Today I’ll be sharing with you a new book that I’m really excited about! Before I get into this review though, let me start with the most important thing. I ate REAL food on my long run last weekend. That’s right. Fifteen miles with no gels, no energy bars, no shot blocks. This is the first time I have ever done that. I am a gel and shot block junkie, but apparently that may be changing. As far as fuel goes, the picture below shows you what went with me on my long run. If you’re wondering what the wrapped items are, read on!
The book is called Feed Zone Portables. It’s by the same authors as The Feed Zone, one of my favorite cookbooks for athletes which I reviewed a few months ago.
About the Book
This book features 75 all-new portable food recipes (their prior book The Feed Zone had some as well) for cyclists, runners, triathletes, mountain bikers, climbers, hikers, and backpackers. The idea is that each recipe is simple, easy to make, and ready to carry on a run or other athletic excursion. The book makes the case for real food as a much more easily digestible, higher performance source of energy than prepackaged fuel products like gels. Many of the recipes are vegetarian and gluten free as well, which is nice.
The authors are Chef Biju Thomas, who has cooked for dozens of elite professional cyclists, and Dr. Allen Lim, a sports physiologist and cycling coach who has worked for the Garmin and Radioshack cycling teams and also cooked for teams at the Tour de France.
I had a feeling I would like this book, given that I’m a big fan of The Feed Zone. But I have to say, I really learned a lot from this book, and it challenged me to think about what I eat when I run. The Feed Zone cookbook contained a lot of your more standard recipes to be eaten for dinner for example (salads, soups, etc.). This book on the other hand is all about portable food.
It’s definitely clear that the authors have a lot of credibility with elite athletes. Throughout the book are quotes from professional athletes that have used portables, including cyclists, mountain bikers, triathletes, climbers, etc.
Before reading this book I would have told you that I eat ‘portable’ food all the time. In the form of store-bought gels, shot blocks, protein bars, energy bars, etc. The authors however lay out very clearly what in their mind makes a good ‘portable’ for athletic activity:
- Packs in plenty of water to help with hydration and digestion
- Provides enough energy, calories and carbs to sustain an hour of effort
- Fits into your jersey pocket or fuel belt
- Unwraps easily and resist crumbling
- Uses ingredients that are easy to digest (Common ingredients in these are white rice, eggs, salt, and sugar)
One of the most interesting things in this book is when the authors compare the nutritional content of all of the common pre-packaged sports foods (gels, blocks, protein bars, etc.) to the nutritional content of Feed Zone Portables. Though they are comparable on some levels, the thing that was most shocking to me, and that I honestly had never thought about, was the difference in water content. Rice cakes (one of the types of portables) have almost 23 times the water content by mass as compared to your typical pre-packaged product. I’m sure many of you, like me, have had trouble digesting gels or bars while on the run. I know I always feel the need to guzzle a ton of water after consuming them to ensure good digestion. In fact, most of those products actually tell you right on the packaging that you should consume with lots of water! Put another way, as they say in the book:
“To understand how dry most sports bars are, imagine we are making a cake and after adding all of the dry ingredients into the bowl, we use only 10 percent of the water that the recipe requires before baking. What we would have at the end of hte process would resemble a brick (or the typical sports bar) not a cake we would want to serve for dessert or be excited to during a long endurance event”.
The authors explain that to dilute a 100 calorie bar, you need to consume about 20 ounces of water. That is a lot of water jiggling around in your stomach during a run!
Before reading this book I definitely was of the belief that store-bought energy gels are the only real way to get the fuel I need quickly during a long run or race. To be honest, the idea of eating solid food really just didn’t appeal to me much at all. I know that solid foods like boiled potatoes, candy, sandwiches, pretzels, etc. are common at ultramarathon aid stations, and when I did my ultra I did consume some of these things, but overall the idea of stopping to eat during a run has just never appealed to me. After trying the recipe I’m going to share with you below my belief has changed.
