I run. A lot. I am training for marathons basically year-round and I have finally started feeling somewhat comfortable tackling a lot of mileage every week. And I am enjoying it. Weird.
Part of endurance training is figuring out how to best fuel yourself, both before and after runs, but also during them. Generally, an athlete should consume about 100 calories of carbohydrates every 30-45 minutes during runs over an hour in length. That is an approximation and everyone needs to figure out how much and what type of fuel works best for them.
I have a strong stomach, I don’t have any dietary restrictions, and I actually don’t mind eating processed, store-bought fuel, like Gu (my favorite flavors are Vanilla Bean and Roctane Island Nectar) and Shot Blocks. I trust the science that has led to modern sports nutrition… but I can only take so much sugar at one time.
I crave salt when I run. You lose a lot of salt when you sweat and your body needs salt to stay properly hydrated and continue functioning optimally. (Want some science? Joel has some electrolyte science for you.) I tried pretzels while half marathoning, but they were too dry. Then, I saw athletes eating baked potatoes during the Kona IronMan World Championships telecast (you already know that I am sort of obsessed with the IronMan) and I knew I’d found my solution.
Want to try potatoes on your long run? Here is my recipe:
- Buy the smallest red or fingerling potatoes you can find. Small potatoes are convenient to eat and provide about 25 calories per ounce. A very small red potato is about an ounce, so 4 potatoes = 100 calories. (4 potatoes also have about 2 grams each of fiber & protein and 600 mg of Potassium.)
- Rinse the potatoes and remove any eyes or bad spots.
- Steam the potatoes (I used a double boiler steamer pot) for about 20-22 minutes or until they are tender all the way through.
- Let the potatoes cool.
- Put the potatoes in individual zip lock bags for your runs and add salt. I added about 1/2 Tablespoon of sea salt to each bag of 8 potatoes (200 calories). That is a lot of salt — about 3600 mg — but I like it. Store the potatoes in the refrigerator until you need them.
- Eat the potatoes throughout your run with lots of water… or Gatorade or Nuun.
I have been testing the potatoes out and have eaten them exclusively during my last four long runs. I have felt great. Really great. No stomach problems and I feel less brain dead and drained after my workouts. However, it is hard to say whether that is all due to the potatoes or to my training finally kicking in and making long runs a bit easier.
During my marathons I plan to eat both Gu and potatoes… and probably Twix and Shot Blocks and Luna Bars, too. I eat a lot.
Each person has to figure out what works best for them, but I definitely recommend giving potatoes a try. (Or even sweet potatoes.) Especially if you crave a salty fuel alternative.
Plus, they are IronMan approved!