What are Picky Bars? I was asking myself the same question after seeing these bars mentioned in several running blogs and running magazines. I’m no bar expert but have sampled quite a few types of bars and rely on them for pre-run food/fuel, as well as healthy afternoon snacks. I typically choose Larabars or Luna bars. I love that Larabars have just a few, all natural ingredients but sometimes I go for the Luna when I get a chocolately craving (Chocolate Dipped Coconut!).
I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I have IBS that tends to really flare up after (and sometimes during) runs. Usually during runs, I’ll experience gas, bloating and cramping. After races especially, I now know to just expect the painful cramps, bathroom runs, and really just plan to lay on my stomach for about an hour. It’s not fun but I’ve just dealt with it. Could Picky Bars present a solution to this?
My sample size is small. Just one run. However, I felt so drastically different during and after this run that I attribute a lot of the improvement to the Picky Bar I ate. I’ll back up a bit to answer the question – What are Picky Bars?
What are Picky Bars?
Picky Bars were developed by Lauren Fleishman, an accomplished marathon runner, for her husband, a professional triathlete who was having stomach problems including gas and bloating during his training and competitions. Lauren suggested he cut out gluten and, along with her training partner Stephanie Rothstein, worked to develop a recipe for a gluten-free and dairy-free energy bar. Picky Bar stands out from the competition in several ways (taken from pickybars.com):
• Be what we consider “ideal size:” 200 calories or less. Great size for <30min post-workout recovery, one hour before exercise (or cut in half for 20-30 min before), or the perfect snack size between meals.)
• Have a 4:1 carbohydrate/protein ratio that is ideal for recovery and maximizes absorption of nutrients.
• Be gluten and dairy free (for the sake of those with intolerances, or for people who just want variety in their diet)
• Have balanced macro-nutrients (25% fat, 60% carbohydrate, 15% protein) for hunger control and happy digestion.
• Select carbohydrate sources that promote level blood sugar, sustained energy, and nutrient absorption.
• Use whole foods that are geographically nearby whenever we can.
• Minimize soy content (less than 1%) since most people get too much of it daily without realizing it.
• Provide a mixture of nuts and seeds for nutrient diversity (e.g. cashews are good for vitamin K while almonds are high in vitamin E).
My Picky Bar Experience
Picky Bars aren’t easy to find and perhaps that led me to wanting to find them even more (Beanie Baby phenomenon?). Mike and I drove to a Virginia REI to purchase Picky Bars. Picky Bars are not cheap. At $2.75, they are significantly more expensive than $.99 Luna Bars or $1.50 LaraBars. Because of the price and being unsure if I’d actually like the Picky Bar, I just bought one – the Runners’ High now called Blueberry Boomdizzle. I actually forgot about it for 2+ months, discovering it in our running snack drawer (we’ve accumulated a lot of gels, bars, etc.) on Saturday.
My previous two weekend runs have not gone that well due to allergies and stomach cramping. I hadn’t been paying particular attention to my diet on Thursday and Friday (a couple glasses of wine on Friday night), so I was expecting the usual cramping.
The Picky Bar tasted great, with the hemp and blueberry really coming through. It wasn’t too sweet or too heavy, too moist or too dry. Sometimes Luna bars taste way too sweet and Larabars, specifically the fruit-based ones, are too sticky and tough for me to digest. The Picky Bar consistency was excellent and it didn’t feel heavy at all in my stomach.
I had absolutely zero stomach issues for the entire run and zero stomach issues AFTER the run. This is VERY rare for me to do a long, fairly fast run and not have stomach cramping post-run. In addition, I was very impressed with my energy level. I felt a sustained energy level during the run (had an Accel gel at mile 4), and I wasn’t really hungry or tired right after the run. I even did the Ab Ripper X DVD after the run!
The Picky Bar Club
Maybe the Picky Bar is not a miracle bar but it definitely helped me. I decided to join the Picky Bar Club, where for a minimum of 3 months at $37/month, Picky will send you 18 bars of your choosing each month. PLUS, you get an American Apparel brand Picky Bar t-shirt sent to you in addition to free samples of trial flavors and other free stuff. Since Picky Bars are not available in many stores, the Club is a good option by offering discounted bars and free shipping.
I’ll be sure to blog about cool stuff I get for the Picky Bar Club! I’m excited for my first box to arrive!
Why Success with Picky?: Bars and IBS
This topic deserves more than a paragraph but I did some preliminary research into why Picky Bars might have eased some of my stomach issues. I have IBS and am supposed to follow the FODMAP, eliminating those foods from my diet that are not easily digested. Not everyone responds in the same way to every food. For example, brussel sprouts, though I love them, do not agree at all with my stomach. But I seem to be okay with avocados (thank goodness!!!). Anyway, Luna bars contain Inulin and Chicory, both short-chain carbs I should be eliminating. This could explain my often gassy and crampy reaction to Luna Bars. Larabars have just a few ingredients but some of the fruit-heavy bars are tough for me to digest. Picky Bars, with the 4:1 carb protein ratio and elimination of dairy and gluten, are easy on the stomach and to digest, especially while exercising!
Picky Bars and Travel
I’m excited to have found a bar that seems like it will travel well. It won’t melt (like Lunas can), or smoosh (like Laras and Lunas). I think these bars will hold up well while traveling and be a good option for a snack on-the-go or on the airplane (not a fun place to have digestive issues!).