2024 Arnold Expo Roundup: The Best (And Weirdest) Protein Products I Tried

The Arnold Sports Festival is one of the biggest fitness events in the entire world. It features athletes from all over the world, from the biggest names in bodybuilding, strongman, arm wrestling, and so much more.

But it also features the Arnold Expo, which is a giant health & fitness expo featuring hundreds of fitness-related products. And as your trusted source for all things protein, I had to attend the expo and see what I could find.

Before the global pandemic, I attended the Arnold Expo every single year. The expo was always an incredible opportunity to try new protein snacks, and the big brands (like Quest, Fit Crunch, and Lenny & Larry’s) would use the weekend to preview some new products and flavors they had coming out.

2024 was my first year going back to the expo since 2019, and it sure felt different. It’s an awesome expo, and I recommend it to anyone interested in fitness. But there were far fewer protein snacks than in the past.

It seems as though the industry has shifted, and there is much more emphasis on energy drinks and electrolyte drinks, as well as fitness equipment.

But there were still plenty of protein snacks to sample, so let’s explore some of the best, the worst, and the downright weirdest products I was able to sample.

Protein Coffee

I’ve tried many different protein coffee drinks already, but there were a handful of new products at the expo I was able to try this year.

Chike Protein Coffee Powder

Chike is not a new name in the world of protein coffee, but it seems like they remain relatively unknown outside of the world of fitness. I chalk this up to them being a protein powder rather than a ready-to-drink coffee, since the latter seems to be much more popular recently.

Chike is exactly what I remember from 5 years ago- it’s protein powder that is flavored like coffee. The vanilla flavor was smooth, and the coffee flavor was nice and prominent, but it still very much tastes like protein powder.

Is that a bad thing? It depends on what you’re looking for. Chike doesn’t really stand out from other coffee-flavored protein powders I’ve had before, so I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you give it a try.

But there was another brand I tried at the expo that I enjoyed much more…

Buff Coffee (from Buff Chick)

I have followed the owner of Buff Chick Supplements on social media for a long time, and I have a ton of respect for her and the business she has built. Buff Coffee is fairly new, so I haven’t gotten around to trying it until sampling it at the expo.

This was easily my favorite protein coffee I have ever had.

I first tried the hazelnut latte flavor, which had amazing flavor. Yes, it still tastes like protein, but it has the perfect sweetness and hazelnut flavor to resemble coffee with creamer in it. The sample I tried was just mixed with water, so I’d imagine it would be even better with milk.

I also tried the cappuccino flavor, which I enjoyed even more because the sweetness was pretty subtle. As a lover of black coffee, this is much closer to a drink I’d be reaching towards.

I find that most coffee protein powder tastes like protein mixed with cheap instant coffee, but Buff Coffee nailed this product and it truly tastes like good coffee.

Super Coffee XXTRA

Stepping up to try this Super Coffee, I was prepared to consume about 500mg of caffeine due to the “extreme” nature of the label. The entire can contains 200mg, which is relatively high, but nowhere near the dangerous levels I was fearing.

Flavor-wise, this tastes exactly like regular Super Coffee, which I am not a fan of. I find the flavor to be a bit too artificial, and it has a nutty flavor that takes away from the coffee-drinking experience.

Plus, with 130 calories and only 7 grams of protein, it’s really not all that different from a latte that just has milk added to it.

Protein Cookies

Protein cookies are one of those products that nobody can seem to get right, so I wasn’t hopeful that any of the new players would blow me away. But never say never.

CTRL Protein Cookies

I was able to take home samples of CTRL protein cookies, so I tried both the peanut butter and chocolate chunk flavors.

I happened to really enjoy CTRL protein bars, which are technically meal replacement bars (higher calorie and lower protein), but these cookies were a disappointment.

Neither bar held up very well in the package, and I was only able to remove small pieces at a time from the wrapper. Overall, the flavor is fine. CTRL is very generous with the chocolate chunks and peanut butter candies because they don’t shy away from calories, so that helps the experience a bit.

But the cookie itself is cakey and dry, not unlike every other protein cookie out there. These remind me a lot of Quest protein cookies– they’ll do just fine in a pinch, but they’re not going to replace your favorite cookies.

Jocko Fuel Protein Cookie

When I took this Jocko Fuel cookie out of the wrapper, I was absolutely blown away. You can’t tell me that doesn’t look like a soft, & chewy chocolate chip cookie. On looks alone, this is lightyears ahead of every other protein cookie I’ve ever seen.

But that excitement quickly wears off once you bite into this one. It is very chewy and tacky; think of the interior of a protein bar, and that’s pretty much what this cookie is made of.

I couldn’t break this cookie in half (it just completely bent instead) and chewing it was almost like chewing gum.

The overall flavor was decent, and it looks like an incredible cookie, but that texture is enough to ruin this one. If they found a way to change the texture, this could be a real winner, but it’s not worth trying in its current tacky state.

Protein Bars

The Arnold Expo used to feature endless protein bars, and it was severely scaled back this year. And while I didn’t get to try every single bar I saw, I did my best to try the most interesting ones.

Battle Bars

I’ve seen Battle Bars all over social media, but I have never had a chance to try them. Before these samples, I actually had no idea what kind of bars these were, and I assumed they might be similar to Anabar.

