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Sweet Potato – Fitness Super Food #9

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Sweet Potato 101: The healthy starchy post-workout carbohydrate

In today’s episode, lets talk sweet potatoes and all the fitness and nutrition benefits from them.

This is day 9 in our 12 day series showcasing the top 12 superfoods to help you with your fitness and nutrition goals.

If you’re not familiar with sweet potatoes, they are a tuber that are classified as a starchy complex carbohydrate.

When you cut them open they are a bright vibrant orange.

Not only do sweet potatoes add amazing color to your plate, but they are also filled with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins.

In particular, the sweet potato is full of carotenoids which is an antioxidant and source of vitamin A.

Sweet potatoes also contain the antioxidant vitamin E, to fight free radicals and prevent cell damage in your body which can occur from your everyday lifestyle and environment.

And if you thought bananas were a good source of potassium, sweet potatoes contain even more potassium.

Sweet Potatoes are a good source of resistant starch

They are also known to be a good source of resistant starch.

Resistant starch is a type of indigestible fiber that helps grow healthy bacteria in the gut.

More healthy gut bacteria means better digestion.

It’s also been shown to help you feel full and satisfied after a meal, thus helping you eat less calories throughout the day.

Are Sweet Potatoes A Good Post-Workout Carbohydrate Source?

The answer is yes, but it depends.

Your current body type and fitness goals will dictate how much sweet potatoes you should consume.

For example, from a body composition stand point, an obese person, with little to no movement throughout their day, would not necessarily benefit from consuming sweet potatoes.

However, and obese person who has started exercising, could benefit, but I’d recommend you limit the consumption of all carbohydrates to 50-100g per day.

These 50-100 grams of carbohydrates should come from healthy sources such as plenty of leafy greens, a limited amount of lower glycemic fruits, and a limited portion of starchy carbohydrates like sweet potato.

A small to medium sweet potato contains roughly 25-30 grams of carbohydrates and would be optimal to consume after a workout.

This lower carbohydrate range will help improve an obese person’s insulin sensitivity while also helping the body burn stored fat for energy rather than sugar.

A lower carbohydrate diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and fibrous green vegetables is typically optimal for fat loss for most people.

However, sweet potatoes to an athlete or a person who is already lean, acts as an excellent post-workout carbohydrate source.

Depending on how they are cooked, sweet potatoes can increase the production of insulin after a workout and replenish depleted muscle glycogen levels.

How You Prepare Sweet Potatoes Matter

The glycemic index of a raw sweet potato is much lower than a white potato.

The glycemic index is simply a measurement of how fast 50g of carbohydrates in foods can raise blood sugar levels after they are digested.

However, depending on how you cook the sweet potato, it will change the glycemic index rating.

When you bake a sweet potato, it significantly increases the glycemic index, thus making the sweet potato a high glycemic food.

If you boil a sweet potato, the glycemic index is significantly lower, making it a low to medium ranking on the glycemic index.

For lean individuals, this means consuming a baked sweet potato after an intense workout is beneficial.

The reason is, it’ll spike insulin, thus quickly replenishing lost glycogen, which is important for muscle recovery.

Both baked white potatoes and baked sweet potatoes are great for replenishing lost glycogen after a workout.

Sweet potatoes are known to contain more nutrients than white potatoes.

So focus the majority of your carbohydrate intake on:

  • leafy greens
  • lower glycemic fruit like berries and grapefruit
  • healthy starchy carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes, after your workouts

Make sure you measure your sweet potatoes and fit them into your macros as they come in all different sizes.

For example, a sweet potato can be anywhere from 150-300 grams in size.

In other words, there’s not a one size fits all sweet potato when you pick one up at the grocery store.

The more active and lean you are, the more sweet potatoes you can have in your diet.

Earn your carbohydrates!

Sweet Potatoes is also an excellent carb cycling food

One way to improve insulin sensitivity is by following a lower carbohydrate diet for a period of time.

Once you’re successful at this, your body then becomes better at burning stored fat for energy.

You can then add in carb loading or cheat meals, while still following a lower carb diet, to help:

  • Replenish muscle glycogen

This can stop your body from breaking down protein for energy when following a low carb diet for an extended period of time.

  • Speeds up your thyroid

When following a low carb diet in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, you run the risk of also slowing down your metabolism. Strategic carb loading can help speed up your thyroid and give your metabolism a boost.

  • Improves leptin levels

A carb load can also help improve leptin levels, while following a low carb diet. When the hunger hormone leptin is low, hunger increases. A smart carb load can help stabilize levels, thus decreasing hunger.

Sweet Potato - Fitness Super Food #9

Sweet potatoes are also very versatile as you can make:

sweet potato

You can also add cinnamon to them to enhance the flavor and help minimize the insulin response if you’re not eating them after a workout.

As always, go organic if you can.

Come back tomorrow for fitness superfood #10.

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