(BPT) - Whether you're on or off the field, it's important to fuel up wisely. Leading sports nutritionists across the country recommend potatoes as the go-to choice for fueling your body before or after a workout.
"To perform at your best, put potatoes on your plate," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, the nutritionist for the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. That's because the benefits of America's most popular vegetable go far beyond its delicious taste and versatility in the kitchen.
Up to bat and gearing up for a grand slam? Here's how potatoes can get you there.
First Base: Carbohydrate
Did you know that carbohydrate is the primary fuel for your brain and a key source of energy for muscles? Because your body's own stores of carbohydrate are limited and may be depleted even in a single session of intense and/or prolonged exercise it's important to replenish them for optimal mental and physical performance. With a medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato containing 26 grams of carbohydrate, potatoes are a nutrient-dense carb, containing as much, if not more, of several essential vitamins and minerals than spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread (compared on a per-serving basis).
Second Base: Potassium
A medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato also contains 620 milligrams of potassium. That's more potassium than a banana! Potassium is an important electrolyte that aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines mention potassium as an under-consumed nutrient of concern and recommends consuming foods with high levels of potassium, such as white potatoes.
Third Base: Energy
As we know, adequate energy supports optimal body functions, and it's critical to take in the appropriate number of calories to match the demands of your day. Potatoes are more energy-packed than any other popular vegetable, with a medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato containing 110 calories.
Whether you lead an active lifestyle or compete with elite athletes, there's an all-star potato option to fuel your body and brain throughout the day. Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, chef and dietitian for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies, keeps her potato dishes interesting with recipes like Smoky Maple Potato Bites, combining a crunchy panko crust with a creamy and satisfying potato center to create an easy make-ahead, post-workout (or in between inning) snack.
Smoky Maple Potato Bites
Created Exclusively for Potatoes USA by Katie Cavuto, MS, RD
Yield: 16 servings (2 bites per serving)
2 pounds russet potatoes, washed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra as needed
3/4 cup diced leeks, white part only (one medium leek)
1/2 cup low-fat plain strained yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons mild smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 large eggs, divided
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus extra as needed
1 1/2 cups panko (regular or gluten-free)
Olive oil cooking spray
1. Add potatoes to a large pot of water and bring them to a boil. Cook uncovered at medium-high heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, leeks and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, to soften. Place the cooked leeks in the bowl with the potatoes.
3. Add the yogurt, paprika, oregano, maple syrup, mustard, 1 egg, the pepper, and remaining salt to the bowl with the potatoes and leeks. Mash the potatoes, stirring periodically, until smooth.
4. Place the potato mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
6. Crack the remaining 2 eggs in a small bowl and whisk.
7. Add the panko to another small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Make 2-tablespoon portions of the potato mixture and roll them into balls.
9. Working one at a time, dip the balls into the eggs, then dredge in the panko, pressing it to coat.
10. Place the balls on a baking sheet coating with olive oil cooking spray. Spray the tops of the balls with cooking spray as well.
11. Bake for 15 minutes and then, if needed, broil them for 2 to 3 minutes to brown. Serve immediately.
Per serving (2 bites): Calories: 136, Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 35 mg, Sodium: 273 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 2 g, Potassium: 386 mg, Protein: 5 g, Vitamin C: 9%