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Danica Patrick in Bathing Suit "Swims With Sharks"

How the former race car driver stays so fit. 

Danica Patrick is one of the world's most influential athletes and has inspired countless people as the most successful woman in pro race car driving in the U.S. Although the 39-year-old has since retired from the track, she continues to motivate people with eating clean and working out to stay healthy. Patrick is highly disciplined about what she puts into her body and it shows. The proof is in a swimsuit photo her friend just shared from the Exumas in the Bahamas, where they pose among sharks. How does she stay so fit? CelebWell spoke with experts about her diet and workout routine. Read on to see 5 ways Danica Patrick stays in shape and the photos that prove they work—and to get beach-ready yourself, don't miss these essential 30 Best-Ever Celebrity Bathing Suit Photos!


She Loves Cooking at Home

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In Patrick's book Pretty Intense, she writes, "When you cook at home you get to choose how things taste. You get to experiment with flavors and techniques, and create custom meals that satisfy your desires. And this is my point: Eating healthy is not boring — it is quite the opposite. The range of colors, flavors, textures, and spices you will use will please not only your eyes, but your taste buds, too." Lauren Steiner, RD, LDN, MS with LAUREN STEINER NUTRITION says, "One of the best ways to improve weight loss goals is to cook at home more often. When we cook at home, we can control the ingredients that we are putting into our food and ultimately what we are eating. When we eat at restaurants, we aren't always aware of the ingredients in our meals or the amounts being used. A seemingly healthy restaurant option may have added oils, butter, sugar, salt, and other ingredients that are fine in small quantities, but are not healthy when consumed in large amounts, nor will they be helpful on a weight loss journey. While there are always healthy restaurant options out there, cooking at home is a way to ensure control."  


No Dairy

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Patrick revealed on her website that she's sensitive to many foods, including dairy, which she has now eliminated. "When the test said I have an 'extremely high' reaction to egg whites, egg yolks, gluten, yeast, and all dairy items, I wanted to cry! All that discipline had been doing my body no good at all! I began to wonder if the reason I sometimes felt bloated and fatigued had something to do with my reaction to those foods. That test changed my life. Shortly after I cut those foods out, I realized I had a higher and more consistent energy level day after day. I also did not feel uncomfortable after eating, ever," she wrote. If you have a sensitivity, avoid it. But avoiding it is not a magic bullet for weight loss. According to Robert Dodds, a Certified Personal Trainer, a fitness coach, and founder of, a fitness coaching service for busy parents, "Dairy does not promote weight gain and avoiding it does not necessarily result in weight loss. Weight gain and weight loss are governed by calorie balance. Calories are just a unit of measurement for energy. Everyone has a certain amount of energy that they expend (or burn) in a day. This is based on their weight, level of activity, amount of muscle mass, age and genetic factors. Taking in fewer calories than this amount will result in weight loss. Removing dairy from your diet will result in a reduction in your calorie intake – but only if it's not replaced with something of equal or higher caloric value. If it is, no weight loss will occur. If you eat a lot of calories from dairy and you eat a lot of calorie dense, full fat dairy like cheese, butter and full fat cream and yoghurts, then you will probably see an overall calorie reduction by cutting out dairy. This may be enough to get you into a calorie deficit and lose weight, but it depends on your overall intake of food and expenditure of energy. You don't need to cut out dairy or any type of food to lose weight. You could just moderate your portions more, or the frequency with which you eat dairy or other higher calorie foods."


Avoids Anything Artificial and Processed

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Patrick reveals on her site that she's a big follower of the Paelo diet and only eats "naturally raised meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts." Dr. Jinan Banna, PhD, RD., a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition says "It's really the ultra processed foods that are of concern, which are those that go through multiple processes and have a lot of added ingredients. If they have a lot of sugar, for example, this may contribute to weight gain, as added sugar contributes calories to the diet and doesn't keep you full. By choosing foods that are closer to nature, you can more easily avoid a lot of added sugar or fat and keep your caloric intake under control."


Doesn't Add Sugar to Anything


The athlete told the LA Times, "I'm very into eating well. I believe food is medicine. I eat extremely clean, real foods. I like foods with one ingredient — an apple, an egg, some spinach. I don't eat processed foods and never add sugar to anything." Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD is a senior dietitian at UCLA medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health, and author with Cambridge university Press, of the new book, RECIPE FOR SURVIVAL explains, "Artificial sugar, although, calorie-free, actually leads to an insulin response; spiking insulin levels (with the anticipation of sugar – after all, we begin digestion in our mouths), which then can lead to a drop in blood sugar and 'hunger' or slump in energy, making us want to eat more calories or take in more sugar.  So, artificial sugar, while itself is calorie free, may have effects in the body that actually lead us to eating more calories and/or storing more fat."


She Does Burpees

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Anyone who has ever done a burpee knows they're not easy, but according to ABC News, Patrick has mastered them. "The burpee is probably the most effective, full-body movement and there's so many ways you can slightly modify it to make it more hard," Patrick said, adding she once did 500 burpees for time as an on-the-go workout while visiting her parents. Antoine Hamelin, a kinesiologist, a trainer with 20+ years of experience and CEO of First Step Fitness Trainings explains, "A burpee is a ballistic bodyweight exercise done without any added weight or resistance other than your actual weight. Although there are many types of burpees, the classical one consists of squatting down with your hands on the ground and getting into a plank position from there. From the plank you spring back up explosively into the squat and either stand up or perform a stationary high jump. Burpees have been around for a long time, and became popular around World War 2, as a way to test the physical capacity of newly enrolled soldiers. It is used today in full body circuits and as a conditioning tool in many sports (football, soccer, martial arts) in part because it is a great overall strengthening exercise. It works many upper body muscles — pecs, shoulders, triceps, back — as well as many leg muscles — quadriceps, glutes, calves — and abs. If you perform the variation in which you do a jump at the end of the movement, it can become a great tool to develop explosiveness, especially if you are an athlete like Danica. Unlike many traditional strength movements, burpees can be used to develop physical endurance and stamina as well. You can try to do as many as you can in a fixed amount of time and try to improve at each and every workout — which also makes it a great way to stay motivated and to challenge yourself and your training partners. But it doesn't end there. Doing continuous burpees is a great cardio workout as well and can leave you completely breathless and exhausted. Because it is a very intense exercise done with no break, it is considered an anaerobic type of cardio workout — like sprints — and will burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Thus, it is a great exercise to include in your routine as a finisher — at the end of a workout — to burn more calories for example. Or it can be a great exercise if you train outside in the summer, if you are short on time or if you travel a lot. Lastly, athletes like Danica are required to develop balance and great coordination, two physical dimensions that can be improved by doing burpees. A quick word of advice if you are a beginner: Do not try not to rush into trying to do as many burpees as you can. First, learn the correct technique, then try to do them faster and for a longer period of time progressively. It will certainly bring a new dimension to your workout regimen and help you reach your physique goals faster."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
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