The best weight gain bars are everything you need for weight gain – rich in calories and nutrients. But how do you know which ones are worth the effort and money? How do you make sure you’re not wasting your money or missing out on easy results?
Today, we’re teaching you what to look for and discussing 15 of the most relevant examples on the market. We’ll be taking you through the weight gain bar buying guide, examples, and some tips on how to approach weight gain supplements.
Let’s get into it with the big, obvious question…
Weight Gain Bars: What Are They?
Weight gain bars are convenient, easy-to-carry supplement bars – including protein bars, granola bars, energy bars, and meal replacement bars.
Many have the same focus on protein as a shake, without the inconvenience or mess of carrying liquids and powder. They also have a more satisfying short-term effect, as you are eating rather than drinking, and come with a variety of designs and nutrient profiles.
Weight gain bars are easy to carry, easy to eat, and provide a boost to your dietary intake. With a range of formulations, you’ll typically get a mixture of carbs and protein at high levels, as well as many vitamins and minerals.
The easy and quick boost they offer has made protein bars an enduring part of the supplement market.
Weight gain relies on this kind of high-protein food for healthy, high-quality weight gain. It’s a way of increasing protein intake, which means more fat-burning, more muscle-gain, and better recovery after workouts.
Types of Weight Gain Bars: What Is the Difference?
The main difference between different types of supplement bars is their nutrient profile. This determines what they’re for in the diet, what they do in your body, and whether they target weight gain or loss.
Supplement bars include protein bars, granola bars, mixed nutrient bars, energy bars, and even meal replacement bars.
Granola bars and mixed nutrient bars offer different nutrients, a different focus, and different benefits as part of the ‘big picture’ of your diet.
Meal replacement bars are even more different, typically aiming at higher micronutrient content and better hunger-satiety for dieting.
Protein Bars: How Do They Work?
High calorie protein bars are a convenient way to get more protein in your diet to provide essential resources for muscle-building.
This is the most important and healthy way to gain weight. Protein intake stimulates building new muscle proteins, which go into the repair and growth of your muscles.
This is a key part of both the quality and quantity of muscle growth. More protein typically means better results, as well as being a way of improving dietary control.
It’s also associated with other benefits like connective tissue and bone health, as well as metabolic and digestive regularity.
Protein is both the most rewarding and most choresome nutrient to consume. Adding protein bars, just like adding shakes, can be an easy way to increase your intake without cooking another meal, or needing access to a kitchen at all.
Granola Bars: Normal and High-Protein Variations
Granola bars and nut/seed bars are also popular. These aren’t directly related to fitness and performance, but can offer a great source of calories between meals. They’re packed with wholegrains, nuts, and seeds to provide a blend of high-calorie ingredients.
The carb and fat content of these bars is typically high. They’re a high-energy snack, and the protein may not be as good as in protein-specific bars. This is deliberate, but you can also find high-protein granola bars that bridge the gap.
High-protein granola bars typically resemble very small meals when you look at the nutrients. They’ve got all 3 macronutrients in good levels, as well as vitamins and minerals.
They’re just dry, small food bars and weight gain comes from eating food.
What Are Energy Bars?
Energy bars are supplement bars typically high in both calories and protein. They’re also typically fast-absorbing, processed foods to help increase the delivery of nutrients – carbs and protein alike – into your bloodstream.
These are often used in hikes and endurance sports for their high calorie and protein levels. They are also further removed from real food, due to the processing and higher glycaemic index (GI) that makes them fast-absorbing.
Energy bars have varying levels of protein. Technically, the “energy” is just about calories. The actual composition of the nutrients varies from product to product.
This is also how we’re reviewing them, for both the amount of energy they provide and where those calories come from.
Meal Replacement Bars: Are They Good for Weight Gain?
Meal replacement bars can be used to support weight gain as a snack. They’re designed to be more nutritionally-complete and offer an alternative to a full meal. This typically means a combination of fats, carbs, and protein along with vitamins and minerals.
Recommended: Here’s a full article on how protein bars help gain weight.
