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Spuds increase athlete performance

Spuds increase athlete performance

The humble spud can boost the performance of trained athletes.

Potato puree taken during prolonged exercise works just as well as commercial carbohydrate gel when it comes to boosting performance and sustaining blood glucose levels.

“Potatoes are a promising alternative for athletes because they represent a cost-effective, nutrient-dense and whole-food source of carbohydrates,” say researchers at the University of Illinois.

“Furthermore they serve as a savory race fuel option when compared with the high sweetness of gels”, they stress.


A group of 12 athletes who had been training for years and who averaged 267 kilometers on the bike each week were monitored.

They were chosen for their aerobic fitness during a 120 minute cycling challenge and a time trial.

Their food was standardised and they were divided into three groups – one with water alone, one who took a carbohydrate gel and the final group who took the potato puree.

Both the gel and the potato group saw a significant performance boost compared to the water group.

The gel and potato groups had similar heart rate increases and were faster on the time trial than those on water alone.


“All in all, our study is a proof-of-concept showing that athletes may use whole-food sources of carbohydrates as an alternative to commercial products to diversify race-fueling menus,” said kinesiology and community health professor Nicholas Burd who led the research.

The aim of the research was “to expand and diversify race fueling options for athlets and offset flavour fatigue”.

The results are published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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