Should you eat potatoes during training

Should you eat potatoes or other real foods while endurance training?  Many athletes ask me how to eat real food during their endurance training for a variety of reasons.  Many are tired of sweet tasting gels, blocks, and drinks.  Others think they will perform better if they eat an unprocessed food.  Both are valid, but the one thing few consider is the practicality of it.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that potato puree had the same performance enhancing effect as a carbohydrate gel during a 2-hour time trial.  Most people stop reading here and write a blog post.  Please don’t and keep reading.

1. Anyone looking to use whole food as a fuel source for long endurance sport 4+or even short 2 hour events has GI issue concerns because the volume of food required to get the same amount of CHO in a time period is 5x greater.  Perfect example is this study: the potato puree was 4.5oz compared to 0.8 of a gel.

2. Food safety. Gels have none. Cooked potatoes have significant food safety concerns: protein, water activity, and a pH that isn’t antimicrobial.  Salt and other items can be added to prevent this.  However, for an endurance event the average age-grouper isn’t being fed temperature controlled potato for 4 to 24hrs.

3. Portability. Yes a potato has it’s own jacket and hand held shape, but they are heavy comparatively speaking to other CHO sources, the quantity required means they take up valuable space, and I’m going back to food safety purees and baked potatoes shouldn’t ever be put into an overnight drop bag or be left out in a special needs bag for more than 4 hours and that’s not even accounting for how hot the day is and what that does for bacteria growth.

The study points out an opportunity to use potato starch potentially, but it lacks practicality and safe practice.