This is not a sponsored post. I bought the book with the Husband’s hard earned cash. None of the links are affiliate links.
(Happy Independence Day, America on behalf of Great Britain).
I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently bought Feedzone Portables by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim and the Husband’s been using it to fuel his Ironman training. I’ve used it enough times now to justify a review…so here we go.
What is it and who wrote it?
Feedzone Portables is basically a cookbook of recipes for fueling during endurance training and events. If you’re sick of gels and the like and actually want to fuel with real food, then this is the book for you. All the portion sizes are bite-sized and easy to carry and eat whilst on the go.
The book is written by Allen Lim, a sports physiologist and coach who worked with some top pro-cycling teams and Biju Thomas, a chef who’s also worked in pro-cycling. It definitely caters most obviously for triathletes and long-distance cyclists, but the recipes work equally well for all endurance sports…like running.
What kind of food does it offer?
There are all kinds of recipes included in the book….muffins, pies, frittatas and, pre-dominantly, baked rice cakes. So far, I’ve mainly stuck with the baked rice cakes because they seemed like the kind of thing that met our specific needs.
Made with a specific sticky rice called Calgrain (found at decent grocery stores), they come together really easily. You cook the rice, you blend up the flavourings, you mix them together, form balls (with specific instructions as to how to do this), bake them, wrap ’em in silver foil and boom, job done!
I have to be honest, I’m not the best cook in the world but every single recipe I’ve made has turned out pretty amazingly. They are very simple to put together (if a little time-consuming) and they taste awesome. A I’ve so far made five or six different flavours and whilst we have our favourites, they’ve all been good. (There’s a link to a load of recipes down below).
If the thought of getting up an hour earlier than necessary to make your portables fills you with dread, then don’t despair. I’ve made the portables on a Friday night and they have been spot on for both Saturday and Sunday training. One week, I actually ate the last rice cake in the batch on a Thursday and whilst the rice was a little dry, it wasn’t bad at all and the flavor was still good. So you can make them in advance of any big runs.
I haven’t tried freezing them.
How well did they work as fuel?
Because my running has taken a back seat over the past few months as the Husband’s Ironman training has ramped up, I’ve only actually used them as fuel once, on my long trail run in Marin. I was really impressed with how it worked. I took a rice cake, wrapped in silver foil and ate it in two halves – it’s actually pretty big. I found it filled my stomach nicely and felt much more satisfying than a gel would do. Granted, the run wasn’t particularly long or hard (10 miles) but I don’t think I got as tired as I usually do on long runs and energy levels kept pretty steady! I think they’d be great for marathon training long runs as well.
The Husband has used them considerably more so I asked his opinion. He thought that the rice cakes were really good – they taste great, they satisfy him, they’re nicer to eat than endless gels and they give him long-term energy.
He had a slight concern that the rice is filling him up disproportionately to the energy it gives.We are still working out his fueling strategy and it may well be that he’s simply not eating enough, so for very long workouts (i.e. Ironman training) he’s looking at alternating rice cakes with gels or jelly babies. Or maybe he just needs to eat more.
His other concern was that they’re difficult to unwrap on the bike. This is my fault. The book gives details on how to wrap the food for easy consumption. I basically ignored it and wrapped them up like birthday presents, so it’s worth taking some time to learn how to wrap them. I’ll be doing that this week!
There are a couple of other benefits of the recipes that I thought worth flagging.
- Pre-run fueling. A few times, when I’ve run early in the morning, it’s been too early for breakfast beforehand but I’ve felt like I needed something. Half a baked rice cake has proved absolutely perfect to set me up for 6 – 9 miles on an otherwise empty stomach.
- Healthy breakfast on the go. If you’re out and about, these would make really good breakfasts or snacks on the go. The Dude doesn’t like to eat his breakfast for a while after he wakes up and I’ve been worried about how I’m going to get a nutritious breakfast into him before school when he starts in September. I think these might be the answer to my prayers.
Apart from the things I’ve mentioned above:
- There’s a fascinating and hugely detailed chapter at the start of the book about nutrition for endurance athletes. It’s worth buying the book for that chapter alone.
- It’s also a really beautiful book. It feels great in your hands, the photography of the food is wonderful and it’s studded with photos of super-sleek endurance athletes to inspire you.
- It feels really good psychologically to be eating real food on a long run. It’s flipping great to know exactly what’s in your snack.
- The portables are pretty easy to carry. Whilst they’re obviously not sleek and tiny like gels, they don’t take up a lot of space. I personally feel the rice cakes are a little big and would make them smaller if I was making them for myself, but the Husband (who isn’t 5’1) likes them sized as advised.
Not so much downsides as things to consider:
- I can’t imagine fueling with these during a running race. An Ironman, yes! A half-marathon? No. I can’t quite see how I’d carry a rice cake in my racing outfit, unwrap the silver foil and munch on real food whilst busting a gut trying to get a PR. This makes me wonder about how a sensitive stomach would handle a sudden influx of gels during a race when it’s not used to it. If anyone HAS raced using a feed zone portable as fuel, please let me know how it went! I really hope it IS possible.
- The recipes aren’t difficult but they take some time. The baked rice cakes take about 10 mins to cook the rice and 10 mins to let it cool. During this time, you blend up the flavorings. You then take 10 mins or so to form the rice cakes and then they take 10 minutes to bake and 5 minutes to wrap. Not exactly difficult but worth bearing in mind on a Friday night.
- They are calorific. This is actually a good thing if you use them as intended. But if you’re not training like a boss, don’t fuel like a boss.The book warns you not to snack on these portables for this very reason. It’s easy to think of these portables as a healthy snack to carry around (and they can be) but just be careful.
If you only make one feed zone portable….
….make it the lemon ricotta rice cake. Yum!
I’ve shared these links before but they’re relevant to this blog post as well.
- Salty Running’s review of Feedzone Portables
- Some of the recipes featured HERE. Thanks Grace for the link. This is a great place to start.
- Buy the book HERE.
- You can also buy a similar cookbook for meals as opposed to fuelling. Apparently it’s good! It’s on my Christmas list!
A great book if you train for distance events and want to fuel a bit more naturally. Whole-heartedly recommended.