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The Picky Bars story goes a little like this: Professional triathlete Jesse Thomas was having stomach problems. “You might be allergic to gluten,” suggested his wife, accomplished distance runner Lauren Fleshman. Thomas listened and cut out gluten, feeling 90 percent better within a couple of weeks. But when he started ramping up his training and consequently eating a ton, it was hard to find nutritional, easy snacks to eat during a ride. He bought gluten-free products, but many were packed with nuts and fat—not the best for the athletic energy needs of the 2011 Wildflower Long Course champion.
With her “nerdy Stanford background in science and athletic performance” (as she puts it), Fleshman headed to the kitchen with determination. She and her training partner Stephanie Rothstein, a pro marathoner with a 2:29 personal best, were injured at the time, so they used the opportunity to spend hours—then months—experimenting to create the ideal energy snack. Their goal: make a gluten- and dairy-free bar with a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio that also tastes good enough for other picky athletes. Batches upon batches later, they did it.
They started by handing them out to friends, which led to selling them to local running groups in their home base of Eugene, Ore. Thomas stepped in, making use of his MBA and start-up experience to turn Picky Bars into a bona fide business. One year after their first sale in the fall of 2010, they hired six people to keep up with the demand. After Fleshman was featured in The New York Times following her debut marathon last November, Thomas says web traffic and sales “went absolutely bonkers,” and Picky has continued to gain ground ever since.
Three flavors: Nutless Wonder, All-in Almond, Lauren’s Mega Nuts
6g fat, 28g carb,
7g protein, 2–3g fiber
4:1 carbohydrate/protein ratio, ideal for recovery
Gluten- and dairy-free