Ah, potatoes—there's so much to crave. Whether warm and fluffy, creamy and comforting or golden and crispy, they're the ultimate canvas, just waiting to be topped, tossed and dipped into an edible masterpiece.
But when you think about performance-enhancing superfoods, are you giving the humble spud the side-eye? Sure, lean proteins, exotic fruits and trendier veggies come to mind, but you may be overlooking a powerhouse right in your own pantry.
Nutrient-dense, affordable and versatile, the potato is prime fuel for endurance sports. Potatoes provide the energy, carbohydrate and potassium you need to perform at your best. Need proof? Let's get to the root (hehe) of the matter and learn all the ways that potatoes can help us be the best athletes we can be.
Trying to achieve race weight? One medium 5.2 oz. potato rings in at only 110 calories—that's less than a smoothie and most protein bars.
Yes, potatoes are a carbohydrate, but their healthy weight-promoting benefits go above and beyond that basic label. For starters, they are technically a quality carb due to their dense nutrient profile. That means slower digestion, which holds blood sugar levels steady while keeping hunger at bay.
What's more, a single medium baked potato (skin on, if you please) has two grams of fiber, which helps to increase satiety and control appetite. And—surprise!—a potato also contains three grams of protein.
If you're still not second-guessing your usual calorie-counting snacks and sides, consider that the vitamin B supplied by potatoes plays a large role in controlling weight gain. A key component in utilizing stored energy, the nutrient is crucial in creating an efficient metabolic system.
Healthy Inside & Out
Next, let's look at how a potato's beauty is more than just skin deep (no pun intended). Did you know that people who enjoy diets higher in fruits and vegetables are less likely to get osteoporosis? The plant-based power of potatoes can play a part in bone health.
Calcium and potassium are both essential for building and maintaining strong bones, but certain other foods—we're not naming names—steal the spotlight. Did you know that a medium russet potato supplies about 620 mg of potassium? That's more than a banana! OK, maybe we are naming names. Anyway, one potato can also supply 20 mg of vegan-friendly calcium.
Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, the immune-supporting antioxidant superhero. Vitamin C plays a key role in the synthesis of collagen (important for healthy skin and gums).
Ever bonked? Hit the wall? Taken a trip down the lost-all-my-will-to-live lane? Diet is just as important to your athletic performance as a hard training regimen. Supplying the body with macro, micro and phytonutrients are essential to maintaining strength, endurance and focus.
The main component of eating for performance is energy, and when you run out, it hits you like a ton of bricks (or the aforementioned wall). What's happening is that the body has used up its stored glycogen, and if an athlete doesn't add an external source of energy, performance suffers drastically.
Potatoes to the rescue! An average spud contains nearly 26 grams of quality, energy-delivering carbohydrate. Not to brag, but the average gel only contains 22 grams. So, two small potatoes are all just about all an athlete needs to get the advised 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during endurance training. Potatoes also provide a performance edge in the form of iron, a trace mineral the body requires to transport oxygen through the bloodstream to your hard-working muscles.
Eat, Crush PR, Repeat
Finally, we've come to the fun part—preparing and eating your new favorite performance food. Not that they need any help to be downright delicious, but the following ideas can take a potato from great to over-the-top awesome:
Superfood Sensation: Bye-bye, butter. Swap your typical potato-topper for mashed avocado and salsa to make a flavor- and nutrient-packed snack.
Punch Up Protein: Classic steak and potatoes balance protein and carbohydrates, but what if you're not into meat? Simmer sliced potatoes with tofu and chickpeas in curry sauce, or top a steamed spud with hearty three-bean chili.
Simple Stir-Ins: Add a handful of pre-cooked potatoes—and all their nutrient-packed power—to a bowl of soup or pasta, a quick breakfast scramble or a salad. Just a quick dice and trip to the microwave is all the prep a potato needs.
Learn More: Potatoes provide the energy, carbohydrate and potassium you need to perform at your best.