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Topping Up Our Sports People

Topping Up Our Sports People

Eating for energy, endurance and fast recovery will be key priorities for Rugby World Cup teams, so what foods would you be filling them up on before and after their big games?

While it’s common knowledge that carbohydrates are the key source of muscle fuel for athletes, when it comes to long-lasting energy and fast recovery, not all choices are equal.

“For peak energy, active sports people should get 55 percent of their daily food intake from carbohydrates,” says Melissa Moon, two-time World Mountain Running Champion and 2010 winner of the women’s race up the Empire State Building’s 86 flights of stairs.

“Carbohydrates have been like gold to me as an athlete. Carbohydrates for my body is like petrol is to a car – it’s essential energy.

“But for endurance and fast recovery, the healthiest sources of carbohydrates are from natural foods which have the fibre and nutrients to support slow-release, sustained energy and faster recovery.”

So while pasta, white rice, energy bars and sports drinks will boost energy, the big advantage in natural sources of carbohydrates such as whole grains and starchy vegetables is that you get an abundance of other vital nutrients.

For example, a large baked potato will deliver around 200 calories of energy, along with abundant levels of fibre, potassium, iron, folate and Vitamin C compared to very low levels in white rice and pasta.

“And when it comes to ‘engineered’ sports bars and energy drinks, well in many cases you are getting around 200 calories worth of glucose, fructose, rice syrup and other sweeteners plus some engineered nutrients if you’re lucky.”

Potatoes New Zealand Food Consultant and Writer Glenda Gourley says potatoes are the also the perfect food for fast recovery, containing high levels of key ‘recovery’ nutrients.

• Vitamin C – crucial for healthy connective tissue
• B vitamins – especially folate supporting normal blood formation and thiamin supporting healthy nerves and muscles
• Potassium - supports healthy blood pressure and nerve and muscle function
• Magnesium - supports muscle, nerve, blood and energy systems

And while the Glycaemic Index (GI) of potatoes is relatively high (GI measures the speed at which carbohydrate foods enter the bloodstream and the immediate effect on blood sugar) their nutrient density more than makes up for this.

“It’s widely recognised that nutrient dense foods such as potatoes with a relatively high GI, play a crucial role in a diet. However, it is the low GI, high-energy and nutrient poor foods that should be consumed in moderation,” says Gourley.

So while the ideal GI is 55 and potatoes range between 65 -101 (depending on variety and cooking method), when eaten with other foods which contain fat, protein or fibre, as they invariably are, they are absorbed much more slowly.

“When you consider that ice cream has a lower GI than potatoes, which would you prefer your favourite rugby player to fill up on the night before the big game?”

For tasty, nutritious potato recipes that will keep you powered up visit


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