REVIEW: ONE Brand Basix Bars (Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter, Triple Chocolate)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of ONE brand protein bars. In fact, I’ve ranked every single one of their flavors and it remains one of the most popular posts on this site getting new visitors nearly every day. The company is known for delivering bars with 20 grams of protein, decent fiber, and only one gram of sugar, but they have a major drawback – sugar alcohols. ONE recently rolled back the amount of sugar alcohols in their bars by roughly half, but they’re taking the natural angle to a whole new level with a fresh line of Basix Bars naturally sweetened with stevia and overall simpler ingredients. The roll out comes in three very standard options for those familiar with protein bars – Triple Chocolate Chunk, Cookie Dough Chocolate Chunk, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk.

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REVIEW: Quest Birthday Cake Coated Protein Bar

If pumpkin spice is the seasonal signifier of the basic b, then birthday cake is the quintessential staple of the basic’s day to day favorite flavor. My tastebud’s tendencies keep me right in line with all the basic ladies of the world, and just like I love me some spice I love me a good birthday cake flavored treat. Ice cream, candy, lotion, candles, and yep, protein bars. While this trend is far from new, in fact I think it peaked a couple years ago, the biggest player in the protein bar game are extremely late to the party. This week Quest showed up when everyone was already wasted and stumbling with their Birthday Cake coated protein bar.

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This bar is a bit of a deviation for the company, using a coated outer layer similar to Oh Yeah’s One bars instead of the usual plain outer skin. It certainly looks pretty enough, studded with a smattering of fun confetti dots and a semi-glossy coating that is incredibly soft and smooth.

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Biting in the initial taste is very creamy, sweet, and slightly salty, making a combination that truly does remind me of a well balanced buttercream. The texture is soft, chewy, and fresh, leaving a pretty positive initial impression. Unfortunately after the first couple chews a very strong and unpleasant artificial sugar flavor takes over that is inescapably powerful. While Quest bars do tend to carry a bit of a sucralose finish, this bar leans way too heavy on an astringent artificial flavor that takes away from any birthday cake potential it had. While the outer coating provides some nice creaminess, the inside of the bar is very bland and flavorless, leaving little reason to want to eat more of these bars.

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The biggest issue here, aside from the fact that the bar legitimately doesn’t taste good, is that there are far too many better options already on the market. Oh Yeah One’s Birthday Cake is a staple with comparable macros, and very strong offerings from MuscleTech and Fit Joy have been out for over a year as well. Quest has had some pretty solid releases recently with Mocha Chocolate Chip and last years Cereal Bars, but this one is a major step backwards for a company that at this point really needs to be pushing the envelope with portable protein supplements. If someone showed up to my birthday party with this bar I would revoke their party privileges and show them to the door.

Rating: 4/10
Found at: GNC ($2.39)
Quick Nutrition: 180 cal – 5g fat – 3g sat fat – 220mg sodium – 25g carb – 14g fiber – 1g sugar – 21g protein

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RANKING: ONE Brand Protein Bars

ONE Brand bars might just be the most consistently delicious and nutritionally sound protein bars out there.  There are brands with more flavors (Quest), and some that achieve a bolder taste (Fit Crunch), but through and through these bars deliver great taste with only one gram of sugar and a solid dose of protein and fiber.  With many options to choose from I’ve compiled my all inclusive list of ONE bar flavors including their newest – Red Velvet and Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake.

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1. Cinnamon Bun – I love cinnamon, and this bar not only delivers a cool blast of spice but the buttery nuances of yeasty rolls. It’s delicious, just sweet enough, and proves why Oh Yeah! have completely dominated low sugar flavor emulation.

2. Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake – chocolate and peanut butter is one of the greatest combinations known to man, and this bar pays homage to that glorious marriage wonderfully. It’s more peanut butter than it is chocolate, and surprisingly less sweet than a lot of the other ONE bars, which really works for this profile. It has two layers, the top of which is smooth and creamy like peanut butter, and finished with a mellow cocoa note that I really really dig.

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3. Maple Glazed Doughnut – they completely nailed this flavor. Full of maple and raised donut yeasty-ness, it even finishes with that signature sharp sweet donut glaze taste. It’s incredible what they achieved in the maple domain, which is a flavor that doesn’t get enough love. Usually when you see maple it’s paired with pancakes or waffles, which is great, but this is a touch more unique and executed flawlessly.

4. Birthday Cake – the first bar I remember having actually covered in sprinkles and achieving the birthday cake flavor instead of some weird lemony taste. It’s sweet and vanilla-forward like a classic store bought white cake with a little bit of eggy-ness to give it that bday bounce.

5. Almond Bliss – a super unique and well executed flavor that doesn’t get enough love. This bar is basically an Almond Joy, and it nails the chocolate coconut almond balance beautifully. It’s creamy and nutty and just sweet enough, with some whole almonds that add good crunch.  No other company has tried this flavor and I can’t imagine it being done much better with this kind of macros.

