Chasing a place on the podium isn't possible without the proper fuel for your body. Whether you're going for the gold or just passing the pigskin in honor of the big game, athletes and amateurs alike need the right combination of nutrients to take on their training, and sports nutritionists across the nation are recommending one vegetable in particular to get them there — potatoes! Here's why:
* Carbohydrate — Potatoes are a nutrient-dense vegetable with 26 grams of quality carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important for optimal physical and mental performance as the primary fuel for your brain and a key source of energy for muscles. And, because your body's own stores of carbohydrates are limited and may be depleted — even in a single session of intense and/or prolonged exercise — it's important to replenish them.
* Potassium — Did you know a medium-sized potato with the skin has more potassium than a medium-sized banana? A medium (5.2 ounce) skin-on potato contains 620 mg of potassium, an important electrolyte that aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines mention potassium as an under-consumed nutrient of concern, and recommend consuming foods with high levels of potassium such as white potatoes.
* Energy — Potatoes are more energy-packed than any other popular vegetable. Adequate energy intake supports optimal body functions and it's critical to take in the appropriate number of calories to match the demands of the day, especially while training.
Partial to pasta or rice? With as much — if not more — of several essential vitamins and minerals found in spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread, potatoes are a smart addition to your other favorite performance foods (compared on a per-serving basis). What's more, a medium Russet potato with the skin has more vitamin C and potassium than a medium sweet potato.
There is a medal-worthy potato option to fit your tastes (and schedule) no matter what sport is your specialty. Leslie Bonci, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs and the WNBA, says, "I love potatoes for their versatility, affordability and applicability to all types of culinary options. The carbohydrate, fiber and potassium make them a great choice for workouts and offer a change of pace and taste from other sports-focused foods." She created a recipe for portable and crunchy On-the-Go Potatoes for a quick savory snack for mid-hike or mid-bike that's ready in just about 30 minutes. Gearing up for a busy week? Make a batch of On-the-Go Potatoes on Sunday and freeze them. Defrost throughout the week by leaving in the refrigerator overnight, and then simply re-heat in the toaster oven (or enjoy cold).
Yield: 8 servings (about 5 potatoes per serving)
24 oz. petite yellow potatoes (about 40 petite potatoes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup tuxedo sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-Spice seasoning mix
Put potatoes in a bowl and toss with the olive oil and soy sauce. Mix to coat well.
In a separate bowl, combine panko bread crumbs, sesame seeds and 5-spice seasoning and mix well.
In small batches, put the potatoes in the bread crumb mixture and roll around to coat well.
Transfer to a cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through.
Per serving (8 servings; about 5 potatoes per serving): Calories 174, Fat: 5.7 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 257 mg, Carbohydrates: 26.8 g, Fiber: 2.5 g, Potassium: 485 mg, Protein: 4.3 g, Vitamin C: 7 mg