One of the favorite parts of being both a runner and a dietitian is observing the eating habits of other runners before, during, and after a long training run or race. The variability is hardly surprising given a lot of people are either afraid to eat, don’t know what to eat, don’t think about it enough, or do think about it and have adapted a routine that suits them.
It gets even more interesting to observe athletes who are traveling to compete or train. I have seen suit cases full of persimmons and most recently met a runner who goes no where without fresh sweet potatoes! She throws sweet potatoes into her suitcase to have just in case she has difficulty finding foods that will giver hear a boost when she is traveling to races. She can eat them whole, cooked, raw, whatever, and be all set to do what she loves, run.
Carbohydrate is of the highest priority before (3-4 hours), during, and after a long run, and a sweet potato certainly has plenty to offer. Before a long run, a carbohydrate-rich sweet potato can help top off glycogen (energy) in the muscles. I won’t however, be eating the skin prior to a run. The skin is full of fiber and better eaten at dinner with all the other fixin’s .
Sweet potatoes can also be a go-to for recovery and replenish glycogen (energy) in muscles in the hours after a hard effort. This is also where those additional nutrients like vitamin C, B6 and naturally occurring anti-inflammatories come into play. One of my favorite meals is to top a giant sweet potato with other load of goodness like beans, cheese, greens, ground-beef, and avocado.
Avocados can top your sweet potato and replace the saturated fat from butter with monounsaturated fats (the good ones) of avocado giving you the staying power to hold you over a bit longer with more nutrient density. Not only will the avocado top you sweet tater with taste it will also boost up the vitamin C,B6, potassium and fiber content.
Deep thoughts into nutrition while running today and then staring at the bag of sweet potatoes on my counter. Just go with it.