Month: March 2019

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Marijuana Tourism Is Actually a Thing

While the 2016 election was dizzying for millions of Americans for various and obvious reasons, there was one particular ballot issue that became lost in the clamor: Four more states approved recreational marijuana initiatives in 2016, doubling the number of those that have decriminalized cannabis. As of this writing Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington — all states with huge outdoors industries — have decriminalized recreational marijuana use, as has the District of Columbia.

The push to decriminalize cannabis represents a sea change in how Americans view and interact with recreational marijuana. According to an October 2016 report from Pew Research, 57 percent of U.S. adults say that marijuana use should be legalized, with only 37 percent saying it should remain illegal; for reference, only about 32 percent favored legalization a decade ago.

A 2016 study found that cannabis had already become a $1 billion industry in Colorado by 2015—just three years after it was decriminalized; for context, the state’s lauded craft beer scene represented a $1.2 billion industry that same year.

Given the industry’s novelty and ongoing struggles with legality, cannabis-specific tourism studies are few and far between. That said, a 2017 research paper from the University of Southern Denmark suggested that as many as 70 percent of Denver dispensary customers are from outside Colorado, underscoring the rise in cannabis tourism.

On a broader level, cannabis is poised for extraordinary growth in coming years, especially as dispensaries open in states where the plant is newly decriminalized.

Researchers and experts alike point to Colorado as an industry bellwether. A 2016 study conducted by three Colorado State University researchers found that cannabis had already become a $1 billion industry in Colorado by 2015—just three years after it was decriminalized; for context, the state’s lauded craft beer scene represented a $1.2 billion industry that same year. The researchers also estimated that nationwide cannabis sales could approach $22 billion by 2020.

As the industry explodes, here’s a look at how hotels, travel and outdoor brands, tour operators, and more are coming to grips with cannabis tourism; who’s signing up for those experiences; and what’s next for the nascent industry.

Before They Go: Finding Lodging

As the cannabis tourism industry grows in coming years, travelers will find themselves awash with lodging options.

Colorado-based Bud and Breakfast hopes to help travelers stymied by restricted consumption laws. The listing and booking service advertises cannabis-friendly accommodations around the world—think Airbnb, but for the cannabis crowd—and claims to list more than 160 properties, including apartments, spare rooms, hostels, and ranches.

More mainstream outlets are looking to capitalize on cannabis tourism, as well.

The Portland, Oregon-based Jupiter Hotel has long offered packages that engage travelers looking for the classic Portland experience: The Jupiter’s various packages connect tourists with local tattoo artists, showcase the city’s craft breweries and distilleries, and offer free goodies at the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts.

Its latest promotion, introduced in May 2016, continues that trend. The hotel’s Dope Magazine 420 Experience includes a copy of Dope Magazine, a vape pen, coupons for local dispensaries, munchies, and a rotating selection of 420-themed goodies.

Jupiter Hotel assistant general manager Nick Pearson said the hotel’s brain trust wrestled with how to cater to a real and growing sector of the tourism industry while, at the same time, encouraging “conscientious consumption.” Says Pearson, “We had a way to promote responsible cannabis tourism and really lend a legitimate hand to the industry as a whole in Oregon, as it grew up.”

According to him, the hotel has since sold hundreds of packages. “We’ve gotten great responses from the end users and our partners,” Pearson says. “It really provides an avenue that takes the taboo away from the cannabis industry, and it adds a little legitimacy to it.”

Those visitors aren’t necessarily who you’d expect, either. “It’s more or less impossible to stereotype the cannabis tourist who’s bought the package,” he says. “It’s not just your stereotypical stoner pothead coming in; it’s businessmen who are in town for work; it’s bachelorette parties; it’s an incredibly wide variety of people.”

Exploring the Cannabis Culture on Vacation

Once they arrive, visitors are finding new, engaging ways to explore and interact with the local cannabis culture.

Seattle-based Kush Tourism launched nearly four years ago, shortly after Washington voters made cannabis legal in 2012. The company’s signature, three-and-a-half-hour tour explores the history and growth of cannabis, breaks down the latest science on cannabis and THC, and introduces visitors to glass blowers, dispensaries, and grow operations.

Matt Bentley, tour manager and account executive with Kush Tourism, says the experiences usually attract “middle-aged out-of-towners,” about 75 percent of which consume cannabis regularly, by his estimates. “These are the kids of the ‘60s and ‘70s; they’re both fascinated by this and open-minded,” he says.

Bentley estimates that only a quarter of Kush tourists fit the younger demographic most associated with shifting attitudes toward cannabis use and legalization. “A lot of this information, cutting-edge as it is for the rest of the country, is everyday life for them,” he says.

That said, he speaks fondly of one college student who brought his parents on one of the tours. The student, hoping to open a cannabis farm one day, wanted to legitimize and show off his eventual career path. “This was him bringing his parents into his world, and that was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever done,” Bentley says.

