Scratch the Artificial Ingredients

For as much time as cyclists talk about losing weight and their optimal power to weight ratio, they spend equally as much time talking about eating: What to eat before a ride, during a ride, or after the ride. How to snack. How to eat properly to fuel maximum performance.

Years ago there were very few options for s on-bike nutrition; several energy bars and a few sugar-laden drinks were all that was available to athletes. Now, almost any grocery store that you walk into has at least half of an aisle dedicated to drinks, gels, syrups, bars and gummies — all slated to provide the necessary electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein fuel before, during, and after rides.


New riders often grab the latest bar or gel to fuel their rides, but with a little creativity, you can fuel yourself with foods that don’t require verbose nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

If you’ve ever watched a bicycle race on television, at some point you’ll see the riders with a small bag strapped over their shoulder. This bag, called a musette bag, contains their food.  They are handed out at designated “feed zone” areas on the course. Most teams still use a few bars or pre-made food, but, more and more frequently, they are also using homemade food cooked by the team chef.  For example, the team may find small sandwiches, jellyrolls or even rice balls in their musette. The German team’s bags sometimes even include sausages. You won’t have anyone to hand you a musette bag during your long training rides, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of what’s in a bag and carry small snacks in your pockets.

Interestingly it’s not a new concept. In fact some of the original Kona Ironman participants used watered down oatmeal and bananas to fuel, and in the early parts of the century, it wasn’t uncommon for Tour riders to stop and eat sandwiches, pastries, and coffee. But somewhere along the way, science and the food industry inundated the shelves.   

Two of the biggest proponents of a movement back to real food are Dr. Allen Lim and Chef Biju Thomas. While I don’t want to insist there is only one cookbook to use, their Feedzone series has changed the way people perceive on-bike nutrition. Not only are the recipes simple to make, they are delicious. They are all designed as handhelds also, meaning that that are easily wrapped in foil and eaten one at a time. They have also added to their collection with a book of family-friendly meals sure to entice even the non-athlete.

Skratch Labs as a business was the concept of Allen Lim., Ph.D. While working as a sports scientist and coach he started making his own food and drink for the riders, noting that the artificially sweetened and sugar laden pre-packaged foods wreaked havoc on the riders’ stomachs.  

Rather than making flavored drinks, he made drinks from real fruit. Rather than adding sugar he decreased the sugar and added salts and electrolytes to replace what riders were losing.  He used real food -- rice, eggs, bacon – to provide all of the nutrients that riders needed to train, race, and recover. He recalls traveling around with a rice cooker and electric frying pan in order to fuel his athletes. It worked.  Riders not only felt fueled and recovered, they were happy to be eating something other than shakes and pasta.

Wanting to help other riders reap the benefits of eating real, whole food, Lim teamed with Chef Biju Thomas, whom he met while Biju was cooking for a cycling party, to create the Feedzone Cookbook and to take his “secret drink mix” to the masses. What began as a small company based out of Boulder, Colorado has grown a following not only from cyclists, but also from endurance athletes, racecar drivers, and even parents looking for ways to encourage their children to eat wholesome food.  The whole food movement keeps growing and Lim and Thomas keep learning and searching for new ways to educate. 

Thomas and Lim’s real, whole food philosophy has extended to a full line of products designed to keep you functioning at your peak and The Cyclist is proud to connect you with them. It’s a small company with big idea. Everything is all natural, GMO free and made in small batches to ensure quality control.

Additionally, they have created gummy chews that provide that added boost during long rides or races. The best part about the gummies is that they don’t melt, stick together, or drip like many gel products.

Skratch Labs has now introduced a Recovery Mix to help you refuel immediately after your ride or workout. It contains a blend of natural ingredients, such as cane sugar, cocoa, or real vanilla to provide carbohydrates as well as protein. Although it can easily be mixed with water, for an extra boost, you can always add it to a natural fruit smoothie to provide more calories.


While the snow is still settling, have some fun in the kitchen. You may not need to eat too many snacks for shorter trainer rides, but eating real food throughout the day, rather than grabbing chips or a processed food bar will not only stave off hunger, it will provide you with all the nutrients you need to keep going strong. And foods like waffles and rice balls are fun for the whole family, not just the cyclist.

If you are ever in Boulder, Colorado, step inside the Little Curry Shop, the brainchild of Thomas. Using his experiences growing up in India as well as years of providing wholesome, fresh food to the pro peloton, Thomas has created a shop that continually draws the masses and had received rave reviews. Experience his cooking firsthand.

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