Sweet potatoes are, hands down, one of the best carbohydrates an athlete can consume. From runners to weightlifters to swimmers, sweet potatoes offer athletes a superior complex carb that is stored, then efficiently broken down for future energy needs. Because carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, your daily diet should hover around 40% of carbohydrates. Some people advocate up to 60%, but I really think a 40/40/20 breakdown (carbs/protein/fat), is optimal for strength athletes.
I usually have nine to twelve heavy training sessions a week, and I make sure to eat a sweet potato at least three times a week, if not more often. Here’s why I think you should eat them, too:
- They’re relatively low in calories for as many carbs as you get. For people watching their weight, whether for weight class reasons or health in general, caloric consumption is key. A medium-sized sweet potato (2″ in diameter, 5″ long) offers around 103 calories and 24 grams of carbs.¹
- Sweet potatoes have a lot of fiber in them — around 4g (or 15% of your daily value). Fiber consumption is often ignored, with rather unpleasant side effects. Eat sweet potatoes and make your intestines happier.
- They’re packed with Vitamin C; almost 35% of your daily value, to be exact. Vitamin C is not just important as immune support, but also helps your body better absorb iron, which is another very important micronutrient for weightlifters. (They also contain iron, too.)
- Sweet potatoes are cheap and easy to cook. Buy them on sale for around $.50/pound, and store them in a cool, dry place. They’ll last for 6-8 weeks. Then, pull them out and bake them, boil and mash them , shred them for sweet potato hash, or grill them.
- For a similar amount of calories as 2 slices of wheat bread, you’re getting many important nutrients, including potassium, beta-carotene, manganese, and B6, while being low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat. It’s like hitting the nutritional jackpot without buying extra tickets: you get awesome benefits while enjoying something sweet and tasty.
To traditionally bake a sweet potato, check out the recipe below. Otherwise, pop it in the microwave and you’re good to go!
Baked Sweet Potato
|Prep time||5 minutes|
|Cook time||1 hour|
|Total time||1 hour, 5 minutes|
- 2 Medium sweet potatoes
|Preheat oven to 350 degrees.|
|Wash the sweet potatoes well and dry thoroughly.|
|Take a fork and prick the skin of the sweet potato about 8-10 times. (Otherwise it will burst in the oven. I don't recommend that.)|
|Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet (lined with foil for easy cleanup).|
|Bake for 1 hour (up to an hour and a half for sweet potatoes larger than 5 inches).|
|Slice in half and top with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Or butter and maple syrup. Or salt, pepper and cheese. Or chili. The possibilities are endless.|