Special Opps for Experienced Users

A number of outfits around the United States are offering more specialized experiences that reflect local culture, no different than cooking classes in New Orleans or architectural tours in Chicago.

Colorado-based My 420 Tours, for instance, goes beyond conventional dispensary tours to offer sushi-and-joint-rolling classes; grow operation tours; cannabis massages; all-inclusive, 420-friendly vacations; and more.

“Part of what I’m trying to do is change the stigma of cannabis. You can break a sweat, enjoy cannabis, and be very social.”

Elsewhere, entrepreneurs have given travelers a chance to sample the local flavor in unconventional ways. Puff Pass and Paint offers cannabis-friendly art classes in three cities throughout the United States; Lit on Lit promises a cannabis-friendly writing workshop, led by Denver-area authors; and Chicks With Knives delivers cannabis cooking classes in Los Angeles.

One of those entrepreneurs, Amarett Jans, launched a series of cannabis-friendly workout parties in (where else?) Portland, Oregon, in November 2016. With Mary Jane Fonda, she saw an opportunity to marry two of her passions—cannabis and fitness—while bringing people together. “Part of what I’m trying to do is change the stigma of cannabis,” Jans says. “You can break a sweat, enjoy cannabis, and be very social.”

Jans, whose classes attract roughly 25 participants per session, sees a natural connection between cannabis and yoga. “It can really deepen your practice, and you’re able to get into a mental zone that’s a little deeper,” she says.

Her parties speak to the mental health benefits associated with cannabis, but the plant has received widespread attention for its medical benefits in recent years. (Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.) Scant research speaks to the medicinal benefits of cannabis—it’s still illegal at the federal level, after all—but signs indicate that some of the cannabinoids found in marijuana may help with seizures, sleeplessness, pain, and other medical issues.

Whether medicinally or recreationally, challenges persist as the cannabis tourism industry matures. California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada won’t open their first dispensaries until 2018; it remains illegal to purchase cannabis in Washington, D.C.; and Washington users may only partake in private areas—which means they can’t light up on the patio at their favorite bar.

Yet those in the industry see increasing opportunities for travelers to learn about, consume, and enjoy legal cannabis in coming years. “We’re here to be an ambassador to the cannabis industry, and we can do more than say, ‘Hey, isn’t it neat that we have cannabis stores in Washington?” Bentley says of Kush Tourism. “If you think about it, there’s an incredible user experience we can provide with cannabis tourism.”

Written by Matt Wastradowski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by my420tours.com

Exploring Colorado’s Front Range Plane Wrecks

Many plane wrecks in Colorado’s mountains remain frozen in time, a testament to the forces of nature and the fallibility of human error. Remnants of hundreds of air accidents are scattered in the Front Range, though in many cases the evidence is scant: a small gear, a few pieces of metal, or a smattering of rusted screws. However, a few extensive debris fields are up there too, some of which have been bleaching in the high-altitude sun for more than 50 years.

Visiting these sites evoke a range of emotions. For most wreck chasers, the allure isn’t in the macabre but rather curiosity. The mechanical aftermath and the sequence of events that added up to disaster all tell stories whose physical imprint remains too remote or too difficult to purge from the land.

Some wreck sites are surprisingly close and easy to access, while others require a good degree of fitness and navigational skills. Explorers looking to see these wreck sites firsthand can start with these three spots. It is important to never tamper with or remove any debris, no matter how small, from wreckage sites—in many cases, it’s illegal. On a larger scale, aviation archaeology involves examining crash sites and, these destinations offer significant debris fields and historical notoriety.

1. Wichita State Plane Wreck

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Extensive debris from the Wichita State wreck.

James Dziezynski

Location: Shoulder of Mount Trelease near Loveland Ski Area

This is the most accessible and most dramatic of Colorado’s plane wrecks. Shattered remains of the Martin 4-0-4 have rested in the forest since October 2, 1970, when the pilot of the craft swept down into the box canyon along I-70 for a better view for the Wichita State football team on board. When the pilot descended too far, he was unable to pull high enough above the trees and crashed. Of the 37 passengers on board, only six survived. The debris field is quite large, with many recognizable objects strewn throughout the wreckage of the aircraft.

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Bolted metal among the wreckage.

James Dziezynski

It should be noted that there are memorials at the wreck site as well as a modest monument directly off I-70 about a mile from the crash side (you can see it on the westbound side near a large digital highway sign). Incredibly, this site is less than a mile as the crow flies from I-70, but remains lightly visited. Please be respectful when you visit—unlike other wreck sites, there is a significant essence of the human spirit remaining in this quiet, unassuming destination.

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Hydraulic components in the debris.

