Cyclist Diet | How Lea Davison Fuels

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This year, pro mountain biker and two-time Olympian Lea Davison is all about finding joy where she can, whether she’s eating doughnuts in a doughnut-themed kit or finding new backroads on her bike and sharing them with her Instagram hashtag #leaspursuitofhappiness.

“I wanted to encourage people to go on their own pursuits of happiness,” she told Bicycling. “And I wanted them to tell me their stories. With the absence of competition and routines due to COVID-19, it’s been a great way to connect with people.”

Davison opted not to travel to Europe for the condensed World Cup and World Championship race season and chose to stay stateside to prepare for next year’s Olympic qualifiers instead. During the break from racing, she rekindled her love of exploring gravel around her home in Vermont, and figured out how to race hard indoors on Zwift.

“I really leaned into Zwift,” she said. “I never thought I’d be racing in my basement, but here we are. And it’s the hardest thing ever!”

She’s also been able to cook at home more—one of her favorite activities—and she’s been busy testing new recipes and trying to perfect her latte art. And she hasn’t stopped focusing on fueling her rides optimally. Her Instagram handle is even @leaeatsalot, after all.

“I eat a lot, I cook a lot—food is a central theme in my life. And while it wasn’t intentional at the beginning, part of the reason for that handle is to spread the message that fueling is so important,” she said.

She is a board director and ambassador for the Little Bellas organization—a mountain bike mentorship program for girls ages seven to 18 years old—and talks with them about the importance of food as fuel to counteract the many opposing messages in cycling culture surrounding food.

“You need to eat to fuel your ride, versus the idea that you ride to eat. That’s a really damaging thing for kids to hear. We need to eat to have optimal performance and to fuel our rides,” she said. “I ride around in a doughnut kit, and every Little Bellas event has a snack time. And if I’m there, I make sure the girls see me eating.”

Here, Davison describes what she usually eats and drinks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while training.

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Perfecting the Vanilla Latte

Before COVID, I ate two fried eggs for breakfast with toast every day. And for some reason, after 37 years, I burned myself out on them. I had variety with the traveling that I do to races, so I had to mix it up occasionally, but now I’m not traveling and never change it up, so I got burned out. I still have scrambled eggs, but now I eat them for lunch with smoked salmon sometimes instead. And now breakfast is oatmeal with raw cashew butter—I’m obsessed—and a grated apple with Vermont maple syrup, of course.

I can also finally make a good vanilla latte. When COVID hit, I got an espresso machine. I was never a coffee drinker before that, but I was like, ‘If the Olympics are being postponed, I’m going to need some caffeine to get through another year of training.’ It’s been a journey, learning to make lattes. Lucky for me, [fellow professional mountain bike racer] Erin Huck’s husband has become my coffee coach. He talks me through making one, then I send him photos, and he gives me feedback. The key is using whole milk—it foams much easier.

I make my own vanilla simple syrup, too, which is just a cup of sugar, a cup of water, a and tablespoon of vanilla extract. You bring it to a boil and then shut it off. I usually add two tablespoons of that vanilla syrup with the whole milk and two espresso shots. I’ve gotten the foaming part figured out for the milk, but my latte art is still a work in progress.


Trying New Recipes

I love to cook—I feel like it’s my therapeutic activity. I love ethnic foods, especially Thai and Indian dishes. Anything with big, bold flavors. My recent go to, though, is a vegan crab cake recipe. I’m not vegan, but it’s amazing. It uses hearts of palm as the crab substitute and Old Bay seasoning.

Another go-to is using my Instant Pot. I poach chicken in there and pull it to make a buffalo chicken salad with Franks’s Red Hot sauce, and I’ll eat that for lunch on a salad or with tortilla chips or in a wrap.

For dinner, it’s usually any combo of a meat protein, a salad, and then some kind of carb. I love meats on the grill, sometimes with grilled vegetables.


Fueling Rides With Candy

Haribo Fruit Salad is my go-to on rides because they’re not too hard to chew—it’s not a choking hazard, I can be going at tempo pace, breathing and chewing. I love the Haribo grapefruit slices.

That said, on a longer ride, I also bring a nut butter-filled Clif Bar because you need something a little bit more substantial at some point. I went on this huge ride this summer and I was deep in my candy-while-riding phase, so I only brought a huge bag of gummies. And it ended up being a seven hour ride with 10,000 feet of climbing. It was this major gravel exploration, and I was getting so hungry and so sick of the candy. Luckily, a friend left me a bag of food, which had Barbecue Cheetos in it. It was a lifesaver, and in that moment, I realized maybe sometimes I need some savory things on the bike.

[Want to fly up hills? Climb! gives you the workouts and mental strategies to conquer your nearest peak.]



Timing Is Everything

I’ve been trying to get out for my workouts earlier this morning—the closer I can do that to breakfast, the better, because if I don’t, then I’m in this really awkward stage where now I need lunch before I go. Timing is really, really important. If I’m running late, I’ll bring food with me and eat right away, or have a little snack right before I go.

For postworkout recovery, I make a smoothie with protein powder and berries. In the summer, I was really into using unflavored protein powder with strawberries and lemonade and ice for hot days, but now I’m back to vanilla protein powder with milk and berries. After that, I’ll have lunch, which will be either leftovers from dinner, like buffalo chicken salad or two pieces of toast and maybe some cheese thrown in there, or a taco made with dinner leftovers and some cheese and avocado. Later in the day, I usually have a hunger-busting snack, such as string cheese, cottage cheese mixed with a red pepper paste, or salsa with some corn or sweet potato chips.


Snacking Before Bedtime

Before I go to bed, I have a glass of skim milk or yogurt. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and have to eat a snack, so I try to avoid that by eating a snack at night. I think of it as a good indicator of if I ate enough during the day—if I haven’t done a good job of fueling and getting protein in every three hours, I wake up hungry at night.

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