Battle Bars are rice krispy-esque, but much denser (as all protein bars are). They are soft to bite into and packed with crispy pieces, which creates a pleasant contrast of textures.

I tried both the peanut butter and lemon flavors. Peanut butter doesn’t taste all that different from other peanut butter protein bars out there- it has a recognizable peanut butter flavor, but it doesn’t resemble actual peanut butter.

The lemon bar was excellent. The citrus flavor punches you in the face (in a good way… if there is such a thing as a good punch to the face) and combines well with the texture of the bar. If I were buying these bars, I would definitely go for the lemon flavor.

Hexapro Protein Bars

I’m not going to spend much time talking about these bars. Looking at the label, you can tell that these will taste like a generic protein bar from 2010 that spends its entire marketing budget on fitness magazine ads.

Yeah, they weren’t very good.

My experience wasn’t helped by the owner of the company (I assume he was the owner) standing over me and saying “that’s the best tasting protein bar you’ve ever had, right?”

I told him it was not, because this is a very generic, chewy, and unexciting protein bar.

Genius Gourmet Bars

Every year when I attended the Arnold Expo, I looked forward to sampling “Ooh Snap!” protein bars, which were by far the best rice krispy-like protein bar I have ever had.

To my surprise, they were abruptly discontinued a few years ago. Then I stumbled across these “Genius Gourment” protein bars, and I was transported right back to those Ooh Snap bars. They taste identical to what I remember in those bars.

Wouldn’t you know, these are the same bars! According to the owner, they underwent a rebrand and shift as a company, but the protein bars remain unchanged.

The vanilla flavor is my favorite, followed closely by the salted caramel. The bars are crispy and light, and they don’t have a strong protein taste to them. I am due for a full review of these bars, so I’ll have to place an order soon.

The downside to these bars is that each one contains 170 calories and only 10 grams of protein, so they’re not very impressive in the macro department. But I can vouch for the taste, because they are truly delicious.

ESN Designer Bar

I tried a few samples of these ESN bars at the expo, and I thought they were pretty good. Nothing mind-blowing, but pretty solid overall.

When I got home, I unwrapped one of the bars they gave me, and I quickly realized that this is one of the best protein bars I have ever had. If you want a protein bar that eats like a candy bar, this is it.

Barebells has long been my favorite protein bar, and it’s as close to a candy bar as you can get, but this ESN Designer Bar may have Barebells beat. The caramel tastes like the caramel straight out of a Milky Way, the nougat is delicious, and there is a thick, rich chocolate coating.

When I looked these bars up to purchase some for an official review, I found out that they don’t sell them in the United States… so I guess it was all for nothing.

I understand ESN being at the expo, because it is technically a global event, but I find it strange that they would sample protein bars that you cannot even buy.

If you happen to live in a country where these are available, I highly recommend them. Otherwise, I guess we’ll sit here thinking about what could have been.

Other “Interesting” Protein Snacks

Protein coffee, cookies, and bars were the most prominent protein snacks at the Arnold Expo, but there were some interesting (and confusing) other snacks I was able to sample as well.

This Professor Nutz peanut butter is the single most confusing product I have ever come across, and it had my BS meter going wild.

Claiming to be the world’s lowest-calorie peanut butter, you would think that this was made with powdered peanut butter, right? Well, the main ingredient here is peanuts. Yet even with that, a serving of 2 tablespoons contains under 40 calories.

“How can that be?” You are probably wondering. I’m going to be honest… there is absolutely no way this is true.

The company claims that they have found a “unique natural fiber” that they have added as an ingredient to regular peanut butter. This fiber supposedly binds to the fat in the peanut butter and allows it to pass through you without absorbing it.

Every jar contains “digestible” nutrition facts, which shows 0g of fat per serving, and then also lists the “real” nutrition facts underneath that, which shows that the peanut butter contains 220 calories per serving and 18g of fat.

Look, I am not a scientist. But there is no way you can add fiber to a product and it suddenly has no calories. Quest bars are notoriously high in fiber, but that doesn’t mean the entire bar just runs through your body and contains 40 calories.

Either that, or this peanut butter is going to literally go right through you and destroy your toilet.

You can test it out for yourself if you are feeling brave. But based on these absurd claims, I can’t imagine this company hanging around very long. Once they are slapped with a lawsuit, I’d imagine it’s all over.

Whoa Momma Protein Gelato

This gelato will get a dedicated review in the coming weeks (hopefully) because it was excellent.

I personally loved this product because it’s not trying to be a competitor of Halo Top. They simply want to be a delicious gelato that happens to be high in protein.

On taste alone, every flavor was amazing. They were creamy and smooth the way gelato should be.

But I can see many people not loving it due to the macros. These aren’t low-calorie pints, and depending on the flavor, it may contain upwards of 900 calories.

I don’t mind that, because I love gelato, and I would welcome some extra protein. A serving of the vanilla flavor contains 200 calories and 11 grams of protein, which is surely not going to be as appealing as the low-calorie pints out there, but is a nice way to sneak some extra protein into your diet.

I’ll do a more detailed breakdown once I get my hands on the actual pints, but the samples I had tasted as good as any regular gelato I’ve eaten.

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