The recipe I decided to try in the book is sticky bites. I chose this because I read an article on the book website about the best portable snacks for ultrarunners, and sticky bites are what they recommend for runners.
Here’s the recipe for the sticky bites that fueled me on my long run, at that you saw pictured earlier in this post:
Bitter Chocolate & Sea Salt Sticky Bites
Nutrition info: Per serving 101 calories, 1 g fat, 197 mg sodium, 20 grams carbs, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein
- 1 cup uncooked sticky rice (Calrose rice)
- 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate (chips or shaved – I used chips)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- dash of sea salt
- To top with: 2 tablespoons shaved bitersweet chocolate (I just used chips) and sea salt
Combine oats, rice, and water with a dash of salt in a rice cooker and cook. Let cool to the touch. Note: I don’t have a rice cooker, so I just did this in a saucepan. Put the rice, oats, and water in a saucepan and bring to a low rolling boil, cover, and cook over low heat until the water has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the cooked rice and oats with the remaining ingredients. Stir to incorporate the flavor throughout the sticky mixture.
You can now press into an airtight storage container, or shape as individual bites. I decided to shape and wrap them as individual bites. To do individual bites, place a heaping tablespoon of the sticky mixture on a small piece of plastic wrap. Press into a shape like an ice cube or spoon. Roll plastic wrap lengthwise and then twist the ends like a hard candy wrapper.
Individual sticky bite about to be wrapped up:
Sticky bites all wrapped and ready to go for my runs:
I then put all my individually wrapped bites in the fridge. They’ve been in there 5 days and are still good – I took a couple on my long tempo run yesterday and they still tasted great!
On the website for the cookbook there’s a video of Biju Thomas making this recipe:
Mushroom Thyme Bread Cake
The other recipe I tried from the cookbook was for Mushroom Thyme Bread Cake. I made this one not really intending to take it out on a run, but rather as something nutritious that I could eat after my early morning runs before heading to work.
Nutrition Info: Per Serving 99 cal, 4 grams fat, 342 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 5 g protein.
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 cup onion, minced
- 4 cups cubed gluten free bread, tightly packed (about a half loaf)
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup soy milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning or your favorite seasoning (I just used herbes de provence)
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- Optional additions: 4 ounces chicken sausage (I included this – extra protein!), 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 9″ x 5 ” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Note: I used a 9 x 9 glass pan. If you opt to do that you’ll bake for 35 – 45 minutes.
Bring a dry saute pan to medium-high heat and add the mushrooms and onion. Once the mushrooms have browned a bit remove from heat.
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Transfer mixture to the loaf pan, pressing edges to keep the mixture even. Bake until the cake has set firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 – 30 minutes. (35-45 if using the square pan)
Once the cake has cooled, cut into 6 thick slices and wrap. They recommend half of a slice as a portable.
Here’s the picture of the final product. It turned out really good! I didn’t actually take this on a run/ride, but rather just ended up eating it for breakfast all week after I got back from my morning runs. They also note in the book that you can freeze a portion of the cake in a ziploc bag and then just thaw overnight for your next big ride.
Overall would I recommend this book to runners? Absolutely. I really do recommend trying out the sticky bites recipe in particular. I think you’ll be surprised at how easily these digest. I know I’m definitely questioning whether I really need to continue to buy gels in mass quantities like I used to! But will I give up gels completely? Definitely not – they are a quick and easy grab-and-go source of fuel that doesn’t require any preparation. But when I do have the time, I’ll be relying on portables in the future.
Do you consume ‘real’ food on the run? What’s your go-to portable food?
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Feed Zone Portables by VeloPress but was under no obligation to review and received no compensation for doing so. I only review products that I myself would use and recommend to others.
- Welcome to my blog! I’m Gina, an avid runner living in St. Louis, MO. Check out my blog for tips on running, swimming, race recaps, book reviews, and recipes! Follow me on twitter at @ginabhawalkar, or feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
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