It also usually involves additional fiber to slow digestion. Slower digesting meal replacement bars help to curb hunger and cravings. They are not as effective for weight gain since the main goal is to reduce appetite.
The key to making meal replacement bars effective for weight gain is to use them as snacks, instead of meal replacements.
This is a great way to support your diet with the complete spectrum of nutrients, which can support metabolism and recovery to support healthy weight gain.
Weight Gain Bar Reviews: 15 Best Protein Bars for Weight Gain
We’re reviewing the top 15 most popular and relevant bars on the market. We’ve tried dozens of others, but these are the most interesting and worthwhile for your attention.
What makes a supplement bar worth your time, or worth reviewing? How can they help you gain weight? There are a few factors we look for:
- High protein content
- High carb content (for granola, energy bars, and meal replacement bars)
- Healthy fats (like Omega-3s or MCTs)
- Vitamin and mineral content
- Additional ingredients that support health, performance, or recovery
Then we look at the more personal, experience factors: taste, texture, convenience, and what it’s like to use. These add up to a 3-dimensional picture of what a bar is like, what it does in your body, and what it’s like overall.
Based on the protein content, calorie content, and several other factors that help gain healthy weight, MET-RX Big 100 Protein Bar is our best recommendation for a weight gain bar. Some other great high calorie protein bars for weight gain include:
- Uncut High Protein Energy Bar
- ONE Protein Bar
- Quest Nutrition Protein Bar
- Clif Builders
- Greenbelly Meal2Go Bars
- Dark Chocolate Chip YES Bar
- Almond Butter Perfect Keto Bar
- Cacao Banana Rise Bar
- Blueberry Vanilla Kale LivBar
- Almond Honey Rise Bar Authentic Bar
- Kitchen Sink Protein Bars
- Vega Protein Snack Bar
- Almond Honey Stinger Bar
- Sans Bar
Here’s our review for each protein bar:
Big100 are high in both calories and protein, clocking in around 400 calories per bar, with 30-32g of protein depending on the flavor. They’re mostly carbs, too, which makes them perfect meal bars for weight gain.
The balance of nutrients in these bars is a great place to start, offering up the 2 main ingredients you need for muscle gain. They’re also rich in a range of vitamins and minerals – far more than any other bar on this list.
This makes the Big100 colossal protein bar our #1 choice for hardgainers trying to build muscle and improve workout recovery. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a weight gain bar that hits hard on the most important factors: calories, protein, and taste.
|High in calories (around 400 calories per bar)||The single bar is expensive|
|High in protein & carbs||Mostly Out-of-Stock on the website|
|Rich in vitamins and minerals|
|Tastes amazing in the Birthday Cake flavor|
Uncut offers a bar that is rich in both protein and calories. This is perfect for weight gain, with 16g of protein and 23g of carbs. It also includes 16g of fats, which make it a well-balanced bar with a ‘neutral’ nutrient profile, favoring neither carbs or fats.
This makes it a perfect balanced high calorie protein bar on macros and calories alone. It also provides supplementary calcium, iron, and potassium. These are small, but pleasant, additions to support total electrolyte intake.
This is a great all-rounder and offers 290 calories total. Uncut have earned their #2 spot with a simple and effective approach to high-protein bars for weight gain. It’s less heavy-duty than the Met-Rx alternative, making it a good snack at a slightly lower calorie count.
|Low calories per bar||The calories may not be enough to help maintain a calorie surplus|
|Contains essential vitamins and minerals||Protein content is lower than some other bars|
|Tastes great in Chocolate Chip flavor|
The ONE protein bar is a great, lean favorite. It has a lower calorie content than others on this list, making it a versatile choice, clocking at roughly 210 calories per bar – depending on your choice of flavor.
It’s main selling point is the 20g of protein and 1g of sugar, making for a fantastic protein content and metabolic benefits. The remaining NET carbs are 14g of starches for sustained-release energy.
