As a nutrition coach who works with a lot of bodybuilders, I’m going to share the benefits and drawbacks of including potatoes in a bulking diet.
- Potatoes are good for bulking because they are a fat-free carb source ideal for quick energy around a workout.
- However, it might be tough to hit extremely high-calorie targets while bulking with potatoes since they are lower in carbs and more filling compared to foods like white rice.
- Since potatoes do not provide protein or fat, it’s important to pair them with sources of each macronutrient to keep a balanced intake for bodybuilders.
There’s more to the story though, including the type of potatoes you should eat and when/how much you should eat based on your goals.
What Do Pro Bodybuilders Think About Potatoes?
While researching for this article, I decided to reach out to a few professional bodybuilders about their stance on eating potatoes to reach their goals in bodybuilding.
Jordan Materi – Women’s Wellness Division
“Eating potatoes in my growing/ “off” season is sometimes more difficult. This is due to potatoes having fewer carbohydrates per serving compared to other carb options such as rice. When I am trying to reach my nutritional goals and get as many calories in as I can, oftentimes it is easier to go for a carb source that is less dense, like the saying, “Less is more”.”
Braden Johnson – Men’s Bodybuilding/ Physique Division
“In my opinion as a male bodybuilder, when it comes to “bulking” and/or putting on huge amounts of size and muscle, food choices come down to a few points. 1.) being able to consume large quantities of said food. 2.) being able to digest each food item properly 3.) usually aiming for caloric-dense food options. So if you can eat a whole lot of potatoes and it sits well with you while also hitting your daily caloric or macro needs, then I say potatoes are just fine for bulking!”
Lexie Bold – Women’s Bikini Division
“I myself and my clients have seen incredible results while eating a diet with potatoes throughout growth training programs. Although the amount of potatoes needed to get a sufficient amount of carbohydrates in an off-season can be quite a lot of volume, they digest easily and therefore eating them prior to my training sessions help me feel my best. Outside of pre-workout meals, I prefer rice as my go-to carb source to consume more carbohydrates in smaller portions.”
8 Pros of Eating Potatoes For Bulking
1. Potatoes Provide a Low-Fat Carb Source Perfect for Pre- and Post-workout
Potatoes are made up almost exclusively of carbs, making them the perfect pre-and post-workout.
Many other carb sources also contain fat and protein, so it can be tricky to create a meal option for pre-or post-workout where the ratio of carbs to other macronutrients is quite high.
By opting for potatoes, you can choose the exact amount of carbs that you want to consume without worrying about consuming too much protein or fat.
2. Potatoes are a Versatile Food
Potatoes can be incorporated into a variety of different meals, making them a versatile option for bodybuilders.
You can enjoy your mashed, boiled, baked, or roasted potatoes, and they can be paired with different proteins and vegetables to create a balanced meal.
Keep in mind that certain preparation methods can change the nutrition in your potatoes.
For example, mashed potatoes typically call for the addition of higher-fat foods such as butter and milk. Be sure to account for the added calories in your bulking macros.
3. Potatoes are a Cost-Effective Bulking Food
Potatoes are relatively inexpensive and widely available, making them a cost-effective option for bodybuilders on a budget.
This is particularly important when you are bulking since the grocery bill can get pretty high when you are trying to push calories higher.
For example, the price per gram of white potato is about 0.81 cents. On the other hand, the price per gram of whole wheat bread is around 0.98 cents.
There are other carb sources that are even more expensive, such as rice pasta which costs around 1.75 cents per gram.
By including a cheaper, whole-food carb option such as potatoes in your diet, you will have more room in your grocery budget for higher-quality protein sources.
- Related: 15 Cheap Carbs For Bulking
4. Potatoes Provide a Sustained Energy Release
The complex carbohydrates found in potatoes can provide a sustained energy release when they are consumed with their skin.
The skin on a potato provides fiber that helps to slow down the rate of digestion, which will provide sustained energy and help to keep blood sugars stable and balanced.
This can help bodybuilders maintain energy levels during prolonged workouts.
5. Potatoes Have a Higher Glycemic Index
When potatoes are cooked and consumed without their skin, they become a carbohydrate that is extremely fast-digesting, and therefore great immediate energy for a training session.
While foods that are low in fiber and high on the Glycemic Index aren’t always beneficial, they can come in handy as a carb source that is consumed in close proximity to your workout.
This is because fast-digesting carbs will not only provide fast-acting energy for a workout but will also serve as a more efficient way to replenish glycogen stores in the muscle that were depleted while training.
The potatoes with the highest Glycemic Index include baked Russet potato (111), boiled red potato (89), and boiled white potato (81). In comparison, boiled sweet potato has a lower Glycemic Index of 54.
6. Potatoes Can Help to Support Gut Health
When you eat potatoes with their skin, the fiber from the skin will promote a healthy gut by helping you to stay regular.
In addition to this, potatoes contain what is known as resistant starch.
This is a type of carbohydrate that does not digest in your small intestine but instead ferments in your large intestine and becomes “food” for the good bacteria in your gut.
Resistant starch is a type of prebiotic, which is a fibrous food that feeds the gut microbiome. The wider variety of prebiotic foods that you have in your diet, the greater your diversity of good gut bacteria will be.
A healthy gut can aid in better nutrient absorption, which is vital for muscle growth and recovery.
7. Antioxidants Found in Potatoes Can Combat Oxidative Stress
When you consistently do strenuous workouts, this can lead to increased oxidative stress in the body, which can hinder muscle recovery and growth.
Including potatoes in your diet when you have an intense workout routine will help to combat any oxidative stress, support muscle development and protect your muscle cells.
8. Potatoes Provide Potassium to Ensure Optimal Muscle Performance
Potassium is a mineral that is critical for muscle function. If you have low potassium, you will find you have muscle weakness and cramping.
As you can imagine, for bodybuilders to get the most out of each gym session, they must have plenty of potassium.
It’s also critical for bodybuilders to get potassium consistently, as potassium is lost through sweat.
This means that every time you have a sweaty workout, you should be ensuring you are consuming potassium-rich food, like potatoes, to replenish your stores and maintain optimal performance during future workouts.
While bananas are often thought of as the king of potassium, a medium banana contains about ⅔ of the potassium in a small potato (~150g).
As you can see, by incorporating potatoes into your diet regularly, you can ensure you have the potassium your muscles need to function at their best.
4 Cons of Eating Potatoes For Bulking
1. Potatoes Do Not Provide Enough Protein to Build Muscle
To build muscle, the most important factor is consuming enough protein so your body has what it needs for your muscles to repair and recover post-workout.
Research indicates that a protein intake of 2.4g per kg of body weight should be consumed to build muscle. For example, this means a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 206g of protein per day.
Potatoes only contain around 4g of protein per 200g, meaning it is not a significant source. Protein would need to be consumed from other sources throughout the day to offset this low-protein food.
2. Potatoes Do Not Provide the Fat Required for Healthy Hormones
Potatoes are primarily composed of carbohydrates and do not contain any fat.
Dietary fat is not only helpful during a bulking phase in order to reach high-calorie targets, but it is also important for hormone function in the body.
Alow fat diet can also result in a decrease in serotonin, otherwise known as the “feel good” hormone. This can result in an unstable mood and even contribute to high-carb food cravings.
Whether you are bulking or cutting, maintaining optimal health and hormone function is critical. This can be easily achieved by pairing healthy dietary fats with your potatoes.
Some good examples of healthy fats to include in your diet include nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy products, avocado, and olive or coconut oil.
3. Potatoes Are Very Filling On a Bulking Diet
Since potatoes are quite filling, it might be difficult to eat enough of them to hit your calorie and carb targets when you are bulking if your needs are extremely high.
If calories are high but appetite is low during a bulk, it is more common to choose high-carb foods that are less filling such as rice, fruit, or even more processed options like bread and cereals, since these are typically less filling.
This does not mean you should not eat potatoes in a bulking phase. Aim for a variety in your carbs so that you are able to meet your daily targets while still obtaining the benefits from whole foods like potatoes.
4. Ordering Potatoes from Fast Food Chains Can Contain Other Calorically Rich Ingredients
Potatoes are a common side dish at fast-food restaurants, most commonly in the form of french fries, sweet potato fries, and potato salad.
The downside of most of these side dishes is that in addition to your potatoes, you are also getting calorically rich ingredients such as oil and mayonnaise.
This can pose a big downside for bodybuilders since these hidden calories can add up very quickly causing you to exceed your daily calories, particularly your carbs and fats.
This applies to bodybuilders who are bulking as well, since it can be easy to overshoot your calorie surplus with calorie-dense fast food during a bulk, resulting in excess fat gain.
While exceeding your carb and fat targets on occasion isn’t a problem, doing this consistently will likely have a negative impact on your body composition.
Optimal Meal Timing For Potatoes
Are Potatoes Good For Pre-Workout?
Potatoes are a great food to eat before a workout since they are a low-fat, high-carbohydrate food that is going to provide quick energy to fuel your training session.
Since potatoes do contain fiber in the skin which can slow down digestion, it is recommended that you remove the skin if you are using them as pre-workout fuel.
We asked Registered Dietician, Brenda Peralta, her thoughts on when to eat potatoes in relation to your workout. She said:
“If you remove the skin, you can have it 30-60 minutes before the exercise. If you leave the skin on (since most of the fiber is), have it at least 1-2 hours before training.”
It is recommended to eat approximately 1 gram of carbs per kg of body weight in your pre workout meal. If you are bulking, you could even increase this slightly to 2 grams/ kg of body weight.
This would mean that a 150lb/ 68 kg athlete who is bulking could potentially consume roughly 68-136 grams of carbs in their pre-workout meal, approximately 2-3 medium-sized Russet potatoes.
Are Potatoes Good For Post Workout?
Potatoes are also a great post-workout food.
Similar to before a workout, carbs are important to consume after a workout since they help replenish your body’s stored energy that is depleted when you train.
“After a workout, it’s an excellent and easy carb to add to a meal. Have it boiled, microwaved, or baked”.
In addition to carbs, it’s also important to include a lean protein source such as chicken or fish in your post-workout meal.
The Canadian Sport Institute recommends athletes should consume 1-1.2g of carbs per kg of body weight within 2 hours post-workout for optimal recovery.
For a 150 lbs/68 kg athlete, this would translate to between 68-82 g of carbs, or approximately two medium Russet potatoes.
Research also shows consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout has a significant positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle. This process of repair and recovery is what will lead to strength and muscle growth, a key goal of bodybuilding.
- Related: Best Vegetables For Building Muscle.
Which Type of Potato is Best for Muscle Building?
The chart below displays the macronutrients and micronutrients in a variety of different types of potatoes. The measurement used is 200g (cooked), which is roughly the size of one small potato.
|TYPE OF POTATO (200g serving)||RUSSET POTATO||RED POTATO||WHITE POTATO||YELLOW POTATO||PURPLE POTATO||BABY POTATO||SWEET POTATO|
|PROTEIN||5 g||4.5 g||4 g||4 g||4.5 g||5 g||3 g|
|CARBS||43 g||39 g||42 g||34.6 g||35 g||42 g||40 g|
|FAT||0.3 g||0.3 g||0.3 g||0 g||0 g||0.2 g||0 g|
|SUGAR||2 g||3 g||3 g||1.3 g||0 g||2.4 g||8 g|
|FIBER||4.5 g||3.5 g||4 g||2.7 g||2.5 g||4.4 g||6 g|
|SODIUM||16 mg||16 mg||14 mg||10 mg||12 mg||20 mg||72 mg|
|POTASSIUM||1100 mg||1090 mg||1088mg||825 mg||950 mg||1070 mg||674 mg|
|VIT C||25.8 mg||25.2 mg||25.2mg||36 mg||0 mg||21 mg||4.8 mg|
If you are bulking, the best choice of potato to include in your diet is either the white, russet, or baby potato.
This is for a few different reasons:
Higher in Protein
While it may only be slight, white, russet, and baby potatoes all have a higher amount of protein per serving compared to other potatoes.
More specifically, russet and baby potatoes are the highest in protein with 5 grams in a 200-gram serving.
Higher Caloric Density
White and russet potatoes generally have a higher caloric density compared to other potato varieties, making it easier to achieve a caloric surplus, which is essential for bulking.
Rapid Glycogen Replenishment
The carbohydrates in white and russet potatoes are quickly converted into glucose, which can help replenish muscle glycogen stores after intense workouts. This rapid replenishment supports muscle recovery and growth.
White and russet potatoes are often more readily available and cost-effective than some other varieties, making them a practical choice for bodybuilders on a budget.
- Related Article: Can You Build Muscle Without Vegetables?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Potatoes or Rice Better For Bodybuilding?
Potatoes and rice are both considered to be great carb sources for bodybuilders. However, bodybuilders in a bulking phase often choose rice over potatoes, since it is higher in carbs and less filling. This makes it easier to hit the high calorie and carb targets necessary for muscle growth.
How do the micronutrients in potatoes, other than potassium, benefit bodybuilders?
Besides potassium, potatoes contain micronutrients such as Vitamin C and B6. Vitamin C plays a role in the growth and repair of muscle tissues and helps to make collagen in the body. Vitamin B6 helps to metabolize amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which is critical for muscle repair and growth.
How do cooking methods affect the nutritional value of potatoes for bodybuilding?
Certain cooking methods can alter the nutrition of potatoes,such as a decrease in micronutrients (e.g Vitamin C) the longer you cook them at a high heat. Nutrient retention is better when you steam or microwave potatoes. Frying potatoes decreases nutritional value and adds unnecessary calories from unhealthy trans fat.
Other Foods For Bulking
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About The Author
Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.
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