Why Real Food Is Better than Gels, Blocks, and Sports Bars

Feed Zone water bottles and rice cakes FZC

If you’ve read Dr. Allen Lim’s introduction to Feed Zone Portables, you were treated to a lovely exploration of the human gut to see how liquid and solid foods are digested and absorbed. Lim wanted to show why real food is better for athletes than prepackaged sports nutrition products, and the introduction covers it in detail.

“I’ve worked with very few athletes who could eat pre-packaged foods all day when training or competing. They would often complain that they just couldn’t stomach the bars, blocks, and gels given to them,” says Lim.

“I’ve personally always had a hard time with many pre-packaged sports bars, and many athletes complain that they taste bad and hurt performance. I wanted to find out why the rice cakes I’d been making for them were better than what we could buy premade at the grocery store.”

Feed Zone water bottles and rice cakes FZC

To find out why many of his athletes preferred real food to pre-packaged sports bars, Lim bought every bar, snack, block, and sports nutrition product he could find and analyzed their ingredients.

What he found was surprising. The summary is this: real food and sports nutrition products are pretty similar except in one important way: The packaged products are very dry while real food contains a lot of water.

Suddenly, the bloating and cramping that plagued pro cyclists made sense to Lim. For many athletes, these dry and highly concentrated sports nutrition products overload the gut, sucking water out of the bloodstream to dilute the concentration before absorbing the calories. Thinking they are fueling up, many pro athletes are actually dehydrating themselves and taking longer to refuel than if they had instead eaten real food.

Lim explains, “Imagine we are making a cake and after adding all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, we use only 10% of the water that the recipe requires before baking. What we would have at the end of the process would resemble a brick (or the typical sports bar), not a cake that we would want to serve for dessert or be excited to eat during a long endurance event.”

The problem isn’t limited to dry foods; gels might be liquid, but the gut absorbs them the same way it handles any highly concentrated food by dehydrating the gut to dilute them before they can be absorbed.

The real-food recipes in Feed Zone Portables, with their higher water content and natural ingredients, have been helping pro athletes find higher performance.Try a few Feed Zone Portables sample recipes yourself to see how they taste and how they make you feel.

In this video from Skratch Labs, Lim demonstrates the difference between sports bars that contain 3-10% water by mass and the rice cakes found in Feed Zone Portables, which contain 60-80% water by mass.

In the Feed Zone, the menu has changed and no one can argue with the results: real food is better. Real food tastes better, digests quickly, and helps you perform at your best.