James Dziezynski

How to Get There

From I-70, take the the Loveland Exit (216). Coming from westbound I-70, take the exit, then take a sharp right turn onto a dirt road before crossing under I-70 and follow it a few hundred feet to parking at a gate. If exiting eastbound, take a left off the exit, then left under the I-70 bridges and then right to the same dirt road. This accesses Dry Gulch. Follow the road up roughly a half-mile and before a fenced storage lot, take a left up an old, overgrown access road into the woods. There are no marked trails here, but the initial path/road is steep but well defined. About a mile in, look for a cairn on the left of the trail. This social trail leads to the wreck, but may be tricky to spot. The coordinates of the wreck are  39°41'35.69"N 105°52'56.94"W. (Note if you put those coordinates in Google Earth, you can make out a bit of the wreckage.) Mountainousword.com also offers a more detailed guide.

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The main debris field from above.

James Dziezynski

2. Navajo Peak

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A look at Navajo Peak (right, with snow). Airplane gully is just left of the middle “peak”.

James Dziezynski

Location: 12,900 feet near the summit ridge of 13,409-foot Navajo Peak

It takes some effort to reach this wreck site, as it involves off-trail hiking and scrambling up a somewhat hard-to-find, loose, rocky gully. Debris from the C-47 craft is strewn to the base of the gully, where small gears and sheared metal is a prelude to the larger wreckage. Scramble up the eponymous Airplane Gully 900 vertical feet to 12,900 feet, where the fuselage, motors, wired boxes, and other debris sit. The wreckage has remained here for almost 60 years—the plane crashed on January 21, 1948 due to strong winds and foul weather. Most hikers will continue on to the class 3 summit of Navajo Peak after coming this far, though it’s an optional scramble with some thrilling exposure.

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A wing fragment at the base of Airplane Gully.

James Dziezynski

How to Get There

Start from the Long Lake Trailhead at Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Follow the Long Lake Trail to the Isabelle Glacier Trail, and at 3.5 miles from the start, head off trail and begin the tricky navigation through marshy, rocky terrain to the base of Airplane Gully. Ascend the gully, staying right at a high fork that leads to the bulkhead and main wreck site. Read more about this route on summitpost.

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Engine components at the main wreck site on Navajo Peak.

James Dziezynski

3. Jasper Peak Wreck

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Some sort of gear assembly at the Jasper Peak wreck site.

James Dziezynski

Location: Unnamed lake at 11,575 feet, near Jasper Peak

Unlike the previous two wrecks, this crumpled plane is a small craft. According to crash records, the plane is an AT-6 that went down on December 15, 1971. This is confirmed by the “checked wing” on the side of the craft. Developed in 1935 as an “Advanced Trainer” (thus the AT in the name) for Mustang fighters in World War II, the AT-6 remained in production until 1962, by then relegated to airshow duty. It’s quite a curious aircraft to be in the mountains, and the cause of the crash is unknown. The wreck itself is mashed into a boulder but is very recognizable. The hike up goes off-trail a bit to an unnamed lake at 11,575 feet at the foot of Jasper Peak (itself not formally named but well known in Colorado by that moniker).

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The remains of the AT-6 showing the tell-tale checked pattern on the wing.

James Dziezynski

How to Get There

Start at the 4th of July Trailhead out of the tiny town of Eldora. This road is rocky and bumpy but carefully driven passenger cars can make it to within 200 feet of the trailhead proper and there is parking at this junction. Hike on the Arapaho Pass Trail 1 mile then divert to the Diamond Lake Trail. At 0.4 miles farther at Middle Boulder Creek, go off-trail and navigate through up through a tricky basin to the unnamed lake. The lake is located at 40.000076, -105.671124 (Google Map coordinates) and is much easier to reach in summer, when the snowfields on the approach are mostly gone. At roughly 2.7 miles from the start of the trek, you’ll reach the unnamed lake; on its west side, the wreckage gleams in the sun.

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The unnamed lake at 11,575 where the Jasper wreckage sits on the west shores.

James Dziezynski

If You Go

For more information on many of the plane wrecks in Colorado, visit planecrashmap.com—and be prepared to be shocked how many planes have crashed in Colorado. Another older but still interesting website is coloradowreckchasing.com. It features good info from a passionate wreck chaser, but keep in mind that as of 2016, the site hasn’t been updated in over a year.

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter: How to Plan Your Adventure

Getting out of the Front Range and up to Rocky Mountain National Park is an obvious (and popular) escape in the summer. But what about in the winter, when so few other souls are there? You’ll practically have the whole place to yourself.

A trip to the park in the winter means you’ll experience something truly unique to Colorado: prime and easily accessed snow-centric recreation in one of the most spectacular national parks in the world. Indeed, RMNP offers some of the best winter recreation within an hour’s drive from Boulder, with sledding, winter camping, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, and ski touring and winter mountaineering in the park’s high country and snowier west side of the Continental Divide. Another bonus? You'll avoid the dreaded traffic on I-70.

Here, all the intel you need to know for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

Winter Hiking

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The trails of RMNP are much less crowded in the winter.

