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Emily Schaldach (on @emily.schaldach) is a Boulder, Colo.–based pro mountain-bike, gravel, and cyclocross racer for the Bitchn Grit race team. Here’s how she fuels for fitness.

Experience Life | Describe your training and nutrition goals.

Emily Schaldach | My food philosophy is larger than simply fulfilling training goals. That said, training requires eating lots of food. I’m often out riding for hours, and I know I need to be eating enough to keep fueled without relying on midride food stops or tons of pocket snacks.

During large training blocks, I focus on eating foods that provide long-term energy, as well as short-term energy for more intense efforts. I’ve settled on a mix of complex and simple carbs, lots of vegetables, some protein, and healthy fats. If I hit this balance at three meals a day, I feel ready for long efforts as well as short, punchy ones.

When I have a choice, I avoid eating meat because of the ethical implications of the meat industry. I also minimize dairy and other animal products in my diet.

I do not feel that avoiding animal products is detrimental to my training. I find plenty of ways to feel full and fueled on a primarily plant-based diet, and I feel fortunate that I have found a way to balance my values and nutritional needs.

EL | Do you have any food rituals or superstitions?

ES | One of my old teammates used to say that you don’t want to eat pizza before a race or you’d have “pizza legs” while racing, implying you’d feel slow. I heard this curse enough times that, while I do not feel it’s grounded in fact, I do find myself avoiding pizza before a race — even though I laugh at the idea of pizza legs every time someone mentions it.

EL | Describe a day in your life.

ES | I wake up hungry almost every day. I start the day with Earl Gray tea or coffee, depending on my energy level. I typically eat either hash browns with vegetables, yogurt and granola, or a pancake. I love slow mornings, so I take time to sit and enjoy waking up while I plan my ride and eat breakfast. After breakfast, I ride, typically with one or two ride snacks, such as a Clif Bar.

When I get home, I’m usually ready for more food. I either reach for dinner leftovers or make a smoothie. In the afternoon I’ll work, often snacking on nuts or carrots while I’m at the computer. For dinner, I typically start with a huge pan of cooked vegetables. I mix it up, eating what’s in season or what looks nourishing. I’ll cook tofu, tempeh, or beans, picking a flavor profile and throwing a bunch of spices and sauces in to make a massive jumble of veggies, protein, and sauce. I usually cook a grain, such as rice or quinoa, or I’ll throw the veggies into tortillas for tacos.

This description is an ideal day. In reality, I often end up eating a Clif Bar on the drive into town, a bowl of cereal before bed, or ice cream after dinner. I don’t worry about these moments. I acknowledge my needs and make the best decision I can based on the resources around me.

EL | Do you use tests to inform your food and fitness choices?

ES | I look to nutrition tests if I feel like something is not working in my diet. I’ve checked for iron deficiency because I have historically dealt with anemia. I also did an IgG and IgE Food Antibody Assessment through Genova Diagnostics to help address nagging stomachaches. Since taking this test, I’ve been able to eliminate just a few foods, which has made a world of difference for me.

EL | Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

ES | My recipes are a bit of a loose operation; I’m not big into measuring cups or specifics. My current favorite smoothie is almond milk, peanut butter, one frozen banana, whey protein, and cinnamon and cardamom.

This originally appeared as “Fit Fuel” in the May 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

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