Have you ever been in a predicament of needing quality grubbefore you bust out a hour long zone 2 ride with 10 x 2:00 zone 4 repeats after work with nothing on hand and no time to stop anywhere? Maybe you don’t need that fuel, maybe you are superhuman or maybe that type of workout is child’s play for you. At any rate, you SHOULD eat something before a solid workout. You’re engine can’t run without fuel.
If you’re like many closet triathletes, you head to your cube farm in your polo shirt and kakis in the morning and meticulously plan your day to cram in work, family, friends and a workout. Raise your hand if you have a lunch bag or cooler that you pack your 6 portioned meals in to get the right protein and carb servings. Or, maybe you just stash whatever food you could get on the way out of the door to drop kids off and get to work.
Whatever your situation is, Picky Bars wants in your lunchbox. They graciously sent in a sampler 4-pack for some trial runs and a review to see how they could serve the busy triathlete.
If you do subscribe to the 6 small meals a day theory, Picky Bars can be an option for you. Be aware that each bar is 200 calories, which by itself will probably fulfill the snack calorie allowance and may not provide as much literal volume to create a full tummy. Picky Bars claim that 200 calories is a, “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.” They did give thought to the nutrition that the bars deliver as they have a 4:1 carbohydrate/protein ratio that is ideal for recovery and maximizes absorption of nutrients. Picky Bars are not meant to be junk food snacks like cereal bars, but they are aiming to provide a more natural alternative to the super-engineered protein bars that are out there.
They are gluten and dairy free, if you’re into that. But, just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it’s exactly healthy. Removal of gluten stems from allergy issues, and a lot of food producers will make up for that loss by increasing sugars to offset taste declines. If you are gluten or dairy intolerant, than you found your bar.
If you check out their site, you will undoubtedly get the sense that the brand is laid back. You might go as far as to liken them to hippies making special brownies in their travel trailer. Don’t let the vibe fool you, they outline on their site the measures they have gone to in order to produce a natural, healthy snack bar (all 100% legal). ;)
When you rip one open, the bars are more akin to trail mix bars. You can actually see the nuts, seeds and other ingredients as opposed to everything blended and formed into a bar. You can feel pretty confident that you know what you are eating.
They are tasty. It’s not like some of those protein bars where you have to choke them down to get the nutritional benefits. Picky Bars claim, “these little buggers are a naturally sweet carbohydrate source that helps replace glycogen stores after a workout. They have calcium and magnesium and other vitamins and minerals, but what most impressed us was that they got a 6600 TE score (which measures antioxidant content) beating all other fruits and vegetables. They even beat the best berries by 1000 points! Eat a handful of those bad boys by themselves and you might get a sugar spike, but as part of our balanced recipe, they are perfect.” Rest assured that you may find them sweeter than your average protein bar, but it’s not a pure sugar that will end in a crash 45 minutes later.
After eating a Picky Bar, make sure you have a trusted friend do a smile check for seeds or parts in your teeth. Being that the ingredients are not ground to a pulp, seeds and nuts tend to stick in your teeth and require a little work to get them out. Just think of it as storing some for later.
Picky Bars hopes to include triathletes and endurance athletes in their consumer base. They are good bars for pre-workout or post, but they may be a little tough for something to take on a bike ride. The bars can be somewhat sticky, so magnify that by a factor of 5 on a hot sweltering half ironman course. That’s all speculation, since this review was completed in late fall / early winter. But, they could be a solid solution during a long course ride if athletes can manage the tackiness. The bars are more natural, which could translate into easier digestion on the bike. They are solid, which if you have tried to sustain yourself on energy chews and gels alone in a long course race, your stomach starts looking for something more substantial when you’re on the course for 5 hours or more. Think about it.
They will sustain you through an hour or so workout. Try a bar before 30 minutes of strength work and then an hour swim and see how you feel. You should feel like you had enough energy to get through it, and not ready to eat your arm off afterwards. They might not provide you super human strength, but the bars provide a nice even keel source of energy for around an hour of medium to high intensity training.
If you like to support the little guy with a good head on their shoulders, check them out. They are what you would probably call a lean operation with the owners probably getting dirty making the bars. They are probably the same people running the twitter and Facebook pages. If you wanted to quiz them about their products, you can get right to the source. No middle management here with red tape, which probably helps with cost and overheads. It’s also nice that their web page is solid, you can buy online and it’s not a paint-by-the-numbers website. By that, I mean it probably took them more than an hour to develop a great branded site.
Pricing is always important. People will pay for something that’s unique, original or a great product. Picky Bars offers a couple of options. They have a box of 10 for $22.99 in any flavor or a mixed box. They also offer a sampler 4 pack for $10.00. Around $2.30 a bar, you’re on par with the other Clif Bars and what you will find in the energy/protein section of your store or online.
Picky Bars also offers a club membership where for $37 a month re-occurring fee you get 18 bars shipped to your address a month, a t-shirt and insights into specials and new flavors. You basically become an insider and they are limiting how many people can sign up.
Picky Bars is going about taking a foothold into the nutrition bar market in a smart way. Most of the management team is from an endurance athlete background and they understand what athletes want and need. They want to feel connected to their customers and develop a relationship.
Picky Bars nailed this one like Veronica Corningstone on the San Diego evening news. Taste, content, branding, marketing; it’s all there. All they need is to sell more bars and get into more stores to become a household name in endurance sports. It’s been one of the better bars reviewed in taste, consistency and performance.
* Writer’s note – Picky Bars provided bars for the review and in no way influenced this review.
Ryan Falkenrath is a married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. He writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, Endurance Sports Examiner and runs the Man Vs Triathlon project while participating in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans (soon to be Ironman distance in 2013). Contact Ryan at: [email protected] or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.