Wednesday, April 17, 2013

4221 Snacks

Long bike rides, such as the bike leg of an Ironman, require taking in calories to complete. I like e-Gels by Crank Sports; they have electrolytes, too. I often have a Snickers bar early in a long ride (before it melts). I get some calories from my Michaelade. That's still not enough, though. For training rides, I have been known to pack a burrito or a small beef sandwich (or two) but I have been looking for something else. Something snacky I can take on training rides and races. I hate Power Bars. Hate them. I don't really care for many other bars (or waffles), though Bonk Breakers aren't bad. Problem with stuff like that, though, is they're kinda pricey. Could I come up with my own snack?

I came across a recipe by Leah Vande Velde, pro rider Christian Vande Velde's wife, for her homemade energy bars, so I made them. Not quite right for me so I tweaked and experimented and came up with a recipe that is what I'm looking for and tastes yummy, too. I call them 4221 Snacks. "4221" because that makes it easy to keep the recipe in my head. "Snacks" because I don't make bars out of them. I make balls out of them:

4221 Snacks

  • 4 Cups Cereal (Rice Krispies, Cocoa Krispies, etc.)
  • 2 Cups of Nuts & Chews (Try 1C Almonds and 1C Golden Raisins)
  • 2 Cups of Sugary Stuff (I use 1C Brown Sugar and 1C Corn Syrup)
  • 1 Cup of Thick Stuff (I use 1/2C Peanut Butter and 1/2C Tahini)
  1. Put cereal and Nuts & Chews in a mixing bowl and mix together.
    Generic Cocoa Krispies, chopped roasted almonds, raisins,
    and chopped dried figs before getting stirred together.
  2. Heat Sugary Stuff in a saucepan on low. Stir until it melts.
  3. Add Thick Stuff to saucepan. Stir until melted and mixed.
  4. Apply non-stick spray to a baking sheet.
  5. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix until the dry ingredients are well coated. Don't be lazy here. If the wet mixture cools off it will be hard to work with.
  6. Use a disher to scoop the mixture and place scoops on the baking sheet.
    Scoops on the baking sheet ready to be frozen.
  7. Put baking sheet in freezer.
  8. After a few hours (or, even better, overnight) remove the snack balls from the baking sheet and place them in a zipper storage bag. Store in the freezer.

That's it. When I am ready to use the snacks on a ride I take them out of the freezer, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and put them in my jersey pocket or Bento Box. They hold up well in the heat, aren't too sticky (hold them with the plastic wrap while eating), the Thick Stuff gives them a savory feel that is a welcome change from gels and other sweet snacks, and they don't upset my stomach.

Warning: this snack is only meant to be eaten while cycling or other multi-hour endurance activity. It is fairly calorie-dense so if you eat it while you're sitting around the office, you may feel the need to run around the block several times and/or play a game of basketball to burn off the energy you just ate.

Here are some notes on the ingredients:

  • I have only used the aforementioned Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies (their generic equivalents, truth be told). I suspect Cheerios may work, though I do wonder about how its fiber might affect me. Maybe Corn Flakes. Cocoa Puffs sound really interesting.
  • I wouldn't mess around too much with the Sugary Stuff. I find this combination holds things together well.
  • Nuts & Chews is where you can really experiment. Dried fruit, chocolate chips, different kinds of nuts. Just make sure things are no bigger than raisin-sized because it helps them stay attached. For example, if you want to use almonds, chop them up a little.
  • If you use peanut butter in your Thick Stuff, don't use the natural kind that separates (like my favorite, Laura Scudder's). Use something like Jif so it will hold together in the heat.

I first started working on this in 2012 and found that, in combination with Michaelade, I was recovering much better from long, hard rides. I'm not saying that these things are some kind of nutritional silver bullet. More like I was finally ingesting enough calories on my rides.

I use a #12 disher for my snacks, which results in 20 scoops (be conservative and level those scoops because you don't want these snacks to be huge--I've tried that and it's too much). Here is the nutritional breakdown per scoop for the above recipe using Rice Krispies, almonds, and golden raisins. YMMV because of different ingredients, scoop sizes, etc.:

  • 35.1g Carbhohydrates
  • 4.2g Protein
  • 9.2g Fat
  • 226 Calories

Like I said, "calorie-dense". Enjoy and I hope this inspires you to make your own snacks. If you are interested in making your own cycling snacks, you might want to check out Allen Lim's new book, Feed Zone Portables. I haven't read it yet but it does sound promising.

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