Harness the power of yams!

I don’t use gels, Gu, Powerbars, or Clif bars. I eat actual food, which means I have to plan and make my fuel ahead of time. I like knowing what I’m eating and after hours of training I find that it’s easier to force real food down my throat than chemically adjusted frankenfoods. I’m not some wacky food purist. If you can eat gels, Gu, or bars, go for it. But in my quest to go longer and drop my body fat I found that the manufactured products just didn’t give me enough fuel. Worse, they made me gag after the first dose. This is a recipe suggested by my nutritionist, Matt Mahowald at New Performance. You can play with it to experiment with flavors and textures. There is a distinct flavor difference if you use peanut or almond butter, with only a minor calorie difference. (Almond butter tends to have 10 calories less per serving.) Also, for this batch I used chunky style, which means chewing while exercising. Should be interesting. For this version I used Barney Butter, generously donated by Katie B and her sponsor. Let me know how yours turn out!

Ingredients (can be scaled up as long as ratios are kept the same):
2 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons almond butter or peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey (I like Trader Joe’s desert mesquite, also sourwood and Greek honey are outstanding)
1 teaspoon salt

aluminum foil
baking sheet
1 gallon freezer bags
silicone baking mold (optional)

01-prepPreheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
This is a good time to scrub your potatoes clean.


Once you clean and pat dry the potatoes wrap them in tin foil and place them on a baking sheet.
You’ll want to cover your baking sheet in foil as the leakage turns into a
 sludge you don’t want to mess with. (Do not anger the sludge.)
I bake my taters for 80 minutes. 

03-checkingUse a toothpick to determine if the sweet potatoes are fully cooked.
The toothpick should slide in easily.
If you meet resistance, bake another 10 minutes.
Allow the potatoes to cool for 20-30 minutes.
(Unless you don’t need the skin on your fingers.) 


Here is your perfect carb.


Fully cooked, the skin is already slippery.


Use your fingers to slip the skin off the potato. 


Some potatoes have “eyes”.
I would suggest removing them at this point because it’s much harder
to spit them out while pedaling at 25 mph.


Once you’ve skinned your potatoes, drop them into the mixer and start mixing.


Action shot!


Add almond or peanut butter. Add honey.
I deeply apologize for the graphic grossness of this photo.


Add salt.


You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.


Take one the of the gallon freezer bags.
This will be your pastry piping bag.


Get your silicone mat. Snip the corner off the bag and pipe it into the silicone mold.


I’ve tried using a tablespoon and scooping it into the baggies, but it was a total mess.
The silicone mat is flexible, freezer safe, and makes this an easier process.
If the mix comes out too sploogy you can refrigerate the big bag for 30 minutes to firm it up for easier piping. 


Put the big bag in a bowl and pop it into the fridge.


Place your silicone mat into the freezer on as flat a surface as you can find
given the various meats and long-unused flour you probably have.
Minute steaks provide a pretty good surface, as salmon tends to curl at the edges.
I should toss that flour.


1-2 hours after freezing, the bars should be ready.
Remove them from the freezer.
Take a 1 gallon food storage bag and stick your hand in it.
Prepare to shake hands with food.


The yams should invert easily into your hand and still retain their bar form.
You can always freeze longer if it’s still soft.


Invert the bag. Now you have a bar in a bag.


Twist the baggie shut and knot it making sure to allow as little air as possible in the bag.
Air in the bag makes it harder to get all the food out while biking. Trust me. 


Trim the excess plastic off the end of the baggie. You now have a roughly 2 tablespoon serving.
If I’m doing a 50 mile ride I’ll bring 6 of these, one every half hour. 


Carbs, protein, good fat, and salt!

This is cheap to make. I get a huge box of sweet potatoes for $8 (a dozen, easy). A jar of Trader Joe’s organic peanut butter runs $3. A jar of honey about $4. Salt is salt, man. Single most plentiful substance on earth besides stupidity. Bags are $2 for 75. I haven’t found a reusable delivery mechanism for this yet. Most of the Fuel Belt and Gu bottles are designed for a more liquid payload and even using creamy peanut or almond butter there is still an issue with delivery. I’m working on that. The only part of this that feels wasteful is the excess plastic baggie that gets snipped off and thrown into the recycling bin. Using smaller baggies is always an option, but I was finding it hard to get a good knot going on the smaller sandwich sizes. YMMV.

Train hard, eat well!


8 responses to “Harness the power of yams!

  1. Holy crap, that sounds delicious. I have some questions:

    1) What is the final consistency like, during consumption? I assume it softens as you ride…

    2) How does your “delivery mechanism” work? Do you just tear it open with your teeth? Paint me a picture with your beautiful words!

  2. Where’d you get the silicone mold?

  3. I purchased the silicone mat at Surfas in Culver City, but they are available everywhere including Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Go to the kitchen baking section and see the different sizes and shapes in silicone baking mats.

    Seth, I bite a tiny bit off the end off the end of the baggie, spit, and squeeze. It’s easier than tearing the top off a Gu package and certainly less wasteful. I’ve been on too many run courses littered with sticky metal tabs from the discarded Gu wrappers.

    The consistency is like baby food. Sometimes there are stringy bits from the potato, and if you’ve used chunky style there’s obviously some chewing in there, but it’s not overly sweet because there’s only natural sugars in the potato and the honey. It’s not something I crave, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the artificial flavoring in the Gu, gels, etc.

  4. Thanks for the clarification. I would definitely make this for you if you came to visit.


  5. Nightshade: is that a promise or a threat?

  6. It is the promise of a threat. Of a promise. Or something.

  7. You could make it more palatable by making it a promise of a treat. He yaps and jumps up for treats until you tell him to “sit.” The he waits patiently.

  8. Seeing your hand in a plastic bag like that sure brings back memories.

    Ah, college.

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