As a nutrition coach that works with a lot of bodybuilders, I wanted to dig into whether potatoes should be a necessary part of their diet.
So, are potatoes good or bad for bodybuilding? Potatoes are good for bodybuilding because they are a fat-free carb source ideal for quick energy around a workout. 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, either bulking or cutting.
In this article, I will provide:
- The general health benefits and macronutrient breakdown for potatoes
- 3 pros and cons of eating potatoes for bodybuilding
- How much and when to consume potatoes pre- and post-workout
- What is the best kind of potato for bodybuilders
- A potato recipe for that is macro-friendly for bodybuilders
Potatoes for Bodybuilding: Overview
It’s important to first understand the nutritional information of a potato.
- Per 200g, white potatoes contain 158 calories, 4g of protein, 36g of carbs and 0g of fat.
- Per 200g, sweet potatoes contain 172 calories, 3g of protein, 40g of carbs and 0g of fat.
For context, a small potato is generally around 200g
Are you eating the right foods for your bodybuilding goals?
3 Pros of Eating Potatoes For Bodybuilding
When we are thinking about whether potatoes are good for bodybuilding, we must understand what bodybuilders are looking to accomplish.
To optimize their physique, bodybuilders have the goal of building muscle and losing fat.
Let’s dive into how potatoes can help with these goals.
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 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.
This means that by including potatoes in your diet pre-and post-workout, you can ensure you are always fueled and able to push your hardest at the gym, continuing to build muscle and increase strength.
Check out other carb sources for bodybuilding: Are Yams Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
2. Potatoes Can Make It Easier to Lose Weight
Potatoes provide a source of fibre, slowing down digestion helping you to feel full and satisfied longer after eating.
This is particularly helpful when looking to lose weight. Think about the last time you went over your daily calories? I’m guessing it was overindulging in higher calorie food when you were feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
If you can consume plenty of fibre-rich foods, like potatoes, that leave you feeling full and satisfied, the easier it will be to stick to a lower-calorie diet long-term.
Therefore, incorporating potatoes into your diet can assist with weight loss by making it easier to stick with a lower-calorie, something that is beneficial for bodybuilders.
3. 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 or cardio session, you should be ensuring you are consuming potassium-rich food, like potatoes, to replenish your stores and maintain optimal performance during future workouts.
Now you may be wondering, but what about bananas? They are often thought of as the king of potassium but 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.
Want to learn more about eating bananas for bodybuilding? Check out my article Are Bananas Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
4 Cons of Eating Potatoes For Bodybuilding
Overall, while I’ll discuss a few downsides to potatoes, these can be mitigated by pairing potatoes appropriately with foods rich in healthy fats and protein.
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 4g of protein per 250g, 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 Have a High Glycemic Index
A high glycemic index sounds complicated but it’s quite simple in practice. This just means that potatoes are quick for your body to digest, providing immediate energy. While this is great in the short term, it can lead to an energy crash and hunger within a couple of hours of consumption.
An energy and hunger crash are not optimal when you’re looking to lose weight as your body will be looking for a quick energy source to get your back to feeling good. This often looks like a sweet treat that can be quite high in calories.
Luckily, we can reduce this spike and crash effect by eating potatoes along with food that has fat and fibre. Potato skins are rich in fibre, so always make sure you are eating the potato skins along with the potato flesh.
Fat sources to pair with your potatoes include avocado, butter, or nuts and seeds. A personal favorite of mine I always recommend to clients is sweet potato topped with nut butter.
On the topic of whether nuts are good for bodybuilding, check out my other article: Are Nuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
3. Potatoes Do Not Provide the Fat Required for Healthy Hormones
Potatoes are primarily carbs and do not provide any dietary fat, which is critical for your body’s hormone functions. While this may not seem like a particularly big deal, hormones play a critical role in processes like appetite regulation and weight loss.
For bodybuilders that are looking to lose weight, you can imagine that this would be quite difficult without proper hormone functions. This can be mitigated by ensuring you consume foods that are rich in dietary fat and low in carbs at other meals throughout the day.
Some good examples include nuts and seeds, full-fat dairy products, avocados, and olive or coconut oil.
4. Ordering Potatoes from Fast Food Chains Can Contain Other Calorically Rich Ingredients
Potatoes are a common side dish at fast-food restaurants. Some of the most common include 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 as these hidden calories can add up very quickly causing you to exceed your daily calories. While once in a while is not a problem, you can imagine how consistently consuming these potatoes could be problematic for weight loss goals. These ingredients are also usually high fat which is not optimal pre or post-workout.
Instead, I recommend sticking to potatoes cooked at home or fast food options that are strictly just the potato. Commonly, this would be a baked potato.
Potatoes is on our list of high calorie, low protein foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
Can You Eat Potatoes Before Workouts?
Yes, you can consume potatoes before a workout as they are an ideal source of energy to fuel a workout. If you leave the skin on, consume 1 – 2 hours before your workout. If you remove the skin, consume 30 – 60 minutes before the start of your workout.
Is Potato Good or Bad to Eat Before Workouts?
Before a workout, consuming a meal high in carbs is most optimal as carbs can be quickly broken down by your body and used for energy during your workout. It’s important to limit the fat and fiber in this meal as it slows down this digestion process, delaying the energy available.
Potatoes are a fat-free carb source and therefore are an ideal food to consume pre-workout.
Potatoes do have fiber so it’s important to consider this when determining the timing of consuming your potatoes pre-workout. We asked Registered Dietician, Brenda Paralta, her thoughts on when to eat potatoes in relation to your workout.
“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 fibre is), have it at least 1-2 hours before training.”
How Much Potatoes Should You Eat Before Workouts?
The number of potatoes consumed pre-workout should be based on the number of carbohydrates you are aiming to consume over the course of the day.
Since potatoes are strictly a carb source, there is no limiting factor to the number of potatoes consumed, outside of your personal caloric needs.
The general rule of thumb is to consume approximately 1g of carbs per kg of body weight in your pre-workout meal.
This recommendation is based on the amount of carbohydrates your body requires for adequate performance. It may need to be adjusted if you are bulking or cutting. If you are bulking, I recommend increasing this amount to 25% – 30% of your daily carbohydrate intake.
If you are cutting, I recommend aiming for 1g of carbs per kg of bodyweight as you are likely to start sacrificing performance if you consume much lower. At a minimum, ensure this meal contains 35% – 40% of your daily carb intake. Utilizing this recommendation, you are likely to eat the majority of your daily carbohydrate intake around your workout.
For example, a 150lb/68kg athlete should consume around 68g of carbs pre-workout which is approximately 375g of potato. Always consider if any of the other food you are consuming pre-workout contains carbohydrates and adjust the number of potatoes accordingly.
Check out other great carb sources for pre-workout:
- Are Bagels Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Cereal Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
- Is Pasta Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Can You Eat Potatoes After Workouts?
Yes, you can