Wagon Wheels

I started playing football my freshman year of high school. I was introduced to weight training the summer before as part of the football program. The first day I walked into the gym, I was 165 lbs and 6' tall. I benched a ground breaking 115 lbs and squatted an ugly 185 lbs for 2 reps. Looking around at the seniors with full beards, I knew one thing, I needed to get stronger. I figured the easiest way to was to lift weights and try to gain weight.


That afternoon, I came home and told my Mom, I needed to gain weight. She decided I would follow the most basic of weight gain prescriptions, the pancake diet. Every meal from then forward, included pancakes. Breakfast was usually cereal and pancakes. Lunch was 6 PB&J's and pancakes. Dinner was hamburgers and pancakes. At first she would heat up the griddle and start knocking them out. But as I started getting bigger, I ate faster. As a result her pancakes grew in size. She figured it was easier to make a few big ones than several normal sized pancakes. With in a year, she had to buy new plates because the pancakes where hanging over the sides. We affectionately called the pancakes, "wagon wheels". It was always pretty amusing to have friends come over and have my mom make pancakes. The look on their faces was always one of shock and awe.

My senior year, I weighed 275 lbs and stood 6'4" tall. In 4 years, I had gained over 100 lbs and grew 4 inches. I squatted 425 lbs, benched 315 lbs, deadlifted 500 lbs and power cleaned 250 lbs. I was offered around 50 scholarships and went on to play football at Berkeley and then the NFL.


I am not saying the pancakes were the reason I played in college and the NFL. But I saying they were a big part of my 100 lbs weight gain. Without the extra weight, I might not of had the size to get noticed by college scouts. Coupled with lifting weights 2-3 times a day and running, the increased volume of food fueled a massive growth spurt.

Around 2002, I learned the only thing I was more allergic to than soy was gluten. I had always wondered why I got sleepy and bloated after eating pancakes. It wasn't until I had allergy testing done with my blood work, I found my answer. Upon getting this information, I headed to my cupboard and pulled out the bag of Krusteaz Pancake Mix, the source of my mom's pancakes. I looked at the package and wheat and soy where listed plainly on the back.


What was I do?

Pancakes had been a staple in my diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I set out to discover a new recipe for the wagon wheels. One that was gluten and soy free and could add bulk. I have tried about every pancake you can find in the paleo world. From ones made with almond flour to ones made with apple sauce and nut butter. But nothing would compare the wagon wheels from my youth.

A few months ago, I was contacted by a publisher about doing a diet/recipe book. As I started going through my recipes, I knew pancakes would have a prominent place in the book.

New Wagon Wheels

2 sweet potatoes (yields about 4 cups)
4 whole eggs
1 cup coconut milk
2 scoops of Well Food Company Vanilla Whey Protein
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons almond butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces. Boil them until you can easily stick a knife in them. Put the potatoes in the blender with the eggs, whey protein, melted butter, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder, almond butter. Start adding the coconut milk to reduce the consistency and blending it.


Heat the griddle, slick it with butter and cook till brown on either side. Remember these are more delicate than the pancakes my mom made. Too hot a griddle and they will burn and not cook through the middle. I would say try them on a lower head setting since, I fucked up the first few batches on Sunday and decided I need reinforcements. So, I contacted Paleo Comfort Food rockstars for their help and they delivered.


I want to thank Jules for coming to my rescue and helping me bring pancakes back to the forefront.

*And just to update the TTMJ readers on my diet/cook book, the publisher and I could not agree on my value. Something about me not having enough readership...

Posted in Diet, Lifting Weights, Power Athlete, Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , | 42 Comments

42 Responses to Wagon Wheels

  1. John

    Two blogs in the same week, it’s like Chistmas!

    Nice recipe, something made for the big guys, other blogs are good but they’re designed for weight loss. Thanks for coming up with this.

  2. Jame G.

    Now cover those with Dad’s egg nog, and you’ve got the recipe for a sexual tyrannosaurus.
    You’ll definitely be the first kid on your block to get a confirmed kill.

  3. Tim

    I love pancakes. I can’t adequately express how much I love pancakes. I love pancakes so much that really the only thing that I would consider eating at McDonald’s whole(bread and all) are the McGriddle’s because damn if those things don’t taste like pancakes. However, pancakes have gluten. Gluten=bad gut problems and non-happy wife. I felt I was doomed to a life of “no pancakedness” after doing much what you did and suffering through some pretty poor renditions of gluten free pancakes. And now there is this gem. I plan on firing up some wagon wheels next weekend(would be sooner but I’m traveling for work).