Aaron Bible

The simplest way to experience the park in the winter is exploring the same trails you do in the summertime. Yet you'll have the entire winter wonderland to yourself, a snow-blanketed, serene landscape where you can spot animal tracks in the snow, drink from Thermoses, and pretend you're on an Arctic expedition far from civilization.

The best spots for hiking are primarily in the lower valleys and eastern side of the park, where trails often remain clear of snow, especially below 8,500 feet. Almost every trail on the east side of the park can be hiked with snowshoes, which basically means you just have to roll in and pull up to your favorite trailhead (and now would be an ideal time to check out those that might seem too crowded or easy in the summer). Using poles is always recommended.

If you decide to hike without snowshoes, proceed with caution, and be sure not to hike through deep snow, as it leaves behind post holes that are hazardous and annoying to skiers and snowshoers.

Places to Explore

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Be sure to bring a camera to capture stunning winter landscapes in RMNP.

Steven Bratman

One cool idea for a winter hike is the five-mile Chasm Falls trail, gaining about 400 feet of elevation from the West Alluvial Fan parking lot. Strap in and hike 1.5 miles to the junction of Endovalley Road and Old Fall River Road, taking in the scenery. Continue up Old Fall River Road about a mile to the falls. Consider this a place to explore for ice climbing as well, sitting at 8,960 feet. Follow signs to Chasm Falls as Highway 34 runs into Horseshoe Park. At the west end of Horseshoe Park, Endovalley Road leads over a bridge to the winter road closure.

Another recommended but more difficult hike is Deer Mountain. It's about six miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of more than 1,000 feet. Continue on Highway 36 approximately 4.5 miles after passing park headquarters to the Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead. Wind your way to the summit through mixed pine forest for views of the Continental Divide at 10, 013 feet.

Insider tip: This is one of those trails that you start out on thinking you don’t need snowshoes, but when you get to the top, deep snow and snow drifts change the game. So go prepared with snowshoes or skis if you’re serious about exploring.

Winter Camping in RMNP

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Rocky Mountain National Park in winter comes with sublime camping opportunities.

MAD Hippies Life

There's no other way to experience so much blissful solitude and beauty, especially so close to home, than winter camping in Colorado high country. Don't let the temps scare you; just pack up, bundle up, and get out of town.

Whether you’ve got a camper, RV, van or just want to tough it out in a tent, Timber Creek, Longs Peak, and Moraine Park campgrounds inside the park are open year-round.

Snowshoeing in to the Timber Creek and Longs Peak campgrounds with all your gear may be adventure enough for many. And bear in mind that only Moraine Park will have water in the winter and RV dump stations are closed.

Backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter is an adventure, no matter how far you wander. Just be sure to pick up a free permit at park headquarters and get some beta from the rangers regarding conditions and avalanche danger. Assure them you are prepared for winter camping so they don’t try to talk you out of it. That means wearing lots of layers of insulating, waterproof clothing, having plenty of water, high-fructose food sources, several ways to make heat and fire, eye protection, and sunscreen. Never travel alone in the backcountry, especially in the winter, and keep eyes peeled for wildlife. Be prepared for short days, cold temps, high winds, and the potential for quickly deteriorating weather. And keep in mind that dogs are not allowed in the backcountry of the National Parks.

Skiing

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Winter ski touring in RMNP requires the right equipment set up of boots, skis and bindings.

Aaron Bible

Rocky Mountain National Park is known worldwide for some of most authentic backcountry skiing and split boarding near the Front Range, but it’s also vast and dangerous. While people often talk about skiing in Wild Basin and ski mountaineering routes on the high peaks, the old abandoned ski area within the park, called Hidden Valley, remains one of the best places to backcountry ski. It's also a great spot for sledding with the family. You won’t find any lifts at this ski area, which operated from 1949-1992, just an old warming hut, but you will find gladed bowl skiing at various slope angles, making it a solid choice during most snow conditions.

The basin sits at about 9,500 feet and skiers can get almost 2,000 vertical feet if they're willing to work for it. Trail Ridge Road now divides the old area, and below the road is where the beginner slopes were. Above the road, experts will find steeper terrain. All of the former Hidden Valley Ski Area buildings have been removed and there are new facilities in place. This is a legitimate backcountry skiing experience with variable snow and conditions so, know before you go.

Winter Beta

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Rocky Mountain National Park in winter is full of serene landscapes.

Desiree Kane

Rocky Mountain National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The RMNP Fall River Visitor Center is only open on weekends. Before your trip, study the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website for important info. If you don’t have your own gear or didn’t pick it up in Boulder, you can rent in Estes Park or Grand Lake at several shops. And be sure to check road conditions beforehand, too.

From Boulder take Highway 36 through Lyons and on to Estes Park. You can also go through Nederland (119) and the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway (72 to 7) to Estes Park. Or take I-25 to Highway 34 to Estes Park, a route that's sometimes easier in the winter. The Peak to Peak route is the most scenic with cool stops and views of Longs Peak. Pass the Stanley Hotel on the right as Highway 34 becomes Fall River Road entering the park.

