of course, at times I’ll opt for something different (like fresh or dried fruit, or cereal beforehand, and something protein rich afterwards), but it’s good to know I have the option of a bar when in a rush.
At the time I purchased these, they were £2.49 in Holland & Barratt’s, and on “3 for 2”. This means that without the offer they’re roughly the same price as a Quest bar, which means I wont be buying them more often than I need them for gym days (three bars lasts me one week doing this). They can be purchased online, and in a full box I believe you can save some money, if you want to buy in bulk.
All in all, I’m impressed with these bars, and would definitely try the other flavours available. As they’re pricey I won’t be buying them often, and there are plenty of great alternatives to protein bars out there if you don’t want to/can’t afford to use them. However, whilst contemplating having a go at making my own protein bars, I now know I can get a better alternative to the other protein bars on the market. Although they come in only six flavours, the three I’ve tried tasted good, and so I’d say that its definitely a matter of quality over quantity with R-Bars.
A few reviews I found when considering purchase:
https://rugbywarfare.com/quest-bar-vs-reflex-r-bar-the-results-are-in/ (Quest vs. R-Bar review)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8bwpY1RiVs (R-Bar review)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaIGxxRdVc0 (Quest and R-Bar comparison)