The Power of the Baked Potato
by Mike Coughlin
These days, endurance athletes have an incredible variety of race day sports nutrition products from which to choose. Drinks, bars, gels, blocks, and beans are just some of the products on the market that help deliver carbohydrates, electrolytes, and sometimes protein to bodies in motion. There is still, however, some “real food” options that work very well for training and racing. One of my favourites is the baked potato.
To be clear, I don’t mean the full size baked potato that might sit beside your steak at dinner, but rather small potatoes boiled, steamed or microwaved, seasoned salt and pepper to taste, and placed in a jersey pocket or bento box. I have used them in training as well as racing, and have found that smaller “mini-potatoes” work better than larger ones.
I was given this tip early in my athletic career and was told that the baked potato was a “secret weapon” that could solve any nutrition problem during a race. I was skeptical at first, but over the years have seen it work a number of times during my long triathlon and running events. I have even been known to talk to the potato, begging it to save me from whatever nutritional and gastrointestinal woes I was experiencing. Hey – in endurance racing, things can get a bit strange!
Why does the baked potato work? Perhaps it is the starch, soaking up my mostly liquid race diet and keeping the stomach sloshing down. Perhaps it is that they are high in potassium, a much needed mineral lost through sweat. I can’t say for sure, but one thing is certain; if the race is longer than 5 hours, the baked potato is part of my nutrition plan.
Plus, it’s cheap!