by Lars Hundley
We’ve heard it from Coach John Hughes many times that regular foods from the convenience store like Peppermint Patty and Fig Newtons have more carbs than energy bars and gels, and often taste better.
A scientific study in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that regular potatoes are also just as effective as energy gels when it comes to cycling performance.
The study compared the results of 12 cyclists who used either a potato purée, a commercial energy gel, or water only during a two hour cycling challenge, followed by a time trial. Both the potato puree and the carbohydrate gel allowed cyclists to complete the time trial faster, compared to drinking water only, with almost identical results between the potatoes and the gels.
“In conclusion, potato and gel ingestion equally sustained blood glucose concentrations and TT performance. Our results support the effective use of potatoes to support race performance for trained cyclists.”
I first learned about carrying boiled, skinned and salted new potatoes on rides at a Carmichael Training Systems cycling camp back in 2012. One of the coaches recommended it as a savory food to carry with you that works very well.
Triathlete.com has this recipe and instructions for carrying them, by Dr. Allen Lim. Give it a try on your next long ride!
Don Macrae says
I don’t get this. My guideline for a long ride is 1 gram of carbs per minute, which for a 5 hour ride means 300 grams of carbs. Potatoes have 17g of carbs per 100g, so 1,164 grams of spuds would be required. The Hammer gel I use contains 63g of carbs per 100g of gel, so I only need to carry 476g of gel.
Is there supposed to be something about the carbs in potatoes that is better?
Road Bike Rider says
I think the main point is that real food is cheaper and often tastes better, and is also just as effective. You can put more calories in a small package with a gel and they are definitely convenient, but you could also eat real foods and not worry that it’s some kind of performance disadvantage, because it isn’t.
Mark Follmer says
Or you could stop into McDonalds for an order of fries.
Road Bike Rider says
I think Dr. Mirkin would probably not agree with that one, as tasty as those fries are.
To save all that time microwaving and getting soft hot potatoes, I use apples. Same as pommes de terre about 25g slow release carb from a medium sized apple or potato. Apple CHO is mainly fructose, so potato is probably better as mainly glucose and also 3g protein …..or for your 5 hour ride take 4 apples and 6 potatoes…and remember if they are down your shirt they can drop out at a bio-break!