If you’re looking for an article about how to fuel for your next ultramarathon, backed by scientific and nutritional data, this isn’t it. I’ve never worked in a lab for a gel company, never researched energy metabolism or the caloric requirements of ultrarunners during a race, and I’m much more likely to look at the price tag of running food than the ingredients on the label.
My expertise (or lack thereof) is that I have tried just about every gel, chew, waffle, bar and electrolyte drink on the market. My wife used to work for an outdoor company and brought home loads of free samples. So, in addition to testing the traditional favorites, I also got to experiment with everything from meat bars to cricket powder.
Some of the samples were excellent, while others were expired or downright nasty. But I ate them all. Mostly because they were free, but also because they helped train my gut to not be reliant on a certain flavor, brand or type of fuel. As a result, I’ve trained my body and brain to race with whatever an aid station has to offer.
That being said, we all have different dietary requirements, allergies and certain foods that just don’t agree with our gut. It’s well known that the perfect race day fueling plan calls for a variety of hydration and eating strategies unique to each runner. But for topic of discussion, if I had to choose one, and only one, running fuel out of everything I’ve tried, it would no doubt be a PayDay bar.
1) They’re delicious.
I look forward to eating PayDay bars. I don’t hate running gels, but I rarely anticipate the moment I get to rip one open. I don’t sit around the dinner table sucking down chocolate gels for desert or celebrate trips around the sun with birthday cake flavored gels.
They’re just not that tasty and they get harder and harder to get down late in a race when you’ve already gagged your way through two dozen. PayDay bars are a real treat. They can be enjoyed during your race, or at a kid’s ball game. It’s a versatile snack that gives back.
2) They’re mostly full of nutrients that runners need (let me read the label real quick).
Look, I’m not trying to make a case for PayDays being healthy. This is about fueling during your runs and a serving of PayDay goodness contains a lot of essential nutrients that we need during endurance events, including five grams of protein, 22 grams of carbs, peanuts (aka, healthy fats), sodium and of course, a caramel nougat-like center—which we all know makes you run faster.
3) The snack size is perfect for sticking in your pack.
Don’t judge me if I steal the little PayDay bars from my son’s trick-or-treat bag this Halloween. I need them more than he does. Weighing in at only .7 ounces (less than most energy gels), you’ll hardly even notice them in your pack or waist belt. Plus, one PayDay mini provides 90 calories of positive energy, which is on par with most running nutrition.
4) They’re significantly cheaper than running “super” foods.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to drop $20 on fueling when I head out for a long run. I don’t spend that much on dinner. Is it worth splurging for the best gels or chews for a goal race? Sure. But this article is about the best all-around running food, and for everyday runs and to have in your pack for races, PayDay bars are hard to beat.
5) You can buy them anywhere.
Trails are usually far removed from sporting goods stores. You may pass an REI on your long road run, but most trailheads aren’t located in strip malls. To find a PayDay bar, you simply need to find a gas station, or maybe even a rest stop vending machine. They’re there when you need them. Unlike the fancy running foods that require you to go to, like, an actual running store.
6) They don’t make a gooey mess.
Last but not least, PayDays don’t make your hands all sticky, and the empty wrappers don’t ooze into your running vest. I’ve had problems with gels creating messes which has made cleaning out my vest a giant pain in the butt. PayDay wrappers are low maintenance. And that’s just how I like my food.