6. Peanut Butter Pie – peanut butter flavored protein supplements are hard to nail but this one does a pretty convincing job of capturing the nutty nuances of the heralded buttery treat. The use of peanut flour, peanut butter, AND peanuts in the ingredients provides a deep roasted flavor complimented by just the right amount of sweetness. I haven’t had many slices of peanut butter pie but this is certainly my favorite peanut butter bar.

7. Lemon Cake – really solid zesty lemon flavor with a little bit of white cake bounce. There’s that extra essence that pushes it beyond straight lemon, but the lemon is full, bright, and dominant. If you want a lemon protein bar, this is the ‘one’.

8. Cookies and Creme – as big of a fan of Oreo’s as I am I’m not huge on C&C bars but this one is quite good. This is a very creme-heavy bar as far as the flavor goes, with the outer white coating and protein base inside both reminding me of the Oreo filling. The inside is speckled with chocolate cookie pieces for a bit of cocoa but it overall eats like a rich creamy creme bar. Yum.

9. Pumpkin Pie – this seasonal take on the autumn classic remains the best version of the pie I’ve had in bar form. The texture reminds me of pumpkin filling, and the Oh Yeah! flavor wizards were at it again nailing the flakey notes of pie crust in addition to the spices you would expect.

10. Salted Caramel – it’s exactly what the name implies. Salty, buttery, and sweet. Not too sweet in a headache-enducing way, which can sometimes be an issue with caramel, but just sweet enough to let the salt have a backdrop to flourish on. No nuts or chocolate or other bells and whistles, just straight caramel and one of the best caramel bar I’ve had. The surprise factor here is the supreme creaminess that is butter-smooth silky, but all the flavor is in the coating with the protein base falling a little flat (sometimes I suck the coating off, I’m weird, I know).

11. Blueberry Cobbler – not as sweet as you might expect, it’s got a good blueberry flavor that isn’t very artificial and pretty enjoyable to eat. Not as cobbler-y as I would like with no notable cinnamon or nutmeg to really be found. I know Oh Yeah! can do crusty bready flavors well and this one doesn’t quite nail it.

12. Red Velvet Cake – the bar has a legitimate cheesy tang on the outer coating but ultimately suffers from just not being sweet enough to deliver the right frosting kick. The inside doesn’t taste bad but it also doesn’t have any of the cocoa nuances I want from RV cake. The texture is still solid but there are 10 other ONE bars more worth your time and money.

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13. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – there’s a touch of brown sugar flavor that reminds me of dough in the protein base, which is studded with chocolate chips and dipped in a chocolate coating. Vanilla and caramel come along for the journey in a bar that is good but not the best CCCD out here (Combat Crunch and Quest both have great versions).

14. Key Lime Pie – I’m a big fan of lime, and anything with graham crackers in it for that matter, and while both of those flavors are represented in this bar it suffers from being not nearly sweet enough.  While Oh Yeah! usually delivers heartily on great sugary profiles with only one gram of sugar, this bar overall falls flat with very little pop, despite its creamy whipped topping-esque coating.  Even though the lime is pretty authentic, its tartness isn’t enough to save it from being a flavor I don’t really want to toss into my regular rotation.

15. Chocolate Brownie – light milk chocolate flavor that reminds me a lot more of Hershey’s Kisses than a brownie with occasional crunchy chocolate chips. Not an awful bar but not my favorite chocolate bar by a long shot.

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White Chocolate Raspberry – very sweet, almost moist with a floral and tart raspberry finish. Surprisingly doesn’t taste artificial at all, which is a big problem with berry flavored bars. Ties with the Quest version for best take on the flavor, although the only texture is little crisps and no white chocolate chunks.

Chocolate Birthday Cake – another bar bursting with sprinkles, this one has that soft cocoa flavor like a cake you would buy from Safeway. It’s a unique flavor, since most companies go for chocolate brownie, and is pretty well executed, although I have had some that had a strange sour aftertaste.

Mint Chocolate Chip – the first ice cream themed protein bar I’ve had and I’m a fan. The mint is present but much more mellow than a super intense Peppermint extract would provide, and instead, bringing the smooth creaminess you would find in a scoop of mint chip. It’s not my favorite mint bar but it’s a good one, although it has a kind of odd lingering aftertaste that feels a little soapy, probably trying to emulate the cold creaminess.

REVIEW: Fit Joy Raspberry Chocolate Truffle and Cookies and Cream

Last years’ most prolific protein bar company, Fit Joy, are back at it again kicking off the first quarter of 2017 launching two new bars at the same time.  They went with one relatively uncharted flavor with Raspberry Chocolate Truffle, and tackled one that pretty much every competitor has already tried with Cookies and Cream.

