For athletes, potatoes are just as good a source of carbohydrates as gels
Endurance athletes who consume immense amounts of kilocalories do not necessarily have to depend on gels for their carbohydrates. Mashed potatoes are a fully-fledged alternative to gels, researchers from the University of Illinois report soon in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
The researchers got 12 trained recreational cyclists to cycle on 3 different occasions. During each session, the riders first had to cycle for 2 hours with an intensity of 60-85 percent of their maximum oxygen uptake, and then ride a time trial in the shortest possible time.
On one occasion, the researchers gave the cyclists a portion of water every 15 minutes. On another occasion, the subjects were given a portion of carbohydrates in the form of a PowerBar sports gel every 15 minutes. And on yet another occasion, the cyclists received a portion of mashed potatoes every 15 minutes - which contained just as many carbohydrates as the sports gels.
Both the mashed potatoes and the gels improved the performance. Both foods shortened the amount of time the athletes needed to complete the time trial.
If they used potatoes as a carbohydrate source, the athletes reported a bloated feeling in their stomach a little more often than if they got gels. This was, the researchers suspect, because the volume of the mashed potatoes exceeded the volume of the gels. Under the potato condition the athletes consumed almost a kilo of potatoes in total...
"Indeed, carrying and ingesting almost 1 kg of potato puree would be somewhat burdensome on an athlete", write the researchers. "However, our approach allowed us to standardize carbohydrate content and food consistency so that we may appropriately evaluate our study outcomes."
"Overall, our work simply provides a proof-of principle for a whole food source of carbohydrates to serve as a viable sport food to be included in race feeding strategies to provide an alternative to the routine ingestion of gels during training and competition."
"Our outcomes can be utilized by coaches, sport dietitians, and race event organizations to incorporate potatoes as an effective performance nutrition option, with recipes being tailored to an athlete's preference throughout training and/or a race."
"This will help reduce the risk of flavor fatigue, offset financial burden, and increase diet diversity. Importantly, the nutrient matrix of a potato-sourced race fuel also contains other micronutrients that may be beneficial to improve diet quality of an athlete."
The research was funded by the Alliance for Potato Research & Education, an organization for American potato growers. [apre.org]
J Appl Physiol (1985). 2019 Oct 17;10.1152/japplphysiol.00567.2019. [Epub ahead of print].
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