Both Kevin and I eat protein bars on a regular basis, right after hard training sessions. For years, I never paid attention to my protein needs post-workout; I thought that, so long as I was eating a healthy diet, I was just fine. And I was, for the most part, but I had a hard time making significant gains for more intense training and long-distance runs. Plus, I would feel pooped more often that I should have given the amount of rest I was getting.
It took a seasoned sports nutritionist all of 5 minutes to figure out what I needed, namely more protein in my diet, and protein bars quickly became as important a part of my routine as the workout itself.
But here is my issue: High-protein bars can come with particularly staggering price tags, at times as high as four dollars per bar. Equally staggering is the ingredient list on many of the bars: hydrolyzed gelatin, glycerin, soy protein isolate, high fructose corn syrup, fractionated palm kernel oil, and artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, and preservatives–Ick!
The great news is that a basic, junk-free, high-protein bar is ridiculously easy to make, and at a fraction of the price, too; here it is. The bars have a fudge-like texture that can be customized with a slick of chocolate, spices, natural extracts, nuts and fruits, or a few chocolate chips. If you would like yours a bit sweeter, the suggested chocolate chips or dried fruit (a few tablespoons) in the mix will do the trick, or you can add a bit of your favorite natural sweetener (e.g., mashed dates, agave nectar or stevia).
- Food Processor
- 8-inch square baking pan, lined with foil or parchment and then sprayed with nonstick cooking spray
- 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats (GF, if needed)
- 1-1/3 cups plain nondairy milk (e.g. almond, rice, soy, hemp) or low-fat milk
- ½ cup natural, unsweetened nut or seed butter (e.g., peanut, cashew, sunflower)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (GF, if needed)
- 1-1/3 cups packed all-natural sweetened raw vanilla vegan protein powder (I used Sunwarrior)
- Place the oats in a food processor and process into a fine powder.
- Add the milk, nut or seed butter and vanilla to the processor bowl. Process, using on/off pulses, until the mixture is blended and smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula.
- Add the protein powder to bowl; process using on/off pulses until all of the protein powder is incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place a large piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap (coated with nonstick cooking spray) atop bar mixture and use it to spread and flatten the bars evenly in the pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight until very firm.
- Using the liner, lift the mixture from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil or parchment and cut into 10 bars.
*Consider topping the bars with a bit of melted bittersweet melted chocolate, as I did with these bars.
*Whey protein will not work in this recipe as written; the bars will have a gooey, sticky texture that will not hold together in bar form. But the problem is easily solved: simply increase the total amount of oats to 2 cups and reduce the amount of milk to ½ cup.
*You can form into any size or shape that suits your fancy, from balls to rounds to free-form mini bars.