Have you ever looked at the back of a protein bar label and saw “net carbs” and “total carbs” listed in the back? That’s because a lot of manufacturers subtract the ingredients that won’t trigger an insulin response, such as fibers and certain sugar alcohols, from the total carbs. This leaves you with net carbs as your go-to number when it comes to being carb conscious in your choices.
The thing is, not all low carbohydrate protein bars are created equal. In fact, some bars are misleading in their net carbs calculation, causing your blood glucose to spike after you eat them. This will probably kick you out of ketosis if you’re on a ketogenic diet.
What gives? Why would these manufacturers misrepresent the net carb amount? The truth is that one of the fibers many manufacturers consider out of the equation is the main culprit behind spiking your carbohydrates.
What Are the Competing Fibers on the Market?
There are two competing fibers in the market: isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO) and soluble corn fiber. To get IMO they take maltose, which is a sugar unit, and expose it to enzymes that convert that maltose to isomaltose.
Can Isomaltooligosaccarides (IMO) Spike Blood Glucose?
On paper, IMO has bonds that are more resistant to digestion, so when scientists do their cell culture work, they see that it’s resistant to the digestive enzymes coming out of the pancreas and count it as a fiber.
However, the trap springs when you actually consume products containing IMO. Once you eat them, it turns out your digestive tract has the ability to break down the IMO into glucose.
Essentially, IMO is not bad for your average body. However, if you’re trying for a low carb day or following a ketogenic lifestyle, that might be a nightmare for you. You can think of it as being like eating oatmeal: while it’s certainly good for you, there’s no way it’s low on carbs.
So next time you go shopping for low carb protein bars and you see isomaltooligosaccharides or IMO on the back label, you know what to avoid. Don’t count it as if you’re taking a low carb bar, count it as though you’re eating a protein bar with oatmeal in it.
Can Soluble Corn Fiber Spike Blood Glucose?
On the other end, while protein bars containing soluble corn fiber don’t taste as delicious as IMO bars, corn fiber truly is resistant to digestion. So when you look at the back of a protein bar label and it says soluble corn fiber, you can safely count those carbs out of the equation.
That’s because soluble corn fiber is created by taking corn syrup and exposing it to enzymes for 48 hours. Following that, what hasn’t been broken down will get filtered out, then repeatedly exposed to enzymes again until there’s really nothing left but fiber.
Low-Carb Protein Bar Recommendations
To sum up, there are two competing fibers in the low carb protein bar field. They are soluble corn fiber, and isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO). If you’re looking for a low carb protein bar that won’t spike your blood glucose level, pick soluble corn fiber.
That’s because IMO is not truly a low carb bar, even if it probably tastes better than the competition. So if you’re carb conscious, don’t select the IMO bars, select soluble corn fiber and you’ll going to stay low carb without compromising your goals.
We hope this article helped you figure out whether that protein bar really is as low carb as it claims, and how you can avoid unintentionally spiking your blood glucose. We’ll see you again in the next article.