How Up-and-Coming Cycling Pro Taylor Phinney Defines Healthy
"I like to stay closer to things that come from the earth."
Son of former Olympic cyclists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter, Taylor Phinney is a Tour de France hopeful and the American cyclist to watch. We talked to him about his love of real food and how he stays so on point.
BRIERLEY HORTON: What's your food philosophy?
TAYLOR PHINNEY: Well first off, I love eating. I like to stay closer to things that come from the earth. But my philosophy is mostly surrounding the timing of food. Timing is essential for me and for what I do, so I feel like I have a good grasp on when it is appropriate to eat almost anything. And that is a very broad statement, but for example, when I go out and ride my bike for five hours, I've opened up my body to be receptive to whatever I put into it because it's hungry and needy. And it needs nutrients, but it also needs simple sugars because they get into the muscles the fastest and therefore allow the muscles to start their recovery sooner
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Who is your nutrition guru?
I'm really good friends with Allen Lim, who started this company called Skratch Labs, and he's been kind of like my nutritional guru for my career. I pay attention [to what he says], and then I also just try to go by feel.
The cycling world is a little bit strange when it comes to food because there's a high emphasis on being really, really skinny—and not necessarily an emphasis on being healthy—and you can get unhealthily skinny and still be able to ride your bicycle really fast.
Where do you fall on the spectrum of being skinny versus being healthy?
I mean I'm quite fit and skinny, but I like to stay as healthy as possible. So in the summer I naturally lose more weight than what I carry around in the winter. I can get pretty skinny, but I don't get down to that 3% to 4% body fat. I'm more around 7%.
Is 3% a typical target in your industry?
It's definitely a target. Yeah.
Where else do you get your nutrition and diet information?
We have a nutritionist that works with the team—Nigel Mitchell. Otherwise, I feel like most of my knowledge comes from living in Boulder [Colorado] and being privy to the food that I've been able to eat. I also lived in Italy from when I was 12 until I was 15 with my family, and it was a bit of a shock in a great way to experience the produce that they have in Italy because it just tastes better there.
What's your go-to pre-ride meal?
My go-to when I'm in Europe—just because I'm a real sweet-and-savory kind of a person—is toast with butter and ideally raspberry jam and then putting scrambled eggs on top of it.
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That's not very big on the calorie front. How many pieces of toast are we talking about?
Not like a crazy amount, maybe 3. I don't typically fuel up super hard in the morning. I put more emphasis on the post-ride meal because I feel like it's more natural to eat a ton of food when you're really hungry. I also don't wake up with this ability to eat a massive amount of food.
What is your go-to post-ride meal?
My go-to post-ride meal is something that I like to call power rice. This is typically after a big ride. It's two cups of rice, cooked up in a rice cooker. When the rice is done, I throw in some coconut oil, almond butter, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and maple syrup, top it off with some olive oil and some Parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and then I usually fry a couple of eggs and put them on top. So it is an amalgamation of a lot of different flavors, but it's delicious.
What's the oddest nutrition trend you see in cycling?
Probably not eating. Just straight up like no lunch.
What's your most unique training habit?
I do yoga every day. I don't know any other professional cyclist who does yoga, but I feel like yoga is more important to my body than riding a bicycle.
Your dad has Parkinson's disease. Tell me about his foundation.
His foundation is the Davis Phinney Foundation For Parkinson's, and instead of looking for a cure [that may not emerge for some time], they focus on preparing people to live better with this disease now. It is a really beautiful model that transcends the Parkinson's community and can be applied to really anybody who is struggling in their life with anything. We all have our mountains to climb, and it's all about how you handle that climb, not necessarily where you're going.
How has your outlook changed since your 2014 crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that fractured your left leg?
My perception on life has changed so drastically that I don't relate to the human being I was before the accident. I have no idea who that person is. That's the short answer.
What does healthy mean to you?
It means cleaner in mind and body—which exist symbiotically.
How do you achieve a cleaner mind?
I drink a lot of water. I meditate twice a day, do yoga, ride my bicycle, and explore and adventure around the planet and travel.
Get an Inside Look into Phinney’s adventures in cycling, training, travel, and all-around life via Instagram: @taylorphinney. He’s real, he’s funny, and his Instagram stories are guaranteed to entertain.