Consider the energy bar. It’s both a brilliant creation—loads of calories jammed into a single serving—and the bane of many athletes’ existence. The dense, chewy snacks often taste like little more than cardboard. Now, imagine the plight of the professional cyclist (or runner or triathlete or any endurance athlete) who needs to ingest thousands of calories while in motion.

Enter Feed Zone Portables (VeloPress), a cookbook by chef Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim released this month. The book expands on a chapter of the duo’s original book, the Feed Zone Cookbook (2011), where they employ real food as fuel. Sound novel? It is and it isn’t.

The energy bar industry has, over the years, convinced the public that the best calories come from a carefully formulated product. But Thomas and Lim have taken a different tack: In working closely with the world’s best cyclists (Taylor Phinney, Kristin Armstrong, Timmy Duggan, and, yes, Lance Armstrong, along with many others), they determined that real food—including rice, blueberries, sweet potatoes, fresh herbs, cheese, eggs, bacon, chocolate chips, molasses—makes the best, most efficient fuel. And it’s all the better when portioned and wrapped for eating on the go.

So, what’s this all mean for mere weekend warriors? “We’re feeding top cyclists in the world. If it works for them, it will work for you,” Thomas says. The genius of Portables is this: The book sits at the intersection of reality and practicality. With a little pre-planning, these items (all easy, all developed in Thomas’ home kitchen) can be taken with you for nourishment on a hike, on a ride—or simply to work or on a road trip.

I regard this book (and its recipes for items such as spiced pumpkin cakes, Masala chicken rice cakes, and carrot waffles), as such: This is a way to nourish my endurance-athlete husband, my hungry kindergartner, and my allergy-stricken two year old. I appreciate that Portables‘ dishes are balanced in terms of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and I like the focus on real ingredients and the substitutions for allergens. But most of all, I like the variety and the taste—and so does my family.

Bonus: Chef Biju Thomas has been tapped as the executive chef at both the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour of California.

Road Map: Whip up some portables and head out for a ride. Check out Spin Cities in the May issue for some of our favorites routes.

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.