We chatted with one of the most recognizable drivers in NASCAR about what she eats before a race, why she always makes her own salad dressing, how she stays in such great shape, and more.
NASCAR drivers are athletes, make no mistake about it. Look no further than the driver of the Nature's Bakery #10 car, Danica Patrick, as proof. The former cheerleader/volleyball and basketball player/track & fielder/tumbler is an avid yoga enthusiast, going so far as making her media availability before the Daytona 500 an open yoga session. Heck, anyone who can do this is definitely an athlete in my book. And if you're driving hundreds of miles week-in and week-out in excess of 200mph, you can't be a slouch. Pretty sure that's science. So how does this world-class professional maintain during race season? She starts with a well-stocked bus fridge full of healthy options.
"The bus driver that drives to the track each weekend goes to the grocery store, and it's a standing list of the same things every weekend," Danica says. "Salmon, chicken, steak, veggies, fruit, all kinds of things like that. And then I'll usually fill the bus up at the beginning of the season with a bunch of random unique things from health food stores—coconut oil or almond butter, you know? Dates and goji berries, things like that."
Danica essentially keeps those same ingredients on rotation all season, because she says eating healthy—something she's extremely passionate about that also perfectly aligns with her new Nature's Bakery sponsorship—makes the ingredient list a lot shorter. Her typical meal on the eve of a race will be a steak, sweet potato [Read more about her love for sweet potatoes below], and a salad with strawberries, almonds, and balsamic dressing. It better not be that pre-made stuff, either. For as as long as she can remember, she's taken care of the dressing herself.
"I always make my own dressing," Danica says. "I can't even remember why I started. I think it's because once you get cooking a lot and you know a lot about food, you understand that you can pretty much make anything if you have all the ingredients."
Danica's reasoning for continuing this Betty-Crocker-of-Balsamic way of life is a simple one that we certainly agree with. (Try our homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette for yourself, and see just how easy it is.)
"It tastes better. I think whenever you make things yourself it tastes better. There's no extra ingredients, there's no preservatives, there's no extra binding agents. It's kind of like being able to eat out of your garden. It's so much more flavorful."
Danica combines her organic meal planning approach with a rigorous training routine during the week that would make that training montage from Rocky IV blush (forgot to ask if she listens to "Hearts On Fire" at the gym).
"I do general cross-training I would call it, with low weight, high volume, long extended 30-minute sessions of everything from burpees to lunges, sit-ups, squat presses—just simple, easy, light things for an extended period of time. Then I also do crossfit, which is way more intense, much more heavyweight—at times—and strength training where you're working on heavy sets of two, heavy sets of three, a one rep max where you're really maxing out your weight. Then I do yoga as well. And I started doing some...interval running, adding intervals where I can do it where I can actually, you know...run."
And her healthy lifestyle extends beyond pre-race prep, rigorous workouts, and homemade ingredients. Danica also shops healthy, but shirks the conventional wisdom that the farther you wander into a grocery store's belly the more unhealthy the ingredients become.
"You can find unique things in those [middle] aisles, too. Maybe you need some mirin to cook with, or maybe coconut milk so that you can make certain desserts. So I would say I shop the entire store, because I always like to find some neat things, and sometimes you have to go up and down the aisles to find those things. Maybe it's even a matter of, you know, you need to go through the aisles so you can get some nuts or seeds that are unique."
From the bus to the track to the yoga mat, this is one NASCAR driver whose healthy habits we can get behind!