Are Potatoes a Good Pre-Workout Snack? (Potent Energy)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: February 15, 2024
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Potatoes have a bad reputation for being full of carbs, which is why you’ll often hear it’s best to avoid them if you want to reap the benefits at the gym.

As a certified personal trainer with a decade-long experience, I’ve learned to be skeptical of fitness myths. That’s why I teamed up with a registered dietitian to find out if potatoes might actually be beneficial as a good pre-workout snack.

Let’s see what information I’ve gathered.

Quick Summary

  • Consuming potatoes before a workout can be beneficial due to their high nutrient content, including carbohydrates for energy and essential amino acids for muscle recovery.
  • As a fitness trainer with years of experience, I've observed and personally experienced the positive impact of potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, on energy levels and endurance during workouts.
  • One of the studies from the PubMed website indicates that boiled potatoes have a high fullness index value of 323, making them a satisfying and energy-boosting snack option for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
  • After intense workouts, I often turn to a simple yet nutritious meal of mashed sweet potatoes, which not only replenishes my energy but also aids in muscle recovery, demonstrating the versatility and benefits of potatoes in a fitness diet.

How Does Eating Potatoes Impact Your Body?

Man eating potatoes

Eating potatoes impacts your body by promoting satiety and lowering your appetite.

The following are a few things that happen in your body when you consume potatoes daily.

It will make you feel satisfied until the next meal. Potatoes are highly satisfying compared to certain other carbohydrate-rich pre-workout meals. According to one of the studies found on the PubMed website, boiled potatoes have the highest fullness index value of 323 for a healthy snack [1].

They have a specific protein known as proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2), which might further lower your appetite, according to one of the studies found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website [2].

“If you're dieting or have a big appetite compared to your energy expenditure, potatoes can have the advantage of filling you up.”

- Adam Cornwell, Fitness Coach

This plant is also rich in zinc, magnesium, and iron, all of which help to develop and maintain bone structure. In addition, iron and zinc are essential for collagen formation and maturation [3].

Most runners prefer a simple healthy snack that will fuel their bodies for the task ahead.

From my experience training runners, I've noticed a trend towards simple, healthy snacks like potatoes. Just last month, one of my clients switched to a pre-run snack of boiled potatoes and reported feeling more energized and ready for longer runs.

I have been eating sweet potatoes as my pre-workout snack for an energy boost. It gives me added strength that I require to finish my sets on time. Finally, research shows that the starch breaks down into maltodextrin, which metabolizes well as a great source of energy on the run [4].

3 Benefits of Eating Potatoes Before Working Out

Top view of raw potatoes in a box

Potatoes are packed with essential nutrients and amino acids that benefit your body in different ways.  Let’s look at the advantages in more detail.

1. Amino Acids

Potatoes contain all twenty-two necessary amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and form complete proteins upon digestion, making them an ideal healthy snack.

2. Nutrients

Potatoes are packed with nutrients, like copper, tryptophan, and manganese, that make your bones stronger to sustain intense workouts.

They are also high in vitamin C and B6, increasing your energy levels. Studies show that potatoes are high in antioxidants, which help prevent infection. They are also rich in vitamins, which make your body operate properly [5].

Eating potatoes provides your body with essential nutrients such as calcium which helps build and maintain bone strength and structure.

In addition, fiber can assist in preventing heart disease by maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels, promoting good health.

3. Potassium and Magnesium

Close up shot of potatoes being cooked

Roasted sweet potato skin is high in magnesium and potassium, which lower blood pressure.

A potassium-rich pre and post-workout meal can thus help lower blood pressure while safeguarding the heart and lowering the likelihood of stroke [6]. That said, when you eat simple roasted or mashed sweet potatoes as a healthy pre-workout snack, you will feel more energetic and powerful during your workouts.

So, are potatoes one of the best pre-workout snacks?

In my personal experience, potatoes are indeed one of the best pre-workout snacks. I remember a time when I overindulged in potato snacks, which led to some weight gain, so moderation is key.

When to Consume Your Pre-Workout Potato Meal?

Woman eating potatoes

You should consume your pre-workout potato meal an hour before exercise.

Potatoes are one of the recommended pre-workout meals that you should consume an hour before your exercise to ensure that you are satiated but not bloated.

If you haven't consumed carbohydrates in several hours, your blood glucose level may decrease, making your workout feel much more difficult. If you like endurance sports, sweet potatoes can help you fuel your workouts.

For two hours of cycling, participants in a study consumed either roasted russet potato mush or a carb gel containing 120 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes.

Both were comparable in terms of improving workout performance throughout the session [7].

My body always has that extra energy to carry me through my workout whenever I consume a sweet potato pre-workout snack.

