Endurance athletes are stepping out of the "sports nutrition" aisle of the grocery store and looking for real foods to fuel themselves. One such real food option is likely sitting in your pantry right now: a potato.
Real foods have natural, rather than engineered, ratios of nutrients; they're often tolerated well and just taste good on the trail. But, as an athlete, you should still be choosy, especially if weight matters. You don't want to be the guy carrying an eight-ounce orange up a steep climb for only 20 grams of carbohydrates if you can do it better and smarter.
What's more, real foods can offer a welcome, savory flavor that "hits the spot" on long adventures. One strategy is to meet your hourly fluid, carbohydrate and sodium goals through lightweight, easy, quick fuel sources each hour, then give yourself a salty real food option every two to three hours. This can help you get the nutrients you need while providing a delicious treat.
For decades (maybe even centuries), athletes have been eating potatoes for fuel. They are usually stocked at races, and it's not uncommon to hear of athletes carb-loading with them. In fact, many modern commercial sports products use maltodextrin, an ingredient that typically comes from wheat, corn or potatoes.
When you eat a potato, its starch readily breaks down to maltodextrin, which metabolizes efficiently as a great fuel source on the go. With the recipe below, you'll get a lot more than starch, though. Potatoes take it up a notch by providing electrolytes, delicious flavor and sometimes even cramp-relieving magic.
Recipe for Real-Food Potato Fuel
1) Boil or steam 1 (2.5-inch) diameter potato per serving until it's easily mashable with a fork.
2) Once cooled, either quarter the potato or mash it.
3) Add 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon olive, avocado or coconut oil, 1 teaspoon pickle juice or vinegar (any kind), optional 2 tablespoons chopped bacon or cheese shreds and any dried herbs you'd like per potato.