Written by Aaron Bible for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by MAD Hippies Life

The Best Protein Bars: The Tastiest And Healthiest Options

They ain’t cheap and can contain more calories and sugar than chocolate bars. Choose wisely with our expert’s guide and top picks.

Protein is so much more convenient these days. Where once gym-goers had to tuck into a couple of rotisserie chickens to refuel their muscles after a hefty workout, they can now mix up a protein shake or, more convenient still, tuck into a protein bar.

Protein bars are now widely available, involve zero preparation, and generally taste good enough to seem like a treat as well as a way to help build muscle. However, there are downsides to protein bars, mainly involving the diamond-hard texture of some of them, and you need to be careful not to overindulge because they’re not simply a guilt-free replacement to chocolate. Read on for the full lowdown on what to look for in a protein bar and a few of our favourites.

Protein Bars Buyer’s Guide

Before you start grabbing fistfuls of bars it’s important to know what you should be looking for. The headline is obviously how much protein they contain, but as with all processed food you have to be careful to avoid hidden nutritional nasties. To help determine what you need to check, we enlisted Kurtis Frank from nutrition and supplement encyclopaedia examine.com.

What should people look for when choosing a protein bar?

“The main factors for choosing a protein bar would be taste, macronutrient composition – how many carbs, proteins and fats there are – and price,” says Frank.

Most protein bars will deliver somewhere between 15g and 25g of protein. Beyond that, you want to look at how much protein you are getting per calorie.

“For macronutrient composition, most bars are either just under 200 calories while giving 15g of protein or are around 250 calories for 25g of protein,” says Frank.

“Both these options are good for overall health and performance since, at the end of the day, they should only be making up a small percentage of your total calories.”

Also make sure you are actually buying a protein bar, not a general energy bar that’s aimed at endurance activities where loads of carbs are required.

“There are quite a few performance bars out there, such as Clif bars, that are meant for snacks during athletics such as biking or hiking,” says Frank.

“They're pretty much all carbs so they don’t work as a protein bar to eat at work or between meals.”

The price of protein bars can vary hugely, and there will be monstrously bad ones at the cheaper end of things. However, if you can find a cheap bar you like, it will obviously help you save money and there are bargains available, especially if you shop online.

“When it comes to price, a premium protein bar can easily be one of the most expensive things in your diet on a per-calorie basis,” says Frank.

“They aren’t cheap, but the cheap ones also tend to taste worse and be made with poorer ingredients so it ultimately ends up being a balancing act based on your preferences and how much you are willing to spend. It is always worth it to at least try the cheaper bars since they might taste good to you and end up saving you money.

“Aim to get a decent amount of protein per calorie and don’t spend too much money unless you need to. If you’ve found a brand you really like then consider buying in bulk online as you can save a lot that way.”

What difference does the type of protein make?

Protein brands will offer many varieties in their bars, and the terms used can be pretty confusing for the layman. Luckily, it shouldn’t matter too much which protein is in your bar.

“The different types of protein matter much less in a protein bar than they do in shakes,” says Frank, “since the rate of absorption for proteins are inherently slowed when put into a solid form and paired with dietary fats and fibres.

“The types of protein with higher biological values [the percentage of the protein that is absorbed by your body] are still technically better but ultimately they're all close enough that debating about milk protein concentrate versus whey isolate is irrelevant.”

A couple of things you should look out on the label is whether there is a high amount of gelatine or soy concentrate, says Frank.

“The only real ways that the protein type is relevant is if there is a high gelatine content, which provides amino acids and appears as protein on a nutritional label but is not a nourishing protein type, or if you're getting 30g of soy concentrate, since in high doses there could be a mild oestrogenic effect [ie it will raise your levels of oestrogen, the female sex hormone] and 30g of the protein is a pretty high dose. Keep in mind soy lecithin is not soy protein and is totally fine in a protein bar.”

Should you be wary of calories and sugar in protein bars?

It’s easy to view your protein bar as a healthy snack, especially as you’ll regularly eat it before or after a gym visit and won’t be so concerned about keeping tabs on your food. However, they can contain more calories and sugar than you might expect, as we found out in our taste test.

“You definitely should be worried about calories and sugars in protein bars,” says Frank, “just as much as you would with candy bars. Just because it can be seen as healthy doesn't make its consumption a free pass to be omitted from your dietary logs or calorie counts.”

On the other hand, you can also pick up protein bars that contain unexpected health bonuses, especially when it comes to upping your fibre intake.

“It is usually a good idea to get at least 5g of dietary fibre in a protein bar,” says Frank. “It helps it go down better, and a lot of us need help to get a decent amount of fibre in our diets.”

What else should you look out for in a protein bar?

Reading the label on protein bars won’t tell you anything about the texture. The worst of them can be rock-hard and leave you chewing for hours.

