What’s the Difference between Protein Shakes & Protein Bars?

The Protein bar Vs the Protein shake > Differences in terms of protein quality and content, nothing, variations in terms of taste and convenience, very little, but some subtle differences are apparent when protein absorptive capacity and absorption rate is considered.....Let’s discuss.

One of the key benefits of the whey protein shake is its convenience. The powder can be carried around in a shaker ready to be mixed with water or milk immediately after your gym session. Protein bars are arguably even more convenient, they are easily stored and can be prepared and consumed with minimal mess and fuss. It is the consistency of these protein sources that obviously set them apart and make them unique. Parameters such as the quantity, type and consistency of protein effect the digestion, absorption and metabolism of its amino- acids. Absorption is gauged through the biological value of a protein, which determines the amount of protein that is absorbed per protein source. The higher the biological value i.e. the nearer to a BV100, the better the absorption i.e. you utilise and store more amino-acids instead of urinating them out! The rate of absorption is dependent on the physical form of the protein, therefore a protein bar will take longer to chew, degrade, digest and absorb than a liquid and/or semi-elemental (pre-digested) form of protein. The average whey protein shake is absorbed and enters the blood stream within 1.5 hours, at a rate of approximately 8-10g per hour, whereas the average meat or soya protein can take double the time (Dangin, Boirie, Guillet and Beaufrere, 2002)! Protein bars do not take as long as your average steak or chicken breast to digest and absorb into the blood stream, however it might take an estimated 30-60mins longer than a liquid whey protein shake.

In order to maximise the protein from protein bars and shakes, try consuming a protein bar about an hour before your training session, and down a protein shake within 30mins after your session. This is known in the industry as ‘bookending’....give it a try.


Dangin, M., Boirie, Y., Guillet, C, and Beaufrere, B. (2002). Influence of the Protein Digestion Rate on Protein Turnover in Young and Elderly Subjects. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. 10: 32285-32335.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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