Interview | Shea Holbrook

Florida native Shea Holbrook has enjoyed an accomplished career as a motor racing driver over the last few years so it was no surprise that she qualified for the inaugural season of the W Series. Competing in the SCAA Pro Racing World Challenge from 2010, Shea was the first woman to win a Touring Car race at the prestigious Long Beach Grand Prix. Shea then became part of the TrueCar’s Women Empowered Initiative in 2012-13 season, which catapulted her onto the international stage, giving her a platform from which she won 6 x Pirelli World Challenge Series

We stole a few minutes with Shea to quiz her on her diet & nutrition as a professional racing driver…

So Shea, ahead of a race, let's say the night before, what sort of meals/foods are you having? “We’re exerting so much energy throughout the day and during the 30 minute race so protein and carbs are my go to”.

Do you eat much in the morning of a race? “I love to get protein through eggs, yogurt, cheese and a from of lean meat. I definitely find breakfast to be great brain energy pre-race”.

Are you eating much after racing? Can you eat pretty much anything you like? “After a race I usually do a whey protein supplement in water to rehydrate. I believe in having no real dietary restrictions and instead eating in moderation. I’m careful what I’m in-taking the week before and during the race”.

Does your diet change much over the year? Are you taking on-board more calories during the summer or winter? “My diet doesn’t change much, I try to stay the same course while remaining creative with my diet”.

Do you eat much when you are training; do you have a protein bar or shake within easy reach? “Typically I’m a morning workout kind of girl. I’m always speeding around and usually find myself rushing out of the house. So, I typically do a high protein, very low sugar bar before my workout. Water intake for me in critical while working out and I’ll add a hydrate supplement and/or protein. Immediately following a workout I’m very hungry and get a solid breakfast in. I try to get protein and nutrients in real foods and use supplement protein to help give me the hit I need then and lean out muscle”.

How important is hydration to an athlete at your level? “Hugely important. I can loose 2-4 pounds over the course of a race weekend. Our gear is extremely heavy – fire retarded too that’s really not very breathable. Besides the obvious physical attributes of hydration, mental hydration is probably even more important in our industry. Everything in our sport is happening at 100mph+ and we’re making calculated decisions every nano-second in a race car”.

Max Lahiff (Pro rugby player here in the UK) came down to our studio and said sleep and nutrition are king for recovery, do you find the same? “Absolutely. As someone who has struggled with sleep I can attest that sleep recovery is a large part of my performance and recovery. It’s about finding what works for you and sticking to a regimen. Just like diet and hydration, sleep just start the night before your performance but weeks before”.  

What are the most common meals in your house? Do you have to make sure you're eating XX amount of calories per day/week? “Well, I’m always on the go. I’m on the road more than I’m home so making sure I get the nutrition I need is vital. Typical meals are, eggs, yogurt, bread and a meat – or a protein shake. When I’m home or training I snack all day on things like nuts, cold cuts of meat or salads. If I racing then I eat a proper lunch, fill the plate of healthy carbs, greens and protein. For dinner at home, I love love love cooked veggies and a lot of them. At a race I always go to pasta and chicken, pork or steak. I have a sweet tooth and see no problem with finishing with a small desert!”

What is your 'cheat' recipe? “Oh man, bacon and chocolate are my weaknesses! If I’m home, I love a brunch including chocolate pancakes and syrup, eggs, bacon and avocado. Dinner is a juicy burger and sweet potatoes fries are mega”.  

Is there anything you actively avoid? “Liquor and sweets before events for sure”.

Shea, we have a few, final questions away from nutrition: Do you have a favourite place to race? “I haven’t been overseas much until the last year and a half so I’d say, Vallelunga, Italy and I love tracks in the states like Watkins Glen, New York”.

Is there a particular race that stands out in your career so far? “Winning the Long Beach Grand Prix was a special one of that circuit has a sense of prestige to it and it’s a stand out because it was my first pro win”.

Do you have any pre-race rituals i.e. putting your left sock on first, or always wearing the same sunglasses? “I always do a 30-minute warm-up to get the blood pumping and activating core and specific muscle groups. How I get into the car is important to me and how I communicate with my crew. I do a last minute stretch before jumping in and a breathing exercise while the crew is strapping me in. While waiting I run a lap in my head and do my best to repeat that for 30 straight minutes”.

What piece of equipment is in your bag en-route to a race, that people might be surprised about (for example, a hockeyball for stretching, or a particular toiletry, or piece of clothing)? “Can’t leave the house without a racket ball to roll out tension and pains in my upper and lower back and glutes. TRX bands for legs and arms. A gel or over the counter anti-inflammatory for when I get it scenarios. Sunglasses and chapstick are a must. And I always have my last bit of engineering notes to read before heading to pre-grid with the car”.

Follow Shea online as she competes in the first W Series on Instagram & Twitter.