Ally Stacher, former professional cyclist and founder of Ally’s Bar, writes this guest blog post about how she got the clever idea to make energy bars out of sweet potatoes and why that’s the ultimate fuel for your body. Ally’s Bar Original was selected to be included in the August 2017 Trailfoody.
Knowing Where Your Food Comes From
I grew up in the wild and rugged mountains of far northern California. My family always hunted, fished and grew a garden. When I was 11, I worked on a watermelon farm with my twin sister. We picked watermelons in the summer mornings then worked in an ice cream shop in the afternoons. At 12 I killed my first buck, making my Dad so proud; it was a rite of passage in my family.
My Grandparents were also big influencers in my early years. They owned a large pond filled with bass, catfish, blue gale, ducks and other critters. That’s where we spent a lot of time fishing. I remember Grandpa fueling us up for a day of adventure with left-over potatoes and beer in our pancakes for breakfast. It was delicious.
Falling in Love with Cycling
I fell in love with the sport of cycling when I was a senior in high school. I did a research project on endurance sports with an emphasis on bike racing. I found people that rode bikes and learned everything I could. While I wrestled during my first year of college, I still rode my bike for fun. Eventually I jumped into a couple local bike races and was hooked.
My timing with getting into the sport was perfect. At that time a small North Carolina college was growing their cycling program and was offering cycling scholarships. They had sent out a letter to almost every racer under 23 years old. I got the letter, made the trip to check out the campus and happily accepted a small scholarship and moved to the mountains of North Carolina.
I went from never racing on the track or cyclocross to being a part of a national championship team. Cycling became my obsession. In 2009 I was invited to race with the US National Team and signed for my first professional cycling team in 2010. In 2011, I got an offer to race for one of the top international racing teams in the world.
Cycling–The Proving Ground for Fueling the Body
I was eager and willing to work hard to be my very best. I made sure that all aspects of my life were dialed. My boyfriend (now my husband) was racing as well so we both knew the value of nutrition. I honed in on our diets and made everything from scratch. I made sure all of my ingredients had a purpose. I was making home made bars in my kitchen because I wanted to know exactly what was in the food we were eating. I wanted our fuel for our bodies for maximum performance.
The Inspiration for Using Sweet Potatoes
The idea of adding sweet potatoes to the bar came from two inspirations. One from my Grandpa who put potatoes in our pancakes. But the other inspiration came from our soigneur when she gave me a cup of food to eat on my way to a race. It was a longer day with challenging hills and wind. Beth was like “Ally eat this for your race”. I literally had one of my best days ever. I think my performance was owed to the sweet potato goodness before the race.
In December of 2012 I took a bag full of my sweet potato bars to a 2-week team training camp in Portugal. The bars were a huge success. This is where the idea to launch Ally’s Bar was born.
I went from making bars in my kitchen, then moved into a commercial kitchen. Demand continued to grow, but I was racing full time as well. For us to hit our goals we needed to move to a manufacturer. We launched our Original Sweet Potato Bar in October of 2014. We added 2 new flavors in the summer of 2016 increase our shelf presence by 200%. Our growths have been exciting and we’re just getting started. My husband John is still a pro cyclist and I’m a new Mom. We’re eager and excited to spread the love our delicious sweet potato bars. Coming soon to a store near you AND available today online at allysbar.com.