Barebells aren't the only bars that are generating a lot of buzz at the moment. There's another player on the scene, and it's phD! I must admit that I've stayed clear of PhD since the peanut butter flapjack that I tried before I even started doing any weight training. Of course the protein bar industry has changed rapidly recently, and there's no space any longer for chewy/rubbery/ tasteless bars. Grenade led the way with the Carb Killa range, and now we're seeing an influx of bars that resemble chocolate bars. The lines are becoming further blurred - just look Mars' range! Texture, taste and nutritionals are all important; cue the PhD Smart Bars. Available in five flavours, the Smart Bars each contain 20g of protein, are low sugar and palm oil free. I was given four of the five bars to review when I was at BodyPower, so here goes...
Choc Peanut Butter
The long, bobbly bar contained a protein nougat core, surrounded by caramel, then crispies, all covered by milk chocolate. Sounds good right?
A delightful combination of textures awaited me; the nougat was soft with a gentle chew, the caramel gooey (so much so that it had escaped through the bottom of the bar like it had with the Warrior bar too) and the crispies of course offered crunch. Flavour-wise the chocolate and caramel were scrummy, BUT -and it's a big but for a reason- the peanut butter was non-existent. I made Bert smell the bar (he refused to even sample it) and he promised me he could smell peanut butter, but I really couldn't taste it. Such a shame.
Macros per 64g bar: kCal 239P20/C24/F10
Cookies & Cream
Ahh the go-to protein bar flavour. I loved the Barebells C&C, could phd compete with the Swedes? This Smart bar looked similar to the choc pb flavour, but was devoid of the caramel layer and instead contained a pale nougat.
Fundamentally the bar was good with a sweet milky taste and contrasting textures, but It didn't really scream of Cookies & Cream. Even a couple of months ago I would've been mightily impressed, but the chocolate crispies on the outside and better macros of the Barebells bar mean that PhD fail to take the C&C crown.
Macros per 64g bar: 241kCal/P20/C24/F11
This coating of this Smart bar was a different colour to the previous two bars, and it was then that I realised that both this and the chocolate raspberry are coated in dark chocolate instead. This is a unusual choice in a market that's dominated by very sweet milk chocolate covered bars.
The flavour was rich but the bitterness from the chocolate meant that the bar was far less sickly than the previous two. The chocolate was only about as dark as Bournville but it made a big difference. The nougat was chocolate flavoured and there was a chocolate sauce between the crispies too, which made it a very chocolatey bar. This might sound like perfection but so actually preferred the milk chocolate coating.
Macros per 64g bar: kCal237/P20/C22/F11
Dark Choc Raspberry
Finally! An unusual flavour combination from PhD, and the bar I was most excited about -especially having heard rave reviews from Conor at CNSport. The closest creations I guess are Quest's and Reflex's white chocolate & Raspberry protein bars. It's a strenuous link though because clearly the multi-layered Smart Bar is very different to those classic protein bars.
This bar comprised a chocolate core, crispies, dark chocolate coating and raspberry flavoured caramel.
PhD are genii! This is a bar to really rival the nougat chocolate bars on the market. I adored the juxtaposition of textures as I had with the other Smart Bars, but this combination of flavours was unreal. The slightly bitter dark chocolate worked wonderfully well with the sweet but zingy raspberry sauce, delivering an experience that was reminiscent of Black Forest. Throw in the milky, soft nougat and crunchy nibbles and you've got yourself a winner. I didn't have the patience when I was eating it through to sheer enjoyment, but I imagine that this bar would be amazing heated up - and even better warm with a side of ice cream. Oof.
Macros per 64g bar: 237kCal/P20/C22/F11
Thank you to PhD for the samples! Smart bars are available from PhD's website and CNSport.Have you tried them yet? What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram!