What's Her Secret?
Top Female Athletes Reveal The Natural Products That Help Them Perform, Feel, And Look Their Best
What does a world-class kayaker take along in her pack to keep her energized halfway through a race? What kinds of foods does a well-known yogi eat to purify her body and stay so lean? How does a top rock climber protect her skin from scrapes and bruises? Delicious Living staffers—many of us athletes in our own right—were curious to know how the pros take care of their bodies for optimal performance. Here's a look at the natural-care philosophies of four female athletes—the products they use, the organic foods they love, and the disciplines that help them achieve success.
Sport: Rock climbing
Home Base: Moab, Utah
At age 30, Steph Davis has already scaled seven peaks in Patagonia's Fitz Roy Range in South America—and was notably the first American woman to summit Fitz Roy. She tackles big-wall routes, high-altitude adventures, and sport climbs. If she looks familiar, you may have seen her in Patagonia clothing catalogs; she's one of the company's "alpine ambassadors," part-time contractors who help develop products, act as spokespeople, and send in photos and essays from their global treks.
Davis says her sport is her primary motivation to eat well and take care of her body. "I always want better use of my body," she says. And to stay in top physical condition, she eats mostly organic foods. "And I'm vegan, except for half-and-half in my coffee," she says. "I also eat a lot of whole grains, fruits, and steamed dark green vegetables. And because I worry about getting enough calcium, I drink Edensoy enriched soy milk." Davis also watches when she eats. "I find that my body runs more efficiently if I keep my diet light in the evening, so I try to eat most of my food throughout the day when I'm burning energy." Sticking to a healthy diet can be hard, she admits. "It takes motivation and discipline, but I think if it makes you feel and perform better, it's worth it."
Steph's Top Picks
Traditional Medicinals Ginger Teas. "The Ginger Aid tea helps digestion and has a wonderful sharp, gingery taste. I like to drink it at night for a final hydration opportunity before bed and to help process my food. Sometimes I switch it up with Traditional Medicinals Peppermint tea, which is a delicious nightcap and another natural digestive aid."
Mojo Bars. "Clif Bar is making new bars called Mojo, which are delicious as well as good for you. I like to eat nuts and things that aren't too sweet, and Mojo Bars have whole nuts in them and are kind of salty. My favorite flavor is the Mixed Nuts—you find entire almonds, pecans, and cashews in them. When I'm out rock climbing, I carry one or two with me on a climb. Often, just before I start a climb, I'll spread some chunky almond butter on one of these bars for some even longer-burning energy."
Bragg Liquid Aminos and Nutritional Yeast. "I pour Bragg's and nutritional yeast generously on almost every meal I eat—except breakfast! The yeast is full of protein and B vitamins, including folic acid, and tastes delicious. The Bragg's is salty, a healthier version of soy sauce, and adds great flavor while supplying amino acids. A wonderful treat is plain popcorn doused with Bragg's and nutritional yeast, although I avoid popcorn usually because it has a lot of extra carbohydrates."
Emergen-C. "I'm addicted to this stuff. One of the greatest challenges with long climbing days and training is staying healthy, and the combination of extra water and vitamin C really helps me. I like the raspberry flavor. I use one packet very diluted in a liter of water. I also like the tangerine flavor, but I find that it's not as powerful, so I use two packets in a liter of water. Every morning right after coffee, I drink my liter of Emergen-C. Throughout the day I drink at least three or four more liters of the diluted mix. I can't leave the country or the state without a huge stash of it. And if I'm fighting a cold or minor illness, I drink even more of it."
Climb On! Bar. "One of my main preoccupations as a climber is taking care of my hands, both tendons and skin. Often, when I'm working on a difficult climb, or if I'm climbing a big wall, skin pain can be more of a handicap than anything else. I use the Climb On! Bar because it works better than anything I've found yet. It comes in a tin, and it feels very waxy. I put it on at night if I have bad skin pain, and the next morning the pain is gone. With regular hand lotions, I never have such quick results."
Home Base: Blacksburg, Virginia
"My philosophy of caring for my body and eating properly has come slowly over time," says 29-year-old Anna Levesque, bronze medalist at the 2001 Whitewater Kayaking World Championships and five-time member of the Canadian freestyle national team. Levesque, an Ontario, Canada, native who started rafting as a summer job and eventually found she was good enough to make a living as a sponsored paddler, points to her father as one of her main health influences. "My dad became a vegan and began a yoga practice after suffering a heart attack a few years ago," she says. She also credits those in the outdoor sports industry with helping her get more informed about wellness and personal care. "I began to meet more and more people who lived a natural, healthy lifestyle. The more I heard about natural living, the more I wanted to know."
Levesque now loves going to the natural foods store and tries to stick to a vegetarian diet, but being on the road so much makes it difficult. "I eat some meat, but when I do, I try to choose free-range chicken and turkey. I do eat fish because it's good for muscle repair and a great source of protein." She also drinks lots of water, rather than sports powders and drinks, which she says usually contain too much sugar.
Keeping her body—and her mind—in shape is key to successful kayaking. "You need to stay flexible for this sport, which is why I do a lot of yoga. I also stretch and get massages regularly. Some people will take ibuprofen if they get a kink, but if you take the time to stretch that muscle and get a massage, it will remedy itself within a few days." Paddling, she says, is also a mental exercise. "You need to learn how to deal with fear and nervousness and build confidence and stay mentally focused. Meditation is a big part of that for me. As athletes we get too wrapped up in what we're doing. It's go, go, go. But taking time off for relaxation is really beneficial."
Anna's Top Picks
Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme. "A kayaker's feet can get really nasty because they're always wet, and certain parts of the foot, such as the heel and the sides, are constantly being rubbed against the boat. This cream hydrates my poor feet. Foot massage also gives my boyfriend and me something simple and nice we can do for each other when we have some time alone. He's a professional kayaker, too."
Silk Soy Milk. "I love the chocolate and vanilla flavors; they taste great. I'm not a big coffee fan, but I do enjoy the Silk Coffee Soylatte once in a while, more for the taste than for the caffeine. I also eat soy a lot. Pad thai with tofu is one of my favorite meals. If I eat dairy products, I eat organic, such as Horizon milk, yogurt, and eggs."
Aura Cacia Essential Oil Blends. "I use Heart Song and Lavender Fields for relaxation before or after competition. If I'm feeling bad after a race that didn't go so well, I sit in the car, put a few drops of one of these essential oils on a cotton ball, and place it on the dash in the sun or in front of the heater so that the scent is released. Lavender is very soothing and restores a sense of well-being. When working on my instructional video for women, I like to put a few drops of Aura Cacia's Inspiration blend into my oil burner. The scent truly does inspire creativity."
Luna Bars. "When you're paddling a river like the Gauley River in West Virginia, you're out there for five hours, so you want something to snack on when you pull over to shore and take a break. Luna bars are great because they're small and light but packed with good stuff. I love any flavor with chocolate. Another food I like to eat for a power boost is natural crunchy peanut butter and honey on whole-wheat bread."
Yogi Tea. "I like to drink this green tea with lemon and honey when I'm feeling run-down. It's rich in antioxidants that keep you healthy. Or I'll drink herbal tea with echinacea in it if I think I'm coming down with a cold. I also like chamomile tea with honey and lemon, or even just plain hot water with honey and lemon."
Sports: Running & Tennis
Home Base: Columbia, Missouri
How does a young woman decide to eat healthfully at an age when most of her peers are putting a lot of junk in their bodies? According to 22-year-old Amy Chipman, it began with her parents. "My dad was a big health nut, and my mom always cooked healthy meals," says Chipman, who was routinely ranked in the top hundred nationally on the junior tennis circuit. "When most kids were all about sugar and candy, I was more interested in fruits and vegetables. We didn't eat microwave TV dinners and candy bars. All I knew was what my mom gave me. So when it came time to make my own decisions about food, I just carried on what I was taught by my parents."
Since high school, Chipman has focused on running; she's now a senior at the University of Missouri, where she has regularly earned such collegiate track accolades as All-Big 12 and All-Region. "Being an athlete makes it more important to eat healthily; it gives you more motivation. When I'm trying to optimize my chances of a great performance, for example, it makes sense to eat well." Eating healthy means mostly cooking from scratch for Chipman. "I don't like to use items in boxes or things with lots of preservatives," she says. "I try to get a balance of everything in my diet. I have fish once a week and a fruit and a vegetable with every meal. Mostly I just stick to what I like to call real food. After all, if I'm working so hard, why treat my body with junk?"