    I mean this in a purely platonic, but slightly man-crushy way…I heart you. Boop

  4. Thad castle

    John what do u think of the metrx pancakes. They are damn good 13 bucks on amazon and no mess

  5. Green0311

    What’s the publisher, John? I’m sure if enough of your readership started spamming their email inboxes they would get the message.

  6. chrissy

    And I will be making these for Shawn! Great post John and thanks for the new recipe! 🙂

  7. NBP

    Thad, if wheat flour, wheat gluten and soy protein are your idea of fun, go for it.

  8. Matt

    This sounds delicious, I must try it! Only problem is my roommate’s allergy to nuts. What would be a good substitute for the almond butter?

  9. Greg

    I am a diabetic. Do you know the calories, carbs etc for these?? I really would lie to try them.

  10. Corinne

    We will have to try these. I have tried a couple paleo pancakes (one of which I really like) but I am also looking for another recipe to try. Thank you for sharing. Just curious how do they figure your readership?

  11. Give us the publisher and The Nation will eat them alive.

    Serves one.

  12. Ingo B

    I’m gonna try this over the weekend, but be warned: if I don’t double my lifts by next Wed, I’ll be demanding a refund.

  13. JoshL

    Awesome recipe! Gonna make me summa these and sprinkle a lil cinnamon on ’em. I’ll thank you again when I hit my 200lbs weight goal. Thanks!

  14. George

    First of all what were you thinking eating anything by a company called Crusties…I mean Krusteaz?

    Outstanding recipe! Thank you.

    As for your publisher….is it possible that he is that uninformed? How about publishing the publisher’s email address? Give us a crack at straightening him out. I promise to be polite, swift and use facts with cold, unemotional, unbridled ferocity.

  15. Thad Castle

    Npb has low testerone

  16. Tried these out today. I had a hard time not ripping them to pieces when makin ’em big so I made them about the diameter of my spatula and they came out great. They all delicious, not all dry like normal pancakes and I feel good and energetic afterwards, not like I need a nap.

    Thanks, John!

  17. Adding about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of almond flour really helped these. They held together better and had a thicker consistency.

  18. Georg

    Hi John. Great, great, great. Fantastic recipe, great posts and a fantastic website. Are you ever going to visit Switzerland?

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  20. Matt

    I am a small crossfitter who also gas a gluten intolerance but am trying to put on weight and size to move heavier loads more easily. I have dialed my conditioning back to mainly sprints once per week with the off super short metcon and a heavy emphasis on lifting 4x a week.
    How many pancakes do you recommend per sitting each day?

  21. Chris Saliba

    Best pancakes I ever tried!

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  24. Mex

    I am dubbing these “Welbourn Wheels”. Great recipe John, and I have shared it with my Power Athlete Class at CrossFit Torque. I have 8 scrawny freshman, that are new to weights. This is perfect for them. I am sharing the story as well….

    Dan Warren

  25. Ty Fyter

    Is there a reason for coconut milk over cow’s milk? If not I can just substitute one for the other? I find that coconut milk and I don’t mix,,,

    Thanks John, awesome looking recipe. Looks to be ideal post-jiu jitsu 😉


  26. Tom

    I’m definitely going to try this. Thanks for the info.

  27. P.

    At first glance thought that there is a hamburger on the picture. Pancakes will also be great, I have never thought about putting the potatoes inside. Must try it out someday.

  28. Rob W

    John – thanks for the post! Trying these shortly. 1 question though – are we using the full-fat coconut milk or the regular stuff that comes in a carton?

  29. Nemke

    I loved these great post workout on the weekends. I made a mistake the second time I made them and omitted the almond butter, they still came out fine and then i added the almond butter like a spread when they were cooked. I almost liked them more like this personally, probably because it reminds me of nutella…

  30. Jacob A. Rafael

    I’ve been eating the same breakfast that is paleo friendly for the past three days and I’m going to start rotating this out with it. The two eggs, one banana and mixing them up aren’t cutting it as pancakes. I’ve been looking for more substance and energy when it comes to that first meal of the day.

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  32. Th0r255

    I think I am the only one that wants to know, what did you put on your pancakes? I’m hoping you aswer maple syrup and butter. If not what is the alternative you use?


  33. Alex


    What are the nutrition facts for a full batch? Mainly the macronutrients…


  34. James


    Awesome recipe! Do you ever make a batch up the night before and refrigerate it for the next morning to help with a speedy exit out the door?


  35. Rick Hevener

    just made these again for the second Saturday in a row. My 14 year old twins Love these! Thank you!

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