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Fuel for Performance - Sweet Potato

by Drew Whitehead


When most people look at a sweet potato they do not think, “high performance fuel”. They think, “mmmmm that would be good with marshmallows melted on top!” That is how I pictured sweet potatoes while growing up. Over the past year of eating gluten free and JERF’ing it up – #jerf : just eat real food :) I have experienced how much sweet potatoes fuel athletic performance.  After my naturopath found I had a candida overgrowth from eating too many grains and sugars, I began asking myself, ”How can I get enough carbs to utilize during my workouts, races and competitions without bread? How can I get enough fiber without grains? How can I have energy without sugar?” I found myself researching for an optimal way of eating and sweet potatoes became a big part of my eating. My athletic performance has improved, I feel better, my pH is stable and my body composition is steady at 6.5%. If you are looking for some quick race fuel for your performance considering sweet potatoes may be a good idea. Here are some sweet potato benefits and facts:

Burn Carbs Replace Carbs: They are high in carbohydrates that are needed during exercise. 1 cup contains 41.4 grams (166 kcal) of carbs. mainly consisting of glucose. Glucose is a primary fuel for muscles as well as the central nervous system.  See one study here.

Low Glycemic: Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index. These low glycemic carbs fuel your body like an IV which is great for athletic performance. Keeping your insulin levels stable is also very important for overall health.

Price: $1.50 per lb. at your local grocery store! We are all looking for cost effective race fuel, and the sweet potato is at the top of the list!

Time: You can have your sweet potato ready in 3 minutes – Pop in microwave, hit button, come back in 3 minutes, good to go. Ready to eat anytime, anywhere. Just keep them cool. Also, you can have them done on the grill or oven in no time just wrap them in foil and let em’ cook! Many studies show that you should not eat the skins, so if you are trying to perform t your best, why eat them? Peel the skin off and eat!

Alkalizing: Sweet potatoes are alkalizers. If you don't know about body Ph – here is a good article.

Athletic Fuel: Sweet potatoes provide fuel for many different types of athletes. Motocross, endurance, power, explosive, runners, triathlon, action sports, football, hockey, basketball, baseball…..ok you get it the list goes on. They provide a great source of energy for aerobic and anaerobic sports.

Multi Vitamin: Sweet Potatoes containing vitamin's A and C, Calcium, Iron, B6, and Potassium as well as some protein (4g per cup). Check out more.

In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fibre content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. According to these criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points over the next on the list, the common potato.

Will sweet potatoes benefit your performance? You won’t know unless you try! Please comment and let us know your thoughts and experiences.

About the Author: Drew Whitehead has been a motocross athlete since 1999. When a race crash in 2004 led to a full ACL reconstruction of his right knee, he decided to take his passion of human performance to the professional level and become a personal trainer. After graduating from the National Personal Training Institute, he began developing performance programs for motocross athletes, action sports athletes, as well as other athletes. Drew has managed major gym chains, opened a performance center in a chiropractic office and as of April 2011, he is Co-Owner of Prokine Performance. For more on Drew's services check out ProKine Performance or follow him on Twitter @DW431.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Kris June 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Is it really necessary to not eat the skin? I thought the skins of baked potatos and sweet potatos were healthy for you.

  2. Gravatar
    Lancaster June 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I am totally on board with sweet potatoes but I have to disagree with the body Ph theory.

    I happen to agree with Stephan on this issue.

  3. Gravatar
    richard November 20, 2012 at 2:01 am

    as a british man who went to school in bardados i can tell you that this food is a powerhouse, in the westindies this food is what we have everyday for breakfast

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