Raspberry Chocolate Truffle:

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Visually this bar is great. A little bit of a different look for Fit Joy as there are no crisps on top and the protein base is noticeably softer with a marzipan-like texture. There’s a huge raspberry chocolate smell that is very floral and promising.

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The bite starts good, with a big bright raspberry flavor that lives up to the intense flowery aroma. Unfortunately, it takes an intense nose dive quickly as that powerful raspberry flavor becomes too much and is so overwhelmingly tart and sour that it literally made my face pucker.

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The way the bar dissolves on the tongue and the extreme tart-ness starts to taste like a kids Flintstones chewable vitamin and I’m left really wondering where the chocolate is. The thin dip on the bottom and drizzle on top can’t hold a candle to the epic tart berry flavor to a degree that chocolate may as well not be in the name or on the bar at all. Almost every other company that has released raspberry has done it with white chocolate, which helps up the sweetness and tame the tart. I was excited for a chocolate version but unfortunately this just doesn’t work at all. Sour, acidic, and ultimately kind of gross.

Rating: 5/10

Cookies and Cream:

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Visually this bar, again, is very appealing. The top is speckled with crunchy cookie bits and the inside base has a softer, fluffier texture than any other Fit Joy, kind of reminiscent of a whipped cream cheese. The flavor is full on chocolate, with both lighter milk chocolate and darker bitter being represented. There are so many different cocoa flavors going on that I even get hints of coffee, which adds to the rich bittersweet taste.

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This bar more closely resembles the experience of eating an Oreo than any other I’ve had – with the crunch and squish combo being very similar to wafer cookies sandwiching the iconic white Creme. There are softer whey crisps within the protein base as well, which adds multiple layers of crunch.

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I really like this bar. It has a solid smooth taste and texture without any weird lingering protein flavor and is overall really clean. My one criticism of it would be that it’s much more like a Chocolate Oreo than the original, which is fine, they should have just called it Cookies and Chocolate Cream instead.

Rating: 8.5/10

It ends up being a total split for Fit Joy entering 2017 with their worst bar and one of their best bars launching at the same time. While they don’t have the most explosive flavors out there (s/o Oh Yeah!) I continue to be impressed with their output and will try all Fit Joy bars in the future, even if some of them might totally miss the mark.

REVIEW: Fit Joy Birthday Cake Batter

Just in time for the cake-eating festival that will be my birthday on Sunday, one of the most prolific new protein bar companies are back at it with Fit Joy’s Birthday Cake Batter.  This doesn’t appear to be a seasonal release and should be readily available wherever their bars are sold all throughout 2017.  The pink wrapper and solid macros scream nothing but pure fun and I’m hoping for a much better effort than the last cake flavored protein attempt I had by BPI, which sucked.

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This is the first bar that I’ve had with the specific flavor of cake batter as opposed to cake or cupcake, and with that specificity in mind I think Fit Joy have really succeeded. The aroma coming out of the wrapper smells almost exactly like a jar of funfetti vanilla frosting, and fortunately the flavor isn’t too far behind. Much less sweet than a spoonful of artificial frosting, the bar has a wonderful vanilla presence and eggy bounce that remind me of yellow cake (the best). The coating and protein base look similar with multicolored specs that play off each other well, combining for one batter-filled bite. It’s a much truer birthday cake than the bars by Combat Crunch and Fit Crunch, both of which have a strange lemon dominance to their flavor.

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The texture is a soft chewy that gradually transforms into the smooth consistency of cake batter as you break it down in your mouth. There are no crunchy sprinkles or crisps inside or on top of the bar so the experience is one dimensional but not in a bad way. The outer yogurt layer mimics frosting, giving two different sensations that lead to an ultimately really enjoyable experience.  It is also a completely new flavor profile for Fit Joy and executed more convincingly than 75% of the companies that try to tackle it.

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As someone who grew up loving boxed yellow cake for my birthday and licking both the beaters and bowl clean when my mom was done whipping it up, this bar really speaks to my inner bday boy.  This is one of the strongest flavors Fit Joy have released, ranking among Chocolate Peanut Butter and Gingerbread Cookie as a top pick in their lineup.

Rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition: 230 cal – 8g fat – 190mg sodium – 22g carbs – 10g fiber – 3g sugar – 20g protein.

BAR BATTLE: Grenade Carb Killa Chocolate Cream vs. Chocolate Crunch

After the insanely impressive success of the White Chocolate Cookie bar and the relative letdown of Caramel Chaos, it seemed only fitting to pit Grenade’s two U.S. available chocolate flavored bars – cream and crunch – in a completely irrelevant and awesome bar battle to the death.  In reality this is just two reviews crammed into one, but all that sounds pretty fun doesn’t it?