ONE is a great all-rounder protein bar with less focus on weight gain. It can help curb cravings, it can be a great snack between meals, or be combined with high-calorie foods as part of a full weight gain meal.
|Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Birthday Cake are the best flavors||Moderately expensive|
|Only 1g of sugar per serving||Not very high in calories|
Quest are one of the most famous names in meal bars for weight gain. This product is a great example of why: 21g protein, 1g of sugar, and 14g of fiber. This is a lower-calorie bar that is about protein purity, though does offer a smaller overall calorie content.
There are 8g of NET carbs, which include 7g of starches. The end result is relatively low in calories, making it versatile but less effective in weight gain diets. It needs to be combined with other foods to get muscle-growth numbers of calories.
|Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cookies & Cream are the best flavors||Carbohydrates content is not very high|
|Only 1g of sugar per bar|
|14 grams of Fiber per bar|
Clif builder’s protein is a protein bar, as the name implies. It’s also one of the best tasting bars on the market. They offer 20g of protein from 290 calories, making for a protein- and calorie-rich choice.
They’re comparable to others on the market on the nutrition data alone. With more carbs than any other product on the market, per gram, it also makes Builder’s protein a great source for workout carbs and protein.
The 1:1.5 ratio of protein to carbs is a great choice to drive up muscle growth and repair after workouts. The lower fat content also makes it faster absorbing, beating out some of the competitors on the market.
As mentioned, Clif bars also taste surprisingly good. This isn’t on the nutrition label, but it does make the process far more enjoyable!
|Cheaper than other bars in this list||High in sugars (17 grams)|
|High carbohydrates content|
|Tastes great in Vanilla Almond and Crunchy Peanut Butter flavors|
This is a meal replacement bar, which can make it a great choice for weight loss diets. In a weight gain diet it’s more like a snack. It’s a balanced nutrient profile with a near-equal fat, and carb content (by calorie).
The protein content is relatively low, comparatively. These bars contain 17g of protein on average, which is fine compared to others on the market, but represents a much smaller percentage of the 660 calorie content.
These are great for adding more calories to your diet, as well as a bunch of extra vitamins and minerals, but not protein. They’re a high-energy / granola bar, but not a protein bar.
They support weight gain from a different angle to most of the others on this list, which is why we’ve included this as a meal replacement bar for weight gain.
|One of the highest bars in terms of calories (around 600 calories per bar)||Only 17 grams of protein, given the high calories|
|96 grams of carbohydrates per bar||26 grams of fat per bar, may not be suitable for those looking to build lean muscle and need low carbs and fats|
|Great for using in between meals to increase calories for the day|
|Has some great tasting unique flavors such as Cranberry Almond and Mango Cashew Coconut|
This is a paleo bar, which means that it’s going to be focusing more on nuts and seeds than others on this list. It has a predominantly fat-centered nutrient profile, with 5g of protein, 17g of fat, and only 13g of carbs.
This makes the YES bar a surprisingly trim 220 calories, with 3g of fiber. It’s a simple and relatively snack-y bar that doesn’t have the same content as a Big100 or GreenBelly bar.
This is a lightweight product that can help with protein between meals, but lacks the total calorie content to be used as a weight-gainer bar by itself.
|Cheaper than other bars in this list||Low in protein per bar (only 5 grams)|
|Plant-based bar||High in fats (17 grams)|
Keto bars are low-carb, which does limit their capacity to build muscle. The Keto bars are mid-protein, high-fat, and include 8g of NET carbs. This makes them a moderate calorie bar compared to others on this list, at 240 total. This is middling for the market, though they are small in size.
This is less effective for the lower carb count. It’s an effective snack, but is best suited to times further out from training. The protein content is relatively small, despite the price, which may sting a little.
Ultimately, this is a good snack bar, but probably not a great weight gain bar. It works well for maintaining stable energy throughout the day and protecting health, and can be a great upgrade if you’re looking to use a keto diet.
Compared to other bars, like the Big100, though, it’s not going to pack the same punch.
|Keto bar with only 1g of sugar per bar||Not very high in protein (12 grams)|
|Tastes great in the Banana Bread and Almond Butter Brownie flavors||17 grams of fats per bar|
Rise prides itself on being a brand that delivers simple supplements. Their protein bar is small, calorie-rich, and balances the 3 macronutrients well.
