Book report: The Feed Zone

I recently picked up this cookbook at the Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) in Halifax. Written by and for cyclists, The Feed Zone focuses on nutrition for endurance sports. I’m looking at it with a view of paddling, particularly with a 2016 Newfoundland expedition in mind.

Allen Lim is a Ph.D. from the University of Boulder, CO, who researched integrative physiology ― the study of organisms as functioning systems of components (molecules, cells, tissues, and organs) in relation to whole-body function of human health and disease. After completing his doctorate, Lim took his study of the physical and metabolic demands of professional cycling on the road, working with a pro cycling tour.

With a toolbox of material he developed for exercise physiology and nutrition, Lim taught athletes the what to eat, when to eat it, and how to prepare meals that are healthy and well formulated. At a pro cycling dinner party, Lim met Chef Biju Thomas, who was catering the event. With a common love of cycling, Lim and Thomas became friends and this sports nutrition cookbook is a result of their collaboration.

The introductory chapter offers a good high-level overview of sports nutrition and the human metabolic process as it relates to muscles and endurance. It aligns well with other things I’ve been reading about the energy systems of the body. The rest of the book contains recipes, each one detailing the macronutrient composition of the meal. An appendix presents nutritional data for additional and alternative ingredients.

The breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes are healthy meals for the conventional times of day that we would typically consume them. The “Portables” section contains home-made snacks, such as bars and rice cakes, which athletes can eat on the move during training or competition. With attention to the body’s needs immediately after a workout, the “Après” menu items are designed with specific nourishment for effective recovery.

The following are some of my key takeaways from the introductory sports nutrition section.

Pre-working meals

  • eat 2-3 hours before training or competition; this gives your body ample time to digest food so you derive the full benefit of the nutrients without a full stomach
  • insulin levels are elevated 1 to 1.5 hours after eating a meal, causing short-term energy depletion as the body works to clear glucose from the blood stream
  • some athletes will have a small snack 30 minutes before a competition; foods that are higher fat and protein, rather than carbohydrate, will help avoid big blood-sugar spikes that you will get from foods with a high glycemic index

During workout

  • effective hydration is essential to maintain during physical activity
  • water alone is not nearly as effective as a 4% sports drink solution: 4 grams / 16 kCal of carbohydrate and 60 mg sodium per 100 ml

Post-workout meals

  • within 30 minutes of exercise, muscle is extremely sensitive to insulin, which facilitates the storage of carbohydrate in the form of glycogen; this is important for effective recovery and performance in subsequent activity
  • for exertion lasting less than 2 hours, consume 2 grams of carbohydrate (8 kCal) per kilo of body weight; for activity greater than 4 hours, consume 4 grams of carbohydrate (16 kCal) per kilo of body weight

Here’s my interpretation of how this relates to expedition paddling:

  1. Get breakfast into the crew early in the morning, before packing up camp and loading boats. If we hit the water 2 hours after a healthy, filling breakfast then we’ll avoid a hypoglycemic crash when the crew needs its energy.
  2. Make sure the crew is consuming water, ideally with some carbohydrate and sodium. I’ve observed that many people don’t drink enough fluids on the water — perhaps to avoid having to pee too often.
  3. Prepare and package “Portables” snacks before the trip and ensure that everyone is consuming enough food during breaks to keep them energized but without being full. Savoury Break Cakes, anyone?
  4. After a long day on the water, get high-carbohydrate snacks into the crew right away. Don’t make them set up camp and wait for dinner. The “Après” recipes aren’t so easily pre-packaged for expedition paddling but they offer a blueprint for meals that can be prepped in advance.
  5. Enjoy a leisurely dinner together with a hot, healthy meal prepared without the rush of hunger.

With inspiration from Lim & Thomas, I’m looking forward to designing a menu for our Newfoundland 2016 expedition that delights the crew’s taste buds and optimizes their performance for long days on the water.

• Thomas, Biju, and Allen Lim. The Feed Zone Cookbook. Boulder, Colo.: Velo Press, 2011. Print.


  1. i’ve had this book for a number of years, as well as the follow-up book, and the number 1 take-away for me has been the moisture content of portable snacks and the degree to which it affects nutrient absorption.

    As a result, I only use home-made portables now to ensure that they have the pre-requisite higher amount of moisture content, enabling faster gut emptying, digestion and nutrient uptake.

    Nice to see another kayaker using this fantastic resource book for experimentation!

    Great blog Peter, really nicely put together!

  2. Author

    Cheers, Michael.

    These guys are awesome — I really appreciate their work. I noticed while I was at MEC yesterday that they have another book on the shelf but more of a family-style cooking approach. “Feed Zone Table Family-Style Meals to Nourish Life and Sport”.

    I’ve been inspired by their portable rice snacks and am heading down a slightly different path with puffed rice cereal instead of cooked white rice. I’ll publish my latest “invention” soon. .

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