First up – Chocolate Cream.

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This bar has a chocolate cream center with a layer of caramel coated in milk chocolate, all revolving around a whey protein base.  Unfortunately, this bar was neither creamy or particularly chocolatey and resulted in immediate disappointment.

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The inside looked gorgeous, with a fluffy protein core topped by thin whispy caramel and was very similar to the Caramel Chaos without the elements that made that bar redeemable – the caramel flavor and crisp crunch.  The promised flavor fell completely flat and left me searching for more bite after bite.

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This bar is fine, as in passable, but it isn’t adding anything new to the protein bar game, which a truly creamy chocolate bar would.  When I hear chocolate cream I think of truffles or the center of a Cadbury egg, or at the very least a rich deep cocoa flavor, and none of those were present in this bar.  What’s good about this bar is the same thing that makes white cookie so great without any notable strong flavors or inventiveness.  Ultimately it’s perfectly edible and has solid macros but isn’t replacing any of the other established chocolate protein bars (Combat Crunch, Quest) that have been doing it for years.

Rating: 6/10

And the challenger – Chocolate Crunch.

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This bar comes in a golden wrapper – does that mean it’s actually the reigning champ and not the challenger?  Is this foreshadowing?  Yes.  This bar is solid.

The name “Chocolate Crunch” is a bit misleading because a prominent flavor in this bar is peanuts.  Listed in the description, peanuts, in both their taste and texture, play a bigger role in making this bar successful than the chocolate, which is present but greatly amplified by the nuts.  The half real, half artificial (you know the taste) flavor of peanuts is the first and last thing you taste, rounded out very nicely by the coating of chocolate.
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Speaking of successful, the caramel here is very different than the other three bars – it’s thick and solid with a chewy texture that is new and awesome.

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This bar, much like its white chocolate all star, is channeling a liquor store classic – SNICKERS.  The peanuty protein base becomes distinctly like the texture of nougat and the nuts and caramel work together to complete the package.  This isn’t as dead-on of a copy as the white cookie but it took me by pleasant surprise that this bar tasted nothing like I expected.  I didn’t anticipate the bar to taste bad I just had no idea it would take me back to the candy aisle and eager to reach for another.

Rating: 8/10

Chocolate Crunch absolutely destroys Chocolate Cream and will earn its slot in any Snickers-loving protein bar munchers’ rotation with ease.  A great nutritional profile with flavor to back it up, the gold wrapper is a fitting home for a bar that channels one of the greatest candies of all time.

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OOEY GOOEY CHAMPION!

REVIEW: Grenade Carb Killa White Chocolate Cookie

Grenade is a United Kingdom based protein supplement company founded in 2010, apparently dominating everyone’s post-workout fix world wide except me.  As someone who does most of his whey protein intake through bars I’m always looking for new flavors and textures to entice my palate.  When the Carb Killa bars popped up at my local GNC the packaging was interesting and I grabbed two of the available flavors.  The first one I tried, Caramel Chaos, had really great texture but was generally lacking in any notable flavors, despite the fact that it was the only protein bar I’ve had to actually have caramel.  The second bar – White Chocolate Cookie – changed everything.

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Carb Killa’s are triple-layered bars combining a whey protein base with gooey caramel and crunchy bits, then dipped in either a white or milk chocolate.  The White Chocolate Cookie bar has a milky white caramel beneath pieces of chocolate cookies and looks almost identical to the Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar.  It is without a doubt one of the most uniquely flavored and well executed protein bars I have ever had.

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The three textures interact with each other to create a seamless snacking experience, leaving almost nothing to be desired.  White chocolate is the first ingredient, and the flavor is strong and pronounced with the use of cocoa butter and whole milk powder.  Many of the issues that plague protein bars – grainy bases, overly sweet fake sugars, or too much fake fiber, are all nonexistent here.  The bar is just sweet enough to emulate the candy bar it looks up to without becoming over the top or artificial.

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This might be one of the rare cases where a protein supplement trying to mimic an established junk food product actually surpasses the real thing.  The addition of the caramel offers a more complex mouth feel than the Hershey’s bar and with 22 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar I can’t imagine myself ever choosing the candy over the killa.

In the United States Carb Killa bars are available in four flavors – Caramel Chaos, Chocolate Cream, Chocolate Crunch, and the sensational White Chocolate Cookie.  I plan on trying the two chocolate flavors as soon as possible, and being on the lookout for some of the more obscure UK-available flavors like Banana Armour and White Chocolate Mocha to make a Stateside appearance soon.

Rating: 9.5/10

Quick Nutrition: Calories: 220 – Fat Cal: 70 – Fat: 8g – Sat Fat: 4g – Sodium: 150mg – Total Carb: 21g – Fiber: 6g – Sugars: 2g – Sugar Alcohol: 13g – Protein: 22g