Client: “I don’t think I can stomach gels for 36 hours.”
Me: “Good!! I don’t want you doing that. Let’s talk potatoes.”
Client: “Wait, really?”
In preparations for her ultra event, I wanted to keep pushing the idea that just because you’ve heard about gels doesn’t mean they’re the best or only way to fuel your running.
Potatoes = real food. real performance.
Fueling with Whole Foods
In the past, I’ve talked about why I prefer to use whole foods not just prior to my run, but during long runs. It turns out, most ultra runners have beaten us marathon trainers to that punch line and they know we can indeed digest the right whole foods.
As stated by ultrarunner Scott Jurek: “At Badwater [a grueling 135-mile race in Death Valley]…, I had some potatoes and bananas, but I didn’t do a whole lot of solid food, probably because the heat was so intense.”
But why is the potato runner food??
A few stats to show why it’s a good on the go option:
- easy to digest
- no GI issues from massive sugar infusions
- no drop in energy from a sugar high
- a complex whole food carb option
- filed with more potassium than a banana
- includes Vitamin C
- includes magnesium
- so frigging cheap compared to all those other things you think you need to buy!!
If you’ve been in a mental battle of “good vs bad” carbohydrates, let’s just clarify that a potato is a quality whole food option.Are you overlooking one of the simplest and best carbs for runners?? #runchat #foodisfuel Click To Tweet
How to Fuel With Potatoes
Fueling is always a process of looking at your pre, during and post workout nutrition choices. Each one plays a role in ensuring you have enough energy and recover quickly enough to jump in to your next workout.
Luckily the potato is easy to slot in to any one of these!
- Carbs pre-workout are going to provide quick energy to fuel your workout
- Carbs during a long workout will keep your muscles going
- Carbs after a workout will help to speed up recovery by replacing lost glycogen
With more than 200 varieties of potatoes in the US, there are plenty of options to keep it interesting!
Example of what to eat the day before a half marathon, instead of a massive pasta dinner which leaves many runners feeling lethargic the next day, try this:
- Medium baked potato
- Piece of salmon or chicken
- Green beans
It’s not too heavy, it’s still filled with nutrients and it’s just enough fiber to not cause race day bathroom breaks. Feel free to go with mashed potatoes too, just go lighter on the butter or cream before a big run.
During the run boiled, skinless potatoes seem to be the preferred way to go. You’re dropping a tiny bit of fiber, but keeping the nutrients and carbs that you want to get quickly in the blood stream. Some runners like to have a little salt on them as well (I would as a heavy sweater!). Just wrap them in foil pull out and yum.
I’m finding more and more runners are looking for options that aren’t so sweet on the run because it does help their stomach feel better. If you are going for an ultra, then adding a little fat like olive oil, butter or coconut oil to your potato is ideal to help it last you longer.
Savory Energy Bites
Another option for marathon training, when you might not want to eat a whole potato is to make your energy bites with potatoes! Particularly if you’re tired of the sweet foods and wanting something savory, this is for you my potato chip loving friends.
Savory Energy Bites
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 baked potato
- 1/2 cup collagen powder
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- 3 tbsp tahini almond butter can work
- 1/4 cup maple syrup for binding
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
- Mix all ingredients together until it feels like one sticky ball
- Using a cookie scoop, create small balls
- Roll and place in fridge to help them firm up
- Place in a small baggie to carry on the run
Post run refueling with potatoes is possible any time of day. You might be acquainted with hash browns or other fried breakfast potato options, but we want to keep it healthy so let’s look at other ideas.
- Breakfast burrito filled with eggs, black beans, potatoes, salsa
- Breakfast potatoes made from red potatoes and peppers baked with olive oil
- Baked potato topped with cottage cheese or hummus
- Roasted purple potatoes as a side to your meal
- Mashed potatoes with greek yogurt, instead of butter
- Sweet potato or regular potato fries made at home are easy and so much healthier
Potatoes are Runner Food
“People often assume that because potatoes are white, they’re a nutritionally empty food,” says Tara Gidus, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “But the opposite is true.”
In case I haven’t convinced you yet and you want more facts…here we go!
- 26 grams of complex carbohydrate: more of several essential vitamins and minerals than spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread (compared on a per-serving basis).
- 620 Milligrams of Potassium: aids muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function during long endurance events
- 110 Calories for Energy
- 27 Milligrams of Vitamin C (45% of the DV), which is more vitamin C than one medium tomato (40% DV)
- Vitamin B6: helps the body make nonessential amino acids, important for energy metabolism and red blood cells
- 2 grams of Fiber: great for weight loss and cholesterol.
- 3 grams of complete protein in a medium-size (5.2 oz) potato to aid in muscle recovery
Time to rethink the good old potato! Just because we’ve changed some of our eating habits from childhood days of heavy fatty casseroles, doesn’t mean we need to throw out all the the foods we were brought up enjoying. Especially one that’s going to help our performance and our wallets.
How often do you eat potatoes?
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In partnership with Potatoes USA.