Is It OK To Eat A Protein Bar Even If You Didn't Work Out?

"Slash fat post-workout!"
"Bulk up!"
"Slim down!"

What is even inside those wrappers, anyway?

Protein bars are the ultimate dude-bro snack in one aisle and the best "skinny" snack in the next. The only thing that's clear from all that marketing is that protein bars have been giving us mixed messages for a really long time.

And to be honest, behind all the flashy ads, the products really do vary. Some are made with animal proteins, while some are vegan; some are dead set on keeping the ingredient count as low as possible, while others are fluffed up with mineral additives and superfoods.

No two protein bars are really the same. But what they do have in common is that they A) contain protein, and B) are lauded as a healthy snack option for after your workout.

But let's say, for argument's sake, that you didn't work out today. Are they still a healthy snack?

Often, people can become nervous about eating a protein bar without justifying it with a workout. They look at the label and see a calorie count wavering somewhere around 200 and panic. But I didn't burn 200 calories.

To debunk that thought straight away, here are five other healthy snacks that also clock in at about 200 calories:

Pretzels with hummus
An apple and peanut butter
Avocado toast
Yogurt topped with berries and granola

I'd be willing to bet you think of these snacks as perfectly healthy — and they are.

The calories aren't the problem. You need calories to live your life. Even sitting, not moving, and just breathing, you still need calories. Nutritionists actually often recommend snacks that amount to around 200 calories. Why? Because extremely low-calorie snacks don't do anything for you in terms of providing energy to sustain you until your next meal. So workout or not, you're fine.

Common protein bar fear number two: I don't need all that protein if I'm not building muscle.

Also false. Protein is necessary for supporting your body's daily functions — not just muscle building, but all the other stuff, too. Breathing. Growing hair and nails. Maintaining healthy skin.

Additionally, hunger-fighting snacks are made better with a bit of protein. Protein keeps you full because it's often exactly what your body needs. Your hunger is a result of some deficiency in your body — whether it needs fats, proteins, carbs, or some other nutrient, your stomach is clearly trying to tell you something with those nagging growls.

Let's again think about this in terms of other snack foods. A half cup of Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup of granola probably contains around 17 grams of protein, seven grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Your typical protein bar contains about the same.

Would you think that a cup of Greek yogurt was a dietary taboo for someone who doesn't work out? No. Why would a protein bar be any different?

The only difference is the marketing.

So before you toss your stash of protein bars or skip over them in the snack aisle, reconsider. Your protein bar might actually be healthier than other low-protein snacks at most grocery stores, regardless of your activity level.