This is due to the added glucose in my system, which has proven to improve performance.

Potato Recipes to Add to Your Diet

A potato dish in a bowl

Crispy Rosemary Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary

Instructions:

  • Cut the potatoes into pieces.
  • Sprinkle them with rosemary and olive oil.
  • Season with pepper and salt to taste.
  • Bake at 425 °F until golden.

Preparing potatoes this way is quite simple yet healthy.

Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon powdered pepper

Instructions:

  • Boil the potatoes in mildly salted water.
  • Stain them and once they’ve cooled, cut them into pieces.
  • Marinade the potatoes by mixing them with all of the ingredients.
  • Optional: Add some diced cucumbers or onions.
  • Season with salt to taste.

Mix everything thoroughly and top with some chopped cilantro.

You can eat it as a pre or post-workout dish.

Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cup of carrots
  • 2 tablespoons maize
  • 2 tablespoons peas
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup yogurt

Instructions:

  • Cook the potatoes until soft and mash them.
  • In a large pan, stir sliced onion, diced carrots, boiled maize, and cooked peas in some olive oil.
  • When vegetables begin to soften, add chopped garlic and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep stirring and add milk, allowing it to simmer thoroughly.
  • When it reaches a thick viscosity, add the mashed potatoes and continue stirring to prevent lumps.
  • Mix in the yogurt and remove from heat.

This dish is best when served immediately.

2 Disadvantages of Eating Potatoes Before a Workout

A person holding cooked potato fries

Based on my experience, consuming potatoes prior to exercise has its disadvantages as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

1. Potatoes Have a High Glycemic Index

A higher glycemic index may sound complex, but it implies that potatoes break down quickly and provide rapid fuel.

Although this is beneficial in the short term, it might cause an energy slump and hunger a few hours after ingestion [8].

When you're striving for weight loss, a power decrease and hunger are not ideal since your system will seek a quick source of energy to bring you back to feeling better.

2. Potatoes Lack Sufficient Protein to Help You Build Muscle

The most crucial component in muscle growth and function is sufficient protein intake necessary for your muscle fibers to recuperate and recover post-workout.

Studies recommend a protein diet of 2.4 grams to help you lose weight fast and enhance muscle function and building.

For instance, a person who is 200 pounds (90 kilograms) would require roughly 206 grams of protein daily [9]. 

Potatoes have only 4 grams of protein for 250 grams, making them a minor source.

That’s why I make sure to take protein from other sources to compensate for the limited proteins that potatoes provide.

FAQs

Do Potatoes Help Build Muscles?

Yes, potatoes help build muscles as they have high carb content that provides an energy boost.

How Do Bodybuilders Eat Potatoes?

Bodybuilders eat potatoes by combining them with other pre-workout snacks that provide protein and fiber, which slows the pace at which food is metabolized into blood sugar.

Are Potatoes a Good Post-Workout Food?

Yes, potatoes are a good post-workout food since they provide all the essential amino acids.

Is Potato a Good Protein?

Potatoes are not a good protein since they only contain low doses.

Does Potato Make You Fat?

Potatoes cannot make you fat when eaten in moderation. However, they can cause weight gain if cooked with nut butter or other fatty substances.

Do Potatoes Affect Exercise Performance Differently in Men and Women?

No, potatoes don't affect exercise performance differently in men and women. Recent studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website suggest that potatoes can be effective in fueling exercise for both men and women.

How Do Potatoes Compare to Other Natural Foods in Fueling Exercise?

Potatoes don't compare extremely well to other natural foods in fueling exercise. But when compared to other natural foods like bananas or sweet potatoes, they offer a unique balance of carbohydrates and nutrients. Detailed comparisons with a range of natural foods could provide more insights into their relative benefits.

What Are the Specific Benefits of Different Potato Varieties for Exercise?

The specific benefits of different potato varieties for exercise are providing beta-carotene and antioxidants, while russet potatoes are high in carbohydrates, making them suitable for different exercise needs.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Regularly Consuming Potatoes Before Workouts?

The long-term effects of regularly consuming potatoes before workouts are sustained energy levels or improved endurance. However, those aren't fully explored and could vary based on individual dietary and exercise routines.

Are There Some Potato-Based Recipes Tailored for Pre-Workout Meals?

Yes, there are some potato-based recipes tailored for pre-workout meals. These include simple baked potatoes, potato salads with light dressing, or mashed potatoes with lean protein, providing a balanced mix of carbs and nutrients for energy.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7498104/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7049780/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280579
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-maltodextrin-bad-for-me
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-potatoes
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4175295/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6962613/
  8. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/glycemic-index-of-potatoes-why-you-should-chill-and-reheat-them/
  9. https://examine.com/guides/protein-intake/
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