Finding the right snacks to fuel workouts can be tricky for everyone. Eat the wrong foods and you can end up with crummy energy and digestive issues. And, if you’re a serious athlete, those side effects can be even more frustrating to deal with.
That’s why triathlete Jesse Thomas and his wife, professional runner Lauren Fleshman, decided to create Picky Bars, energy bars specifically designed for athletes. Thomas jokes that “tummy troubles” led him to create the bars. “When I started training for professional triathlons, I was eating 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day and developed a whole bunch of stomach issues that my wife really wanted to fix,” he says. “She wanted to create something that would fuel my exercise but also be easy on my stomach, while still tasting great.” The two joked that the combo they were after was very “picky,” and the name “Picky Bars” stuck.
Fleshman, who has a degree in human biology from Stanford University, knew how to put together the right elements to help her husband out. She designed Picky Bars as portable snacks for active people that “optimize sports nutrition principles, digestibility, and taste,” she explains. The couple soon discovered plenty of other people wanted the same elements in a sports bar, and the company took off.
Picky Bars was recently acquired by Laird Superfood, which was founded by big wave surfer Laird Hamilton. Hamilton calls Picky Bars a “natural fit” for his brand because they share similar values and missions.
But these three don’t just spend their time sitting around, creating bars and other superfoods—they have athletic goals to crush. Here’s how these pro athletes work to max out their performances, plus what they do to stay motivated on a regular basis.
Jesse Thomas, Triathlete
Jesse Thomas was an NCAA track & field All-American (in the 3,000-meter steeplechase) at Stanford University and hoped to become an Olympian. But a bike accident cut his running career short. “I started swimming as a means to rehabilitate my neck after the accident,” he says. “Years later, after working in an office and not competing, I felt like I was missing part of myself.” He tried a triathlon “for fun” and fell back in love with competition.
Thomas went on to become a six-time winner of the Wildflower Triathlon, among other feats. And while he’s retired now, Thomas still likes to push himself. “In a given week, I might mountain bike, run, surf, play pickup basketball, nordic ski, kayak, rock climb, lift, and do a bit of yoga,” he says.
A healthy diet keeps his energy up. “Lauren and I are all about moderation and balance,” he explains. “We don’t have any ‘off-limits’ foods but we also rarely overindulge.” Plenty of fruit and vegetables, grains, healthy proteins and fats, and unprocessed or low-processed snacks are all on his grocery list. “I’ve always said I like to follow a ‘B+ diet’—I eat pretty dang healthy, but not perfect,” he says. “Ice cream and beer make the menu. I’ve found for me that’s the most optimum balance of physical and mental health.”
Lauren Fleshman, Professional Runner
Lauren Fleshman’s journey to becoming a runner started when she was a child. “I loved any excuse to run as a kid and enjoyed just about every sport and outdoor activity I tried,” she says. She joined the high school cross country team and went on to run for Stanford University, becoming a five-time NCAA champion and the fastest runner of the women’s 5,000 meters in the U.S.—twice.
Now, Fleshman says she’s “fitness flexible” and “socially motivated” when it comes to her workouts. “Exercise is play for me most of the time,” she notes. “I have more friends that mountain bike and nordic ski than run, so I’ve developed a love and appreciation for those activities.”
“ALL MOVEMENT COUNTS AS MOVEMENT.”
That’s not to say she has hung up her running shoes. “My go-to is three to six miles from my front door—nothing fancy,” she says. “When I was a pro runner for 13 years, a 20-minute run was a warmup—barely something to log. Now, a 20-minute run has my deepest respect. All movement counts as movement.”
Laird Hamilton, Pro Surfer
Laird Hamilton started surfing when he was two. “I ride whenever the conditions permit,” Hamilton says. He has become a big wave surfing legend, having tackled some of the largest and most dangerous waves out there, and even helped develop the technique of big wave tow-in surfing, where a surfer is pulled into a wave with a Jet Ski.
“I still have a lot of waves I want to ride, and I am always motivated by the gift of my health,” he says. “I’m a better person when I work hard.”
When he’s not surfing, Hamilton is still moving. He does Underwater XPT pool training (“great training that doesn’t crush your joints”), along with HIIT workouts, stretching, and breathing practices.
His approach to nutrition is simple. “I eat when I’m hungry,” he says. “I look for variety and I try my best to eat things in the form nature intended. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”