Wednesday November 5th, 2014

Plain beer makes Kyle Larson want to hurl. So when the 22-year-old NASCAR driver has to drink it—because, really, how could he avoid it, being 22 and a NASCAR driver?—he squirts a few drops of the flavor-enhancing liquid Mio into a can and calls it good.  “If I squeeze a Mio into beer, I can drink it,” explains Larson, as if that explanation clears the whole thing up.  

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Mio-beer is Larson’s most unusual dietary habit, although not one the 2013 Rookie of the Year practices on a regular basis (“I really don’t like beer—I just have it for my friends,” he says.) Otherwise, his nutritional approach is typical of most just-out-of-college kids, with a fridge full of frozen pizza and snack foods … And two heads of iceberg lettuce. “I don’t really watch what I eat, but I like salads,” Larson says. “I eat lots of salads.”

Salad aside, Larson says his diet is not as healthy as some other guys in the garage. “I’m friends with a lot of guys who watch what they eat and work out a ton,” he says. “But I think being young is a good thing for me. I’m sure in a few years I’ll have to watch what I eat and work out a ton, too.” But for now, here’s what you’ll find in Larson’s fridge:

Peanut butter pretzels: Rich, creamy peanut butter wrapped in a salty pretzel shell? We can’t blame Larson for being fixated on these bite-sized snacks, which are his food of choice during his regular late-night TV watching. “They’re really addictive,” he says. “Once you start eating them, it’s hard to stop.”

Tabasco: Larson’s go-to race-day meal includes an ingredient most athletes wouldn’t touch before competition: Hot sauce. Larson says he adds the spicy condiment to a baked chicken dish his girlfriend makes for him before races. “It’s got a ton of flavor, and it fills my stomach,” he says. “The races are really long, so I don’t want to be hungry during a race.”

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Gatorade: “I drink Gatorade all the time,” says Larson. “My favorite is the purple one.” The driver keeps a bottle in his racecar to sip and prefers the sugary drink to water or other beverages at dinner, too. “The only time I drink soda is with alcohol,” he says.

Frozen pizza: Technically, Larson has two refrigerators: One in his Huntersville, North Carolina home and one is his motorhome. “All of us drivers stay at the racetrack,” he says. “It’s like our second home.” And at his second home, Larson always keeps a regular supply of frozen pizza or pizza rolls on hand. “I don’t eat that stuff all the time, but I definitely have it stocked if I get a craving,” he says.

Beer: Larson doesn’t like beer, but he still keeps it in his fridge for entertaining, along with some Mio for himself. “Usually I can’t drink beer—I’ll puke—but I’ll take a sip if it has Mio in it,” he says. While not as appealing as, say, a Boilermaker or Corona with lime, Larson’s beer beverage ranks high with us for creativity.

Iceberg: Larson doesn’t care that this lower-nutrient lettuce gets a bad rap next to nutrition darlings kale and spinach. He likes the way iceberg tastes, which is why the driver always keeps two heads in his fridge. “I like it in a house salad with tomatoes, onions, cheese, croutons, and a little bit of cranberries,” he says. “And I’ll have it on burgers.”

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