Potato Purée Can Replace Conventional Carbohydrate Gels Without Performance Loss

Welcome to 2019, where sugar is evil, ketons are in and people are trying to replace energy gels with potatoes. Yep, potatoes.

A new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Salvador 2019) shows that a homecooked potato puree has the same ergogenic effects in non-pro cyclists as store bought gels. From the press release the study authors goal was “to expand and diversify race-fueling options for athletes and offset flavor fatigue.”

Potato Purée Can Replace Conventional Carbohydrate Gels Without Performance Loss 4

The study recruited 12 participant hobby cyclists who all had impressive VO2Max scores of 60.7 ± 9.0 mL/kg/min. In 16 sessions the participants consumed; water alone, a commercial energy gel product or an equivalent amount of carbohydrates from a potato purée source. The sessions were 2 hours long at 60-85%VO2PEAK followed by a time trial with a well defined nutrition prescription for the 24 hours before each test.

Potato Purée Can Replace Conventional Carbohydrate Gels Without Performance Loss 5

To measure gastrointestinal emptying, the researchers administered U-[13C6]-labeled glucose with both treatments. Here’s a summary of their findings:

  • blood glucose concentrations were higher in potato and gel groups compared to the water condition
  • blood lactate concentrations were higher after the TT completion in both intervention groups when compared to the water group
  • TT performance was improved in both potato (33.0 ± 4.5 min) and gel (33.0 ± 4.2 min) groups when compared to the water group (39.5 ± 7.9 min);
  • no significant difference was observed in TT performance between the potato and gel groups

The scientists’ conclusion being that “potato and gel ingestion equally sustained blood glucose concentrations and TT performance.”

Beware the Bloat

Plain potato purée can replace gels if your stomach agrees with it. The scientists reported significantly higher rates of gastrointestinal bloating, pain and flatulence with potato purée.

References:

  • Salvador, AF. et al. “Potato ingestion is as effective as carbohydrate gels to support prolonged cycling performance.” Journal of Applied Physiology (2019)
  • Sutehall, Shaun, et al. “Sports Drinks on the Edge of a New Era.” Current sports medicine reports 17.4 (2018): 112-116.

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