With 16g of fats and protein, and 20g of carb, it’s a 320 calorie bar that comes out with a good snack nutrient profile.
The bars themselves won’t constitute a meal, but they can be a great way to fuel up throughout the day. They’re not the best pre- and post-workout bars on the market, but they definitely do the job well.
They’re all-natural, using natural flavors and ingredients to provide a simple, delicious bar with a solid nutrient profile. Simple and enjoyable.
|Good amount of calories compared to the price (310 calories per bar)||14 grams of sugar per bar|
|Cheaper than most other protein bars|
Kale in a protein bar. That’s how you know its main purpose is health, snacking, and wellness.
LivBar provides 220 calories, making it one of the lower calorie choices on our list. It’s balanced between carbs and fats, and offers a small 6g of protein. This makes it a high-energy snack bar (relative to size) and not a protein bar.
This is one of the more calorie-focused choices on the market, eschewing the normal macro balance. It’s clearly concerned with health, with vitamins, minerals, and fiber taking the center stage.
This isn’t the easiest weight gain bar but it offers a healthy snack option if you need more energy. It’s great for mid-morning lulls and to fill out light meals.
|Unique flavor and tastes great||Only 6 grams of protein per bar|
|High energy bar||Mostly Out-of-Stock on the website|
|Contains healthy vitamins and minerals|
Rise are back – and this time it’s almond and honey. These return to the simple, natural approach that Rise takes to nutrition. It’s a lower calorie entry at 280 per bar, while offering a strong 20g of protein, 16 of fat, and 21g of carbs.
This flavor has a stronger nutrient profile and better protein and carb purity (amount per gram). This makes it more well-suited to pre- and post-workout snacking, as well as fuelling up throughout the day.
It has the same approach that we liked about the previous bar, but with a better focus and more suitable muscle-building nutritional profile.
|20 grams of protein per bar||14 grams of sugar per bar|
|Cheaper than other bars in this list|
This is a protein bar, first and foremost, with 16g per bar. This is paired with 13g fat and 27g carbs, making it a perfect choice for pre- and post-workout due to the higher carb count. This makes it a fast absorber and helps you get refueled as soon as possible.
It doesn’t shine in any one area, but is a great all-rounder with a focus on carbs.
If you’re working hard in the gym, this is one of the best choices to supplement your carb and protein intake. It’s relatively cheap compared to some on this list, making it a great no-frills choice.
|Cookie Crumble and Birthday Cake are the best flavors||The bar is expensive, and not the best in terms of protein content|
|High in carbs and fats||The carbs and fats content is high, may not be suitable for those who’re only looking at getting protein from the bar|
|19 grams of sugar per bar|
Vega are known for their vegan protein. This is a vegan protein bar that uses a blend of pea and brown rice protein, offering 10g per bar. The rest of the bar is mostly starch and sugar, with added fiber from inulin.
This is a fantastic balance of macronutrients, even at a mid-upper 190 calories per bar. The added carbs make it a great choice around workouts, and one of the best muscle-supporting choices. It’s certainly the best vegan bar we’ve looked at so far.
The high sugar and protein content just make it a great workout snack, but less useful further out from training. Use this to fuel up before, or refuel after, a workout.
|Only 190 calories per bar, great for adding quality calories to the diet plan||11 grams of sugar per bar|
|Chocolate Peanut Butter is the best flavor|
Stinger bars are all about honey and protein. We’d call it an energy bar, as the focus is on restoring carbs to the body, with a moderate protein content.
It is mostly carbs, offering direct workout fuel before, during, and after a workout. With a high carb:protein ratio, it’s a good choice for refueling or keeping energy levels up while you exercise.
The protein is quite low and the product is quite expensive, however. This does make it a niche choice, but offers some of the most effective workout nutrition. It tastes absolutely fantastic, with 25% honey.
