New Study Finds Mashed Potatoes Are an Effective Energy Aid for Exercising
Consuming potato puree (mashed potatoes) during prolonged exercise works just as well as commercial carbohydrate energy gels in helping sustain blood glucose levels and boosting performance in trained athletes, new research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology has revealed. The study was supported by The Alliance of Potato Research & Education.
Scientists involved in the study recruited 12 participants who were healthy and devoted to their sport, averaging 165 miles (275 kilometers) per week on their bicycles. All had been training for years. To qualify for the trails, the cyclists had to reach a specific threshold for aerobic fitness and complete a 120-minute cycling challenge followed by a time trial.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions during the experiments: they would consumer either water alone, a commercially available carbohydrate gel or an equivalent amount of carbohydrates obtained from potatoes.
The researchers standardized what the 12 cyclists ate for 24 hours before repeating the 120-minute cycling challenge and time trial, which was designed to mirror typical race conditions.
Through the exercise, the team measured participants’ blood glucose, core body temperature, exercise intensity, gastric emptying, and gastrointestinal symptoms. The researchers also measured concentrations of lactate, a metabolic marker of intense exercise, in participants’ blood.
Plasma glucose concentrations went up by a similar amount in those consuming potatoes and gels. Their heart rates increased by a similar amount over the water-only cyclists, and they were speedier on the time trial.
“Potatoes are a promising alternative for athletes because they represent a cost-effective, nutrient-dense and whole-food source of carbohydrates. Furthermore, they serve as a savory race fuel option when compared with the high sweetness of (carbohydrate) gels,” explained Nicholas Burd, kinesiology and community health professor at the University of Illinois and one of the co-authors of the study. “We found no differences between the performance of cyclists who got their carbohydrates by ingesting potatoes or gels at recommended amounts of about 60 grams per hour during the experiments. Both groups saw a significant boost in performance that those consuming only water did not achieve,” Burd concluded.