Amy's Top Picks
Arnica (Arnica montana). "I messed up my Achilles tendon in my sophomore year. It was inflamed and hurt really bad. Someone I knew recommended arnica, so I tried it, and I think it helped my foot heal. The gel worked well when it was massaged into my skin, and I also took the pills. Now I use the gel whenever I have sore muscles. It's nice to massage into sore legs; it leaves them feeling really good. I've shared it with other people on the team, and they think it works, too."
A Big Glass Of Water and Powerade. "I always have these two drinks before and after a workout. And I always bring a PowerBar and have it within 30 minutes after the race is over. It's important to refuel and replenish everything you've lost after a race."
Eggland's Best Eggs. "These eggs have extra good stuff in them, like omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA. And they're from cage-free 'happy' hens, like the box says. My friends make fun of me and say, 'They're just eggs.' But if you can get a little extra nutrition, why not? I try to get nutrients from food instead of from supplements, although I do take a daily vitamin."
All-Natural Peanut Butter. "I get this natural peanut butter from our local natural market. You get it from a machine, and you can see the peanuts getting crunched into the actual peanut butter. I like it better than peanut butter you buy at the regular grocery store because it doesn't have the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is really bad for you. Plus it gives me lots of energy when I'm working out."
Echinacea (Echinacea spp). "I've always been an echinacea person. I use it as soon as I feel the slightest cold coming on or when someone close to me is sick. The one I take is an echinacea and goldenseal combination. And I sometimes take zinc, too. During cross-country season my roommate was sick, so I started downing echinacea and orange juice and tried to sleep a lot. And I never got sick. In fact, I haven't been really sick-sick since I was about 8 years old. I don't know if it's just luck."
Sport: Yoga practitioner
Home Base: Crestone, Colorado
Like many committed to yoga, Annie Pace, 41, is conscious of the delicate balance of the body's physical, spiritual, and emotional components. One of the most advanced practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga in the world today, Pace has spent years studying in India and has instructed students all over the world. Pace first became interested in yoga in 1980 when she signed up for a class at a local rec center in Denver. After practicing four or five poses daily for several months, she realized she wanted to learn more and began to explore other classes and teachers. In 1985, she discovered Ashtanga Yoga, in which a traditional sequence of postures is linked together by the breath. "Immediately I knew this was it," says Pace.
Pace, who teaches Ashtanga Yoga at her studio in Crestone, makes it clear that she does not consider yoga a sport, nor herself an athlete. But she agrees that the practice is physically intense and demanding, involving a clear synthesis of mind and body. "Ashtanga Yoga, when correctly practiced, is a system of constant purification and refinement," says Pace. "Its effects cannot help but permeate our lifestyle—our choices in foods, friends, surroundings, daily routines, our work in the world. As a result of the practice itself, we stop craving so much the things that are not good for us. We become conscious of our option to act with integrity."
Annie's Top Picks
Sattvic Foods. "In yoga, this is what we call pure, whole foods that are not processed. I eat organic food as much as I can—lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. I have a garden and a greenhouse, and I grow 99 percent of my own vegetables. What I can't grow, I buy organic. And I buy locally. Whenever possible, I avoid buying anything that comes in a package."
Horizon or Organic Valley Milk. "I'm a vegetarian, and I don't eat cheese or eggs, but I do drink milk and eat yogurt. I like these brands because they're organic and all natural. I don't have a cow, so some things you inevitably have to get in a package."
Jurlique Skin-Care Products. "I know that these products are totally pure, and the company follows Ayurvedic principles in their formulas. I like the Foaming Facial Cleanser with tea tree and lavender and the Herbal Extract Recovery Gel. Most of the time for skin moisturizing I use coconut oil or sesame oil—just something straight."
Body Balance by Life Force International. "I do take this liquid food supplement. It's a multipurpose supplement that I take on a daily basis. It contains sea greens and has many micronutrients."
Cold Snap. "I also take an herbal supplement called Cold Snap. When you feel a cold coming on, Cold Snap supports your immune system. I believe in treating the cause rather than symptoms, and Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine is the way to do it."
Dagny Scott Barios writes and runs regularly.