Meet Mary Castaneda, owner of Pure Barre Studio Palo Alto. If you haven’t tried Barre yet, you have no idea what a great exercise class you are missing out on. The idea behind “barre” exercise is to “lift, tone, and burn.” It focuses on using the ballet barre to perform small isometric movements. And after a few classes, I can more than verify how much your whole body will burn. Needless to say, to be a Pure Barre instructor (and studio owner!), you need to fuel your body in order to teach.

I had the amazing opportunity to take a class with Mary, one of the peppiest instructors who is really there to make you become stronger, leaner, and happier. Her enthusiastic and motivating spirit is the only reason I got through my first class, although I was incredibly sweaty at the end of it. I’ve always been so curious about “what does a fitness instructor eat in a day?” So I thought, why not just ask her?

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Photo courtesy of Mary Castaneda

Spoon: Why did you get interested in Pure Barre in the first place?

MC: I used to go rock climbing a lot while I was in graduate school in San Francisco. When I moved back to Palo Alto for my job, I found that I did not have time to rock climb and was looking for a fast and effective workout. My friend told me about Pure Barre, which conveniently was right next to where I worked.

She and I took a class together, and just like when you experience things for the first time, I had no idea what I was doing. I was so confused, yet I was shaking and sweating the whole way through! After class, I was tired, still shaking, but oddly hooked. I signed up for the New Client Promotion, later became a “barre-tender” (worked the front desk), months later trained to be a teacher and, now, I am a Pure Barre owner!

Spoon: What is your daily routine like?

MC: My day is usually spent on the go. Going home to eat, going to the studio, going to the library to tutor, and going back to the studio to teach. Go! Go! Go! I wake up at around 7 or 7:30 am, have breakfast and take a Pure Barre class in the morning – usually the 8:40 am. Depending on the day, I teach the 12:15 pm class. When I am not teaching the 12:15 pm, I tutor a first grader and a second grader. I used to be a kindergarten teacher, so tutoring is a way that I can be around kids and keep up with elementary school teaching.

pure barre

Photo courtesy of Mary Castaneda

Throughout the day, I return e-mails and run errands for the studio. I drop in and out of the studio a couple times a day before or after a class is out to chat with clients, teachers and “barre-tenders” (our front desk girls). 

In the evenings, I teach at least one Pure Barre class and maybe take a class if I don’t take one in the morning. At the end of the day, I go home to chill with my dog, Riley, have dinner, return e-mails, and plan for the next day.

Spoon: What does breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks look like for you on an average day?

MC: For every meal, I make sure that I have a protein and carbohydrates. I try really hard to eat and cook at home as much as possible, so I know what I am eating and can control the seasonings and so on. I don’t drink coffee anymore and try to stay away from caffeine. I do drink A LOT of water and sip on Gatorade for extra electrolytes.

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Photo courtesy of @gatorade on Instagram

Right when I get up, I start with a BIG glass of water. Since I don’t drink or order coffee anymore, a couple times a week, I will have oatmeal with brown sugar and a banana from Joanie’s Café. This is always a win. Other mornings, I will cook two eggs either over medium or scrambled with an avocado or white rice (yes, white jasmine rice!).

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Photo courtesy of @ttraviswheatt on Instagram

When I eat lunch at home, I will have white rice, sautéed vegetables or salad and a homemade beef or chicken Filipino dish. If I am not able to go home and eat lunch, I will go to a local deli and buy a turkey sandwich with any bread I am craving that day, no condiments, with avocado and every vegetable, I can pile on the sandwich, except onions.

Dinner is very similar to lunch. I will eat rice, sautéed vegetables or a salad and a homemade beef or chicken Filipino dish. If I get a sandwich, I usually eat half of it for lunch and then eat the other half for dinner with some fruit. Sometimes, I have the half of the sandwich as a big snack if I am teaching multiple classes in the evening.

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Photo courtesy of

I am constantly snacking throughout the day. I usually crave something sweet and/or crunchy. So I will buy a bag of trail mix that Trader Joe’s features. I love the Breakfast Medley individual packs. Yum! I also eat a lot of fruit, apples, tangerines, and bananas. I like it all, and these fruits don’t require any prep time.

When I am looking to really treat myself, I will make a very hot chai latte with Oregon Chia concentrate with whole milk. Yes, whole milk! I know I said I don’t have caffeine, but I let myself slide for my chai. After all, it is a treat.

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Photo courtesy of @roroowvv on Instagram

Spoon: What is your favorite dessert?

MC: I always have room for dessert, big or small. Ice cream is my dessert weakness. I have recently discovered Tin Pot Creamery in Town and Country. I had it a couple days ago and I am still thinking about their Cinnamon Snickerdoodle ice cream!

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Photo courtesy of Mary Castaneda

Spoon: What is your favorite food?

MC: I love pizza! I have pizza once a week for dinner, usually on the weekends. Alongside the slice(s) of pizza, I will have a big portion-sized salad with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Spoon: How do you balance nutrition and delicious food? How do you balance eating and Pure Barre?

MC: Juggling a balanced diet, teaching and taking Pure Barre classes is something that I struggle with because I am always on the go. I try to eat throughout the day, so I always have snacks in my bag or at the studio. I make sure that my meals are well-portioned and are big enough to give me energy for the next couple of hours before I start snacking again. I think there is a perception that you should eat less and have less when you work out, and what I have noticed and learned is that I need to eat more. More protein and more carbs.

Working out burns so many calories, and after a workout, you don’t want to starve your body. If you do, your body will start to process all the muscle you worked so hard to get during class. Eating is just as important as the workout. They work together.

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Photo courtesy of @purebarrepaloalto on Instagram

I definitely treat myself to delicious foods, all in moderation, of course. I am a huge foodie. I love going to new restaurants and trying new foods and truly enjoy myself when I do.

When I do indulge, usually when I am out to dinner with friends or family, I take a Pure Barre class the day of and/or the next day and drink a lot of water. When I am out, I make sure that I live in that moment; enjoy the company, [the] ambiance and the food and not worry about “how much butter or sugar does this have?” or “I really need to take Barre tomorrow to burn everything I just ate!”

After having such an indulgent night, the next day I hop right back on the nutrition wagon and get back into the swing of things with a workout and a balanced diet.