Are Quest Bars Good For You?

In 2014, Quest bar sales have skyrocketed due to smart marketing, social proofing, and millions of photos online depicting delicious desserts as health foods.

Quest bars are hotter than a bodybuilder in a gorilla suit right now.

In the wake of the #fitspo hashtags, Instagram #transformationtuesday tags and pictures of clenched-toothed bicep selfies, one has to ask:

Are Quest bars really good for you?

Let's dive in and see what nutrient delivery this bar really offers up post workout:

Last week, I was talking to a few Crossfit ladies about their love obsession with Quest Bars when I flipped over the package to read Einstein's chemical theory mixed with academia terminology.

Most of what is listed on the label wasn't real food:

Quest-BarIngredients:

Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Lo Han Guo, Stevia. Erythritol, Sucralose, Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate, IMO Fiber (Isomalto – Oligosaccharide), Sea Salt, Natural Flavors.

Sound the alarm because school is is session! At least thats the way I felt in the 2 hours of researching all these ingredients.

Caution Flags:

Natural Flavors

The FDA has added over 700 items into the GRAS list (generally regarded as safe). This is one scary list! More on that another day, but it does include Quorn; a questionable fungus.

Sucralose

A carcinogenicity study of Sucralose via PubMed concluded that Sucralose destroys gut bacteria. Good enough for me!

Isomalto-oligosaccharides: Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) is a mixture of short-chain carbohydrate which has a digestion-resistant property. IMO is found naturally in some foods, as well as being manufactured commercially and has in some cases gastrointestinal symptoms like flatulence, bloating, and soft stool or in some cases diarrhea.

Side Effects:

  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • IBS / GI disturbance
  • Excessive Pinterest posting and/or figuring out ways to make Quest bars a “treat” that somehow makes sense to eat 3 times a day

Best Vs. Better Choices:

In the daily dietary wheel of choice, there is always a circular scale of risk versus reward. When it comes to each person's fitness or health goals, real food trumps all else as the optimal fuel for your body.

With that said, there will be days where you've forgotten your healthy meal, are running late, or simply catch yourself walking out of the gym with your shirt soaked in sweat only to find a half eaten quest bar in your center console staring back at you.

To say that one should “never” eat a Quest bar is similar to saying one should never have a northern California margarita- it depends on why.

Rather than going into catabolism, the whey isolate protein locked in between the powdery, crunchy chocolate like bits in the sludge will buy you more time until you can get some real food in your system.

Pre or post workout, here are the best choices in order of appearance for recovery:

Real food

Its simple. If it has a label it's not real. Does it have eyes, grow out of the ground, or wiggle? Its real, eat that!

MRP

100% grass-fed whey isolate protein if you're in a pinch and you can't find meat, fish, sweet potatoes or veggies.

Quest Bar

Quest Nutrition states on their website:

We actually believe that you are what you eat. That’s why Quest—from the beginning—has always invested in cutting-edge ingredients to create products with clean nutritional profiles that taste like you’re eating something unhealthy.

Cutting edge ingredients aren't nature's best, rather, they're a skewed version of things mashed together to taste and resemble ingredients found in nature. Sugar in nature is rare, so when your body gets a hit its going to want more. Just be mindful of that and move forward.

The Verdict 

At the end of the day if you want to have a treat then have a treat! Wondering if something tastes too good to be true is a sign that it may be just that.

The next time you reach for a Quest bar post workout, make sure you're being honest with yourself and enjoy it without guilt or validation of being “healthy.”

Natural foods will always be the best for your physiology. Trying to eat non-foods and claim them as panaceas for hunger are similar to having your cake and eating it too.

Actually, I think they do have a cake flavor.

 

About the author: Josh Trent, NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with over 9 years in the fitness industry. His passion is to accelerate wellness evolution through the power of the Digital Health and Quantified Self movements. You can follow him on Twitter @wellnessforce, or through his website www.wellnessforce.com.

Questions? Start here