“Whether or not it can be used as a brick cannot easily be conveyed through the label,” says Frank. “It will ultimately require some taste testing to find out which ones can break a window when thrown.

“Sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol are more common in the cheaper protein bars that are looking to reduce calories by swapping natural sugars out for these ones. While they can be consumed in moderation and aren't necessarily bad, they can definitely cause gastrointestinal upset in some people. If you're eating a protein bar before exercise, this is the last thing you want.”

The Best Protein Bars

Armed with this knowledge about what to look for in protein bars, we bravely chomped our way through as many as possible. Many brands offer a huge range of different bars, so we picked our favourite to eat, based on taste and texture, and then looked into the macronutrients it offered. In no particular order, here are our favourite protein bars.

Grenade Carb Killa

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Birthday Cake

The bar has multi-coloured sprinkles on it, which immediately makes it a winner in our book. The flavour is reminiscent of white chocolate mixed with icing, but nowhere near as cloyingly sweet as that sounds – it’s actually very pleasant. Make no mistake, if this was produced as your actual birthday cake, you’d feel let down, but it’s a great treat to have after a workout.

The fine details: The 60g Carb Killa bar delivers 20g of protein for 218 calories, and each contains just 1.7g of sugar, with sucralose used as the sweetener. The birthday cake flavour contains just 1.8g of fibre in each bar, which is less than other options – the Jaffa Quake packs in 6.8g per bar – but then to our knowledge it contains 100% more sprinkles than any other flavour, so swings and roundabouts.

OTE Protein Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Milk Chocolate Peanut

We won’t lie to you, this is a dry one. The texture is a little pasty, which is never what you want, and the peanut butter only adds to that. Have a glass of water handy. Plus, more chocolate is required.

The fine details: So, if it doesn’t taste great, why is it here? It’s because the 45g bar packs in 22.4g of protein for just 159 calories, which, according to OTE, is the best protein-to-calories ratio on the market. It’s the best we’ve seen for sure.

NamedSport Crunchy Protein Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Dark Orange

We like a bit of crunch in our protein bar, because many of them stray into the way-too-chewy category, and the texture of NamedSport’s bar certainly lives up to its moniker. The flavour is excellent too, with the orange bringing plenty of zing to the party.

The fine details: Not the highest protein content you’ll find, at only 13g for a 40g bar, but the calories are also low at 152.

Beachbody Beachbar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Chocolate Cherry Almond

You really can’t go wrong with chocolate, cherry and almond. The taste is excellent, and the bar’s texture is spot on too. Crispy and immensely satisfying.

The fine details: At just 35g this is one of the smaller bars we’ve tried and the calorie count is kept low as a result – just 151. Consequently, at 10g per bar the protein content isn’t that high either. But despite packing in plenty of chocolate chips and dried cherries, the amount of sugar is also low at 6g, and the 4g of fibre is music to our ears.

Real Handful

A post shared by Real Handful (@realhandful) on Jul 16, 2018 at 3:50am PDT

Our favourite bar: Choc Orange

If it didn’t have “protein bar” written on the packaging we wouldn’t have considered it for this round-up as it’s packing meagre amounts of the stuff. We’re glad we deigned to try it, though, because it is the most delicious bar here. Both sea salt caramellow and choc orange flavours are built on a tasty fruit, nut and seed bar, but the latter throws in orange oil and a cocoa top layer. That’s right, cocoa and not chocolate – this is a bar vegans can safely wolf down.

The fine details: Are you ready? Remember it’s tasty as heck. Protein registers, barely, at 6.4g for 198 calories and since it’s all “real” food the lack of sweeteners means sugar ranks high, with 12g in every 40g bar. And because nuts are the main ingredient fat is a punchy 13g, though only 3.6g of that is saturated.

MyProtein Carb Crusher

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Carb Crusher Strawberry Cheesecake

MyProtein seems to have developed the knack of making what could be disgustingly sweet flavours remarkably pleasant. That was the case with its PRO BAR Elite Toffee Vanilla, and the brand has repeated the feat with this strawberry cheesecake bar, which scores high for both its taste and its not-too-chewy texture.

The fine details: Our hats aren’t just off here, they’re hovering several feet above our head, because MyProtein has found space for 11g of fibre in a 60g bar. Lovely to see. Our hats did return slightly closer to Earth when we discovered the 2.7g of sugars, but still, that’s not very much sugar. On the protein front you get 21g and there are 212 calories in each bar. A nice bonus comes in the shape of a whole load of vitamins and minerals that MyProtein has chucked into the mix. There’s around 100% of your recommended daily allowance of 20 different vitamins and minerals, in fact.

The HiLo Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Dark chocolate and mint crunch

The first time we opened the dark chocolate and mint crunch bar we were hit with a knee-trembling whiff of rich chocolate. The bar stood up to the taste test too, although it couldn’t escape that protein supplement aftertaste – unlike the milk chocolate and caramel option, which didn’t scale the taste highs but deftly sidestepped the lows.

