Carbohydrate intake has always been a focus of controversy. Should I take them or not? Will it affect my performance? The fact of the matter is Carbohydrates are essential for an athlete and that is where sweet potato comes in. In fact, sweet potato for athletes is an essential part of the diet.
Those who have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness. – Edward Stanley
Sweet potatoes are one of the amazing superfoods from nature. One thing people sometimes get wrong is to mix sweet potatoes with yams, but that’s actually incorrect. Yams are a totally different species. Sweet potatoes are moist and sweet, whereas yams are dry and starchy.
Before we talk about the advantages and how to consume sweet potatoes, let’s look at the nutrition profile of 1 medium-sized sweet potato.
Calories: 100 Kcals
Fat: 0 g
Carbs: 24 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 2 g
Potassium: 15% DV
Manganese: 28% DV
Vitamin A: 438% DV
Vitamin C: 23% DV
Vitamin B6: 16% DV
The profile looks really like a superfood. Now, let’s breakdown why this nutrition profile is perfect for athletes…
Full of complex carbs
As you can see, a medium-sized sweet potato contains around 24 g of carbs, which you may think is a bit higher. The fact is, sweet potato is an amazing source of complex carbs. Complex carbs have a higher glycemic index (GI) compared to white rice, white bread, and other processed carbs.
Now, you may ask how or why GI is important. If the GI is higher, the food is going to be digested quickly. That’s why you feel hungry even after having a large plate of white rice. Also, if the GI level is higher, blood sugar level spikes suddenly and you can have sugar crashes internally. On the other end, sweet potatoes are slowly digested and give you a steady dose of energy throughout the day.
Superb source of Vitamin A
Just from the figure alone, one medium-sized sweet potato is enough to fulfill your daily vitamin A requirement. A strong vision is related to vitamin A but other than that it helps to maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal tissue, mucous membranes etc.
And how about fibers?
Most of us try to include a healthy diet but fibers usually get left out from them. There are two types of fibers. Soluble fibers tend to give you a sense of fulfillment after a meal. Sweet potatoes contain mostly insoluble fiber, which helps your digestive system to move along smoothly.
I tend to take sweet potatoes with the skin on. It helps to maximize your fiber intake. Make sure to wash them properly before baking and enjoy the crunchy skin during eating.
Vitamin C, Really!
One surprising aspect of sweet potatoes is the presence of vitamin C. When you train, it puts huge stress on your immune system and vitamin C is very important to keep our immune system in tip-top condition. So sweet potato can act as a huge immune booster after a workout not only to provide energy but also to restore your immunity system as fast as possible.
Packed with Potassium
It has a significant effect on our body as regulates our heartbeats, helps to relax our muscles. Potassium is also crucial to lowering our blood pressure, which is crucial for those who have high blood pressure.
Typically, banana is considered to be the easiest source of potassium, but guess what? One cup of baked sweet potato contains double the potassium value compared to a medium sized banana.
Low calories and no fat!
Another awesome advantage of sweet potato is its very low-calorie profile. One medium-sized sweet potato only contains 100 Kcal. Not only that, it contains 0 fat! It tastes better yet it won’t have a huge impact on your tummy with moderate consumption. Now, who wouldn’t want that from something so easy and inexpensive?
Sweet potato for athletes, why it’s so beneficial?
The coolest thing about sweet potato is their portability. They are a perfect source of nutrition pre and post workout.
I used to carry them in a small box and take them whenever I needed them. It makes a perfect snack for any time without taking in the junk.
Before a workout, have a medium sized sweet potato. It should give you all the energy to finish your workout without added supplements that people take. Even today morning, I was feeling weak after waking up and having just a small piece of sweet potato was more than enough to help me finish my workout.
Post workout sweet potatoes work as a treat post workout. After the workout, your body needs to replenish your glycogen stores and you need to supply nutrition at that time. The ideal ratio is 4:1 carb to protein after a hard workout. By adding sweet potatoes, you help your body to recover first and all you need is to add a little bit of protein in the form of milk or eggs.
I also mentioned vitamin C and how it important it is to improve the immune system. Hence by taking sweet potato after the workout, you’ll notice a better recovery and reduced risk of getting sick.
How do I consume sweet potato? It’s easy!
Usually, I bake them in bulk either in the stove or in the microwave and then I’m done. I keep it in the refrigerator to have something in the morning, before or after a workout. For the evening workouts, especially before strength training, I find a piece of sweet potato is enough to fuel my needs.
I hope you integrate this vegetable in your daily life. It’s very easy to consume and very effective around training sessions. We all have a hectic schedule, hence balancing life and training isn’t easy. Foods such as sweet potato take away the hassle of spending extra time at cooking yet provide you with all the necessary nutrients to fuel your growth.
What’s your take on sweet potatoes? Do you have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below.
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