This makes it taste great and offers fast-absorbing carbs to keep you moving at your best.
|Tastes great||16 grams of sugar per bar|
|Only 180 calories per bar||Low protein content|
15. Sans Bar
This is called a meal bar and has all the hallmarks of a mixed-nutrient energy bar. It offers a large 390 calories with only 15g of protein. The other calories go towards a larger concentration of carbs and protein from nuts, fruit, and egg white.
The ingredient choices for this bar are good, offering a balanced meal-like composition. They provide the energy and support you might need during a lull in energy levels.
This doesn’t make it a perfect weight-gain product, but it does mimic the performance of real food. It’s a balanced nutrient profile with a relatively heavy calorie content.
This is a weight gain bar if you want it to be. The original purpose was clearly maintaining energy and replacing meals. However, you can throw the Sans bar in your bag and keep energy and protein levels up throughout the day.
|Taste great in Coconut Almond Butter flavor||Mostly Out-of-Stock|
|390 calories per bar|
|Rich in vitamins and minerals|
What to Look for in a Protein Bar for Weight Gain
The most important factors in a protein bar for weight gain are protein content, calories, the balance of carbs to fats, and additional nutrients.
These represent what the bar will do in your body. They cover the most important performance factors. You can also look at other factors, as we’ve outlined in our reviews, such as price,
This is obvious: protein bars with low protein aren’t much use. High protein content is the most important factor for how well a bar will contribute to your goals.
A higher content (grams), and a greater % of overall calories, are both signs of a better bar. You can also get even deeper and check out the essential amino acid content of a bar – where a complete protein profile is even better.
Most of the time, however, the completeness only matters when you’re using a protein bar as a post-workout supplement.
The overall calorie content matters for weight gain, in particular. Making sure you’re eating enough is the key to good weight gain. Once you’ve made sure there’s plenty of protein, the overall energy content is key.
By getting more protein and calories at the same time, as long as they’re not just from fats, you get the best results. Combining carbs and protein, in particular, is perfect for muscle gain and replenishing energy stores.
More calories = more weight gain. Or, at least, taking up some of the slack from elsewhere in your diet!
Carb and Fat Levels
The balance of carbs and fats is one part science, one part preference. The more carbs a high calorie bar has, the better it can support muscle growth. On the other hand, fats are denser when it comes to calories. This means that a perfect bar will typically involve at least a little of both.
The balance between the two is about how you use it. If you’re using a protein bar for weight gain near workouts, you want more carbs.
They’re the short term fuel that gets your muscles working, and helps them recover. Further from workouts, the slow-release of fats may be more useful to keep you fed – as well as offering more calories per gram.
This balance is about how you’re going to use a protein bar for weight gain. The timings, the goals, and even the type of exercise you’re training. Carbs support power and strength, as well as muscle protein signaling, which is why we prefer carb-rich protein bars in our review.
Other nutrients can also be useful and helpful. The most obvious are vitamins and minerals. B vitamins in particular offer metabolic support and can be useful when consumed with carbs and protein.
Electrolytes are the most important minerals – sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
These support muscle function and hydration status, which make them a great benefit to any weight gain and performance food. These are even better just before or after workout where they can be most directly utilized.
A protein bar can be a huge asset in weight gain diets, especially if you’re looking to support better workouts. They can be a perfect pre or post-workout snack, depending on the mix of nutrients – as we’ve discussed in these reviews.
Our favorite protein bar for weight gain is the Met-Rx Big 100 weight gain bar. It combines the best benefits of a protein bar and energy bar, making it the perfect high-calorie, high-energy choice for healthy weight gain. If you’re a real hardgainer, this is absolutely perfect to help you build muscle and add more calories to your diet.
If you’re looking to invest your money in high calorie bars, be exacting and make sure it fits your needs – as well as just being high quality.
With our reviews today, you have the tools and options you need to make the right choice, and give your body the best support while you work hard to grow.
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Rohan Arora is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and has been actively involved in sports and fitness for over 8 years. He now leads the team of fitness specialists and personal trainers who help people around the world with personalized workout and nutrition plans, along with providing the right information on sports supplements.