The fine details: 20g of protein for 190 calories is strong stuff, 9.6g of fibre is top-notch as is the 1.1g of sugar, and the bar even provides your recommended daily intake of five vitamins and throws in some minerals for good measure. While it’s a very different experience from the MyProtein Carb Crusher above, it’s got a very similar nutritional profile.

Optimum Nutrition Whipped Bites

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Chocolate

These guys are not afraid to be different. Rather than one large bar, the Whipped Bites come as TWO smaller bars. And the bars look like mini rolls. So far, so exciting. And they back up their mini-roll looks with a rich chocolatey taste and a not-too-chewy texture. It’s a winner all round.

The fine details: You get the standard 20g of protein per 76g bar, with the calorie count a reasonable 243. Fibre is strong at 7g and there’s only 1.9g of sugar.

Eat Natural Protein Packed

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Peanuts And Chocolate

Unlike supplement companies who move to protein bars from protein powders, Eat Natural have a snack bar heritage which means its protein offering should be especially tasty. And it is – it tastes like a crunchy cereal bar, with chunks of dark chocolate and coconut. The catch is that you get a lot less protein…

The fine details: Just 10g of protein per 45g bar, a little under what most people like to put away straight after a heavy workout session. As a way to top up your protein intake during the day, however, Eat Natural bars are a better snack than biscuits or cake, but keep an eye on the sugar – each bar contains 8.4g. Finally, the fibre – a decent 3.3g per bar.

SiS Protein Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Mint chocolate

Think of this as the best version you can get of the traditional protein bar. It’s chewy – really clamp-that-jaw-down chewy – and swerves the artificial sweeteners, although that does mean there’s a hefty dose of sugar. That’s why we’d plump for the mint flavour – it balances out the sweetness nicely. On the plus side, it packs in a mix of proteins (whey, casein and soy), plus it’s sporting the Informed-Sport mark.

The fine details: There’s a healthy 20g of protein in the 220 calories, but 17g of sugars and a meagre 1.1g of fibre.

Staxx Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Dark chocolate mint

Some protein bars and brands will forever be associated with extremely hench men and women, but Staxx is your friendly, pick-me-up-by-the-supermarket-checkout kinda bar. Branding aside, the make-up of these bars is no different to the muscle-building sort. They have improved on the texture though, with a beguiling combination of a crisp top layer and dense, chewy centre. The peanut and caramel flavour does a decent approximation of a Snickers, but the new dark chocolate mint is the real standout.

The fine details: The dark chocolate mint flavour has just 0.7g of sugar, claiming the crown for the lowest levels on this list. Protein clocks in at 20g, which is bang on the money for a 222-calorie bar, and there’s a decent 6.6g serving of trusty fibre.

Barebells Protein Bar

Our favourite bar: Coconut-choco

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but Barebells’ design is worth precisely one – “lifestyle”, with a premium 1950s Americana look that’s undeniably alluring. However, the flavours are a bit of let-down – the salty peanut is lacking in salt and the milky aftertaste of the proteins tends to dominate across the range. If pushed, we’ll recommend the coconut-choco because the topping of desiccated coconut is a nice touch.

The fine details: It’s another of the new breed of bars with very low sugar, just 1.6g, and with 20g of protein in just 199 calories it’s punching above its weight class. There’s also a respectable 3.9g of fibre per 55g bar.

Maximuscle Promax Lean

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Chocolate Mint

The packet bashfully says low sugar. We say “bashfully” because it’s got one of the lowest sugar content of any bar on this list, with a mere 1g per 55g bar. It’s quite the achievement since the bars still taste like a sweet treat and somehow they’ve been able to mask the gross aftertaste of protein powder. While both Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Flavours have fans in the Coach office, Chocolate Mint is the most impressive with its tangy mint notes and a sprinkling of cocoa puffs on top.

The fine details: A perfectly respectable 20g of protein is complemented by a hefty 7.5g of fibre per bar. The Promax Lean is going to be a tough act to follow.

The Primal Pantry

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Cocoa Brownie

Vegans aren’t always well served by protein bar makers, but these bars buck the trend by using hemp protein. Not vegan? You may still want to pick these bars because while making a virtue of being made from “real food” may be groan-inducing, the consistency is real nice. The Mixed Berry flavour has a pleasant tang but Cocoa Brownie edges it by tasting like the real thing.

The fine details: The 15g of protein per bar is an impressive tally given they couldn’t lean on whey protein as an ingredient, but – holy sweet tooth Batman! – sugar clocks in at 20g. To be fair, that’ll be the dates, but still, that’s a lot of sugar.

Prime Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Chilli & Red Pepper

Heavens to Betsy, what’s this? A protein bar made with something you’d recognise as real food? Prime beef, no less! These bars are designed to be eaten on the go during ultramarathons and other endurance events. To help it go down, the beef is deliciously moist and the flavour puts it miles ahead of artificial alternatives, with a warming kick from the chilli.

The fine details:  The Prime Bar might not rack up the same protein count as the other bars on this list, with 12g per 50g bar, and there’s 5.5g of sugar and 1.25g of salt in each one, but it’s the taste that counts here.

Sens Protein Bar

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Peanut Butter & Cinnamon

Crickets are the ethically sound protein source of the future, requiring 12 times less feed, 15 times less land and 2,000 times less water to produce the same amount of protein as cattle. They also produce 100 times less greenhouse gases than cows thanks to all the farting and burping done by the latter. Do crickets fart and burp? Presumably, but less than cows, at least.

Why enlighten you so? Because this protein bar is 20% cricket, which is great news for the planet and also for you, because crickets are flavourless. This allows the delicious cinnamon taste to come through with force. The texture is dry and crumbly, but it’s not a problem providing you have a drink to hand to wash it down. It’s like halva, if you’ve ever had that. If you haven’t, try halva. It’s delicious, like this bar.

The fine details: Crickets pack in the protein to the tune of 20g per 60g bar. The fibre content is modest at 1.6g, while sugars are fairly high at 7.4g, and the overall calorie count is sizeable at 318. Still though, crickets! What a time to be alive.

Multipower

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Coach

Our favourite bar: 53% Coconut

This. Is. Incredible. The texture is perfect, no more chewy than any non-protein chocolate bar, and the taste is a coconut sensation. It’s a hench Bounty bar. In fact, all of Multipower’s 53% and 40% bars impressed when it comes to taste and texture – they’re thin and easy to eat.

The fine details: There’s more good news here. Despite their svelte shape, the 53% Coconut bars contain 27g of protein for 210 calorie. There’s only 1.5g of sugars too, but the fibre content isn’t listed, so there’s one black mark.

Maxi Nutrition

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Maximuscle Oat & Raisin Progain Flapjack

There are a lot of options in the Max Nutrition protein bar range. Many of them fall into the too chewy category, but not this oaty treat. Flapjacks are one of the finest foods available and this protein-filled version does them justice.

The fine details: As you’d expect from a flapjack, the calorie count is high at 305 per bar. The protein tally is a respectable 20g, but there’s also 41.2g of carbs including 7.8g of sugar to consider, so these have to be classed as an energy-providing treat to use before or after your more intense workouts. One big plus is the 6.9g of fibre they pack in. That’s over a fifth of your recommended 30g a day.

Sci-MX

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Coach

Our favourite bar: Pro2Go Duo Caramel & Vanilla

This is aimed squarely at those with a sweet tooth, but if you do enjoy something sugary post-workout, it’ll hit the spot and then some. The level of chewiness is just about perfect.

The fine details: The sugar levels are menacingly high at 11g per bar. In contrast, the fibre levels clock in at precisely 0g, which isn’t great. The protein-to-calories ratio isn’t the best either, at 20g for 221 calories. They are inordinately sweet though, so if that floats your boat they’re hard to beat.

MyProtein

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Coach

Our favourite bar: PRO BAR Elite Toffee Vanilla

Toffee vanilla is a flavour that normally makes teeth itch before you even take a bite, but these bars actually keep a lid on their sweetness. More impressive still is the texture, which hits the sweet spot of being satisfying without having to chew until your jaw aches.

The fine details: Hats off to MyProtein – this is a strong all-rounder in the nutritional stakes. There’s 26g of protein for 231 calories, a not unreasonable sugar tally of 3.9g, and a solid 3.9g of fibre.

BodyMe

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Our favourite bar: Cacao Orange

Its chewy, dense texture is one of the most satisfying of the protein bars we tried, and despite the massive amounts of sugar involved it doesn’t taste cloying. We could (and have) eaten a lot of these.

The fine details: Unfortunately the ratio of protein to calories and sugar is off the charts, and not in a good way. You get 16.2g of protein for 251 calories and a monstrous 15.1g of sugar with these guys, all of which is only partially compensated by the 3.3g of fibre and assorted vitamins and minerals they contain.

Nutrition X Pro X

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Coach

Our favourite bar: White chocolate

Nutrition X has doubled the available flavours in its Pro X range. Where once you were stuck with brownie flavour, you can now choose between that and white chocolate. While the former isn’t going to fool anyone in a blind taste test with a real brownie, the latter does taste like white chocolate with a thin caramel filling and a slight crunch thanks to the soy crisps.

If you’re an Olympian in waiting, it’s also worth mentioning the range is Informed-Sport accredited so you shouldn’t fall foul of testing positive for something on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned substance list. Well, not from eating these bars, at least.

The fine details: At very nearly 20g of protein for 200 calories and just 2.3g of sugars, this ersatz white chocolate bar is undoubtedly healthier than the real thing. However, what really got us excited – and excited really is the right word – is the 5.7g of fibre each bar packs in.

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Featured image provided by Coach

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