Artificial Sweeteners: Eating These Protein Bars is Like Drinking Soda

If you knew a protein bar contained the same artificial sweetener used in soft drinks, would you eat it?

In this post, we take a look at the soft drink industry, along with the health effects of artificial sugar substitutes used in diet soda. After examining those findings, we discuss the striking similarities between soft drinks and protein bars made with the same artificial nonsense.

For starters, let's examine the classic diet soda versus regular soda debate.

Diet soda is commonly known for using artificial sweeteners, but is it worse for us than regular soda?

Diet Soda vs Regular Soda (Artificial Sweeteners vs Sugar)

Diet soda versus regular soda has been an ongoing debate in the food industry over the past decade or so. While it remains uncertain which is worse for us, research suggests both are terrible for our health and wellbeing.

It’s no secret why soft drinks offer “diet” alternatives — it’s a marketing tactic. Artificial sweeteners allow companies to slap “zero sugar” on the front of their packaging and call it a day.

The reason this has worked for so long is because we know sugars are bad for us, whereas the health effects of artificial sugar substitutes like aspartame and sucralose aren’t exactly common knowledge, yet.

Artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain and increased BMI, among other health complications.

The prevalence of artificial sweeteners throughout the food industry has led to increasing amounts of data for researchers to work with. In turn, reliable findings are beginning to surface.

Most recently, a group of researchers at the University of Manitoba reviewed dozens of studies examining the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners, trying to see if any ongoing trends persist.

The study revealed that routine consumption of artificial sweeteners was associated with weight gain, increased BMI (body mass index), metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. [1]

In part, these effects are explained by an imbalance that occurs in the brain when we consume sugar substitutes.

In 2016, researchers from the University of Sydney examined why artificial sweeteners can make us feel hungry, and in turn, cause us to overeat.

Artificial Sweeteners Similar to Sugar in Terms of Health Effects

“After chronic exposure to a diet that contained the artificial sweetener sucralose, we saw that animals began eating a lot more,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Greg Neely from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science.


The researchers went on to identify that inside the brain’s reward centers, sweet sensation is integrated with energy content. [2And that's exactly where the issue lies.

Artificial sweeteners contain zero calories (energy content), so consuming a sugar substitute like sucralose creates an imbalance in the brain where sweet sensation outweighs energy content. In turn, the brain recalibrates and starts to crave more calories to make up for the lack of energy it received from an empty sweet sensation.

What does this have to do with protein bars?

For starters, let's think back to marketing tactics. Brands promoting protein bars that contain artificial sweeteners have the exact same playbook as the brands promoting diet soda.

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar Made With Artificial Sweetener Sucralose

Pure Protein Bar Contains Artificial Sweetener Sucralose

ONE Bar Protein Bar Contains Artificial Sweetener Sucralose

As you can see, protein bar labels often display low sugar content as a featured sell-point. And once again, common knowledge amongst consumers is what ultimately makes this tactic so effective. We know that too much sugar is bad for us, whereas the health effects associated with sugar substitutes are yet to reach the masses in our society.

Meanwhile, popular brands like Quest Nutrition (Quest Bar), Pure Protein (Pure Protein Bar) and OhYeah! (One Bar) use the artificial sweetener sucralose in their protein bars. 

But keep in mind, these are just three examples in a market saturated with unhealthy products. Other brands that use sucralose in their protein bars include, but are not limited to: Muscle Pharm, BalanceDiet, Optimum Nutrition, Syntha-6, Premier Protein, BPI Sports, etc.

Next, let's discuss why sugar substitutes ultimately ruin the good intentions of eating a protein bar in the first place.

Eating a protein bar made with an artificial sweetener is like mixing protein powder with a can of diet soda.

Protein Bars With Artificial Sweeteners - Similar to Diet Soda

Protein bars made with artificial sweeteners typically contain fewer calories than protein bars made with real ingredients from whole food sources.


Because artificial sweeteners contain zero calories — or in other words, they don't have energy content.

As we know, this causes an imbalance to occur in the brain, where sweet sensation outweighs energy content. In turn, the brain recalibrates, and we start to crave real sugar and carbohydrates to make up for the lack of energy produced by a sugar substitute.

This can lead to overeating, which makes us susceptible to the health effects identified in the first study we discussed, where researchers at the University of Manitoba found routine consumption of artificial sweeteners was associated with weight gain, increased BMI, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

Now consider the idea that sucralose is the artificial sweetener used in soft drinks like Pepsi One and Diet Mountain Dew, among others. Meanwhile, companies like Quest Nutrition use sucralose to make protein bars.

Something to think about.

If you knew a protein bar contained the same artificial sweetener used in soft drinks, would you eat it?

Now you know, eating a protein bar made with an artificial sweetener is like mixing a can of diet soda with protein powder. We recommend reading the ingredients list each time before purchasing a new product, because labels can be deceiving.

And for those interested, check out the protein bars on our website. All of our products are made with real ingredients from the natural world. No fake ingredients allowed at Mauer Sports Nutrition.

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