I’ve been training for a marathon, and I mentioned that I sometimes make my own protein bars to use when I’m running. I really can’t stand traditional protein bars or running “fuel.” Cliff bars make me gag. Gu or sports gels make me throw up. Besides, if you read the ingredients on these things, they are full of super fake stuff (mine are not 100% whole food, but at least a little closer). I have a soft spot for Luna bars. They are delicious (s’mores flavored Luna bars got me through pharmacy school), but they are fakey too. They’re also expensive, and they’ve doubled in size since I used to eat them.
My bars are more of a cookie, so they don’t pack quite as well as traditional protein bars. They are solid enough to fit in a running pack, even if they do break a little. I cut them into brownie shapes, but you can cut them more into a traditional bar shape too.
Cooking with protein powder isn’t that hard. I normally replace 1/4 of the flour a recipe calls for with protein powder (whey works best for baking) for a first go and see what happens. If they still work well, I replace more the next time until I find the right combination of flour and protein powder. Protein powder tends to make baked goods denser and drier (which is perfect for on the go foods), so you might also have to adjust the liquid in your recipe too.
There is some argument on blogs that cooking with protein powder denatures the protein and makes it worthless. Protein has to be denatured to be absorbed by our guts anyway. Though I’m sure a little is destroyed, you’re getting almost as much as you would if you ate it “raw.” Denaturation changes the way a protein folds, and it’s true that the folding can have an impact on the protein’s action in the body. Take medications, for instance. Heating insulin, a protein, can ruin it. However, medications that are proteins (like insulin) are injected and don’t go through the gut. That’s the reason we don’t have an oral insulin product: our gut would denature the protein like it does all proteins we eat. The good news is that denaturation doesn’t change the amino acid components of the protein. It’s those components that your body needs to build muscle and carry out life, not the “protein” itself.
Commercial protein bars (and most of the eggs, meats and other things we eat for protein) have been cooked too, so it’s a moot point.
- ½ cup wheat flour
- ¼ to ½ cup protein powder (whey works best) [I use ¼ cup, but ½ makes a really dense cookie]
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- ½ cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons of canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ cups of rolled oats
- ½ cup of peanuts (you could use sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or another nut here)
- ½ cup dried fruit (I used cherries)
- ½ cup tablespoons cup good quality dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, protein powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, peanut butter, eggs, oil and vanilla together until blended. Slowly add flour mixture.
- Stir in by hand oats, peanuts, fruit and chocolate chips.
- Spread into coated baking dish. The “dough” is pretty stuff and doesn’t pour easily. It should be a bit stiffer than a cookie dough.
- Cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
For comparison, the Cliff Bar I have here is 250 calories, 44 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein. My favorite Luna bar is 180 calories, 27 grams of carbs and 9 grams of protein. These are a little bit less protein packed, but way more delicious. If you used a 1/2 cup of protein powder, you would get almost as much as a Cliff Bar.