Optimum Nutrition Protein Bars (Opti-Bar). Here We Go Again..

ON Opti-Bar

The king of protein powders, Optimum Nutrition, has stepped back into the protein bar arena with the release of the brand new Opti-Bar.

Think of very first protein powder you ever encountered. Chances are it was a giant red and black tub of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey. ON has been a dominating force in the protein market for a long, LONG time and show no signs of really slowing down.

However, one market they haven’t been a mainstay at in recent times is the booming protein bar market. They’ve had stuff here and there, like their “Lift Bars”, “Optimal Protein Diet Bars”, “100% Whey Crisp Bars”, and “Wholly Oats Bars”, but nothing ever seemed to stick.

But now there’s blood in the waters, and the Glanbia-owned company is back on the attack. An industry once dominated by PowerBars and then Quest, the protein bar market has significantly evolved these past few years. Lately newcomers promising better, cleaner alternatives such as Oh Yeah! ONE Bars and the real-food-based Bhu Fit Bars have been dominating the scene.

What’s ON got this time? It’s the Optimum Nutrition Opti-Bar.

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Opti-Bar Ingredients

Like most protein bars on the market, there will be slight variations in the exact ingredients due to the number of flavors released, but the main ones like protein, sweetener, etc will be identical between the lot. With that said, let’s see what’s in these!

  • Protein Blend

    ON Opti-Bar Brownie Facts

    The five flavors of Opti-Bar have a very wide ranging span of calories and macros….choose wisely!

    Opti-Bars Protein Blend consists of two proteins: Milk Protein Isolate and Whey Protein Isolate, in that respective order. Milk Protein Isolate contains both whey and casein proteins, which gives it a digestion rate somewhere between the warp-speed rate of whey and the slow-release rate of casein. But, it consists mostly of casein, so this may help lend a richer, fuller tasting texture to the Opti-Bar.

    Whey protein isolate (WPI) is generally seen in protein powders, but has been used more and more as the prevailing form in protein bars of late. WPI contains a minimum of 90% protein with almost no traces of lactose, carbs or fats[1], making it the ideal choice for those who tend to suffer nasty side effects from lower quality whey protein concentrates that are often included in protein blends.

    Good for lactose sensitive users

    With isolates, the lack of carbs means that consumers who are sensitive to milk will be better off here, since the lactose / milk sugars have been ‘isolated’ out of the product.

    If you’re overly sensitive to lactose, whey protein concentrate is the ingredient to stay away from.

  • IMOs

    If you’ve ever tried a Quest Bar, ONE Bar, or FitJoy Bar, you’re quite familiar with this ingredient. IMOs (Isomalto-oligosaccharides) are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates which have digestion-resistant properties, meaning the human GI system has a tough time breaking it down and absorbing any of the calories from it.

    IMOs (also seen as VitaFiber™ on FitJoy Bars) also happen to be low glycemic, resist dental caries (cavities), and supply the body with a rich source of prebiotics.[2,3,4,5] By the way, prebiotics are good for fostering the flora (good bacteria) of your gut to keep it operating at peak levels!

  • Nut Butter

    Optimum Nutrition Protein Bars

    Is this going to be anything new, or is it yet another “new-age” protein bar formula?

    Here’s something that might catch you a bit off guard, each of the protein bars actually contains one of two types of nut butter. You’ll find either almond butter (in 4 of the 5 flavors) or cashew butter used in the bars as a means to help bind things together and impart some healthy fats to the bar as well.

  • Sweeteners

    Here’s where some of you may come to a sticking point with the new Opti-Bars. Aside from the IMOs that are used to sweeten/bind the bars ON also includes a varying amount of glycerin, erythritol, sucralose, and stevia in the bars.

    For those of you that tend to get a bit gassy or mild bloat from any form of sugar alcohols, be on alert that these bars contain anywhere from 4 – 9g per bar of the stuff. The only bar that actually doesn’t contain any amount of erythritol (or trace of sugar alcohol for that matter) would be the Cookies ‘N Cream flavor.

  • The rest

    These bar are anything but light on ingredients. Scrolling through the ingredient list is enough to make your head spin. You’ll encounter other additives like Water, Rice Flour, Sea Salt, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate Chips, Fractionated Palm Oil, etc.

Overall, it looks about par for the course, as every major supplement player has come out with a bar that looks nearly identical to these.

While there may not be anything “bad” per se about any of these ingredients, the new Opti-Bars are FAR from being a minimalist or more “natural” bar. If those are more your style or preference, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Bhu Fit Bars which come closer to a real food option and don’t have the artificial sweeteners and the like.

Opti-Bar Macros

ON 100% Whey Protein

Who hasn’t tried ON 100% Whey? Click on the image to get the best deal at PricePlow!

Each Opti-Bar checks in at roughly 60g and contains the following nutritional content which vary noticeably depending on the exact flavor you choose.:

  • Calories: 230 – 260
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbs: 20 – 24g (8 – 10g Fiber)
  • Sugar Alcohols: 0 – 3g

Flavors

Ingredients and flavors aside, when it comes to protein bars, the vast majority of the market are primarily concerned about two things: how they taste and how many flavors there are. Well, we can’t answer the first one just yet, but we do know the lineup of flavors for the new Opti-Bar:

  • Chocolate Brownie
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Cinnamon Pecan
  • Cookies ‘N Cream
  • White Chocolate Raspberry

Takeaway

Optimum was out of the protein bar game for quite a while there, but with the re-emergence of the market as a major mover in the supplement arena, it was only a matter of time before the best-known name in protein returned.

The new Opti-Bar will definitely draw a good bit of attention if for no other reason that ON’s brand and placement in the lots of GNCs around the country. But, in an ever expanding market, will the Opti-Bar be good enough to tackle the truly outstanding bars that are already around?

To be quite honest, this looks like the same protein bar we’ve now seen from nearly a dozen major supplement companies. Are we really to believe this one will be any different than those? What’s the point of this, besides another big company trying to grab market share from Quest and Oh Yeah? Are consumers really any better off??

Guess we’ll all have to wait and see!

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References

  1. American Dairy Products Institute; “Whey Protein Isolate”
  2. Hesta, M., Debraekeleer, J., Janssens, G. P. J. & De Wilde, R. (2001). The effect of a commercial high-fibre diet and an Isomalto-oligosaccharide-supplemented diet on post-prandial glucose concentrations in dogs. J. Animal Physio. Animal Nutr., 85(7-8) 217
  3. Hesta, M, Roosen, W, et al. (2003). Prebiotics affect nutrient digestibility but not fecal ammonia in dogs fed increased dietary protein levels. British Journal of Nutrition 90, 1007-1014
  4. Minami T, et al. (1989). Caries-inducing activity of isomaltooligosugar (IMOS) in vitro and rat experiments. Shoni Shikagaku Zasshi 27(4) 1010-7
  5. Kaneko, T.; Kohmoto, T.; Fukui, F.; Akiba, T.; Suzuki, S.; Hirao, A.; Nakatsuru, S.; Kanisawa, M. 1990.Acute and chronic toxicity and mutagenicity studies on isomaltooligosaccharides, and the effect on peripheral blood lymphocytes and intestinal microflora. Shokuhin Eiseigaku Zasshi 31 (5):394-403
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