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Scientists try to get athletes to eat mashed potatoes instead of sports gel

If you're a certain type of high-performance athlete, you know the sports gels that serve as carbohydrate and electrolyte boosters.

These gels are standard for cyclists, runners and many other athletes. But what if there is another solution? What if athletes could eat mashed potatoes instead?

In general, research is not illuminated with such obvious conflict of interest as this new study conducted by a researcher at the University of Illinois and by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education. This lender has an explicit interest in promoting the potato, and this particular study has a myriad of issues. That said, it's a fun study and we want to talk about it.

In this study, twelve serious cyclists, all of whom had to pass a threshold for physical fitness and exercise, received one in three refueling opportunities during a 1

20-minute bike ride. They would have either clear water, a commercially available sports gel or a mashed potato.

Sports gels, according to Runner's World are generally composed mainly of simple sugars, often both glucose and fructose. Some contain salts and some contain a stimulant like caffeine. Potatoes are very high in carbohydrates, although they tend to be starches rather than sugars. But they are not nearly as close to carbohydrates as these gels.

Many of the gels listed in this summary of Cycling Weekly contain about 25 grams of carbohydrates in a pack, which usually weighs about 35 grams – very dense indeed. To get 25 grams of carbohydrates, you would need about 150 grams of potatoes, according to USDA .

In part, researchers say, to this high volume of potatoes, the test cyclists experienced "significantly more flatulence, pain and flatulence in the gastrointestinal tract than the other groups." So it may not have been fun to bang mashed potatoes for two hours in a row during angry cycling, but did it work?

It actually worked! At least in this study. The researchers say that the potato group and the commercial sports gel group had almost identical numbers of performance, heart rate and blood sugar levels, indicating that the potato can actually function as energy fuel. All this said: This is a study of twelve people, a rather ridiculous sample size, and the gastrointestinal complaints do not seem to be very funny. Maybe one day we will fill all our algae with mashed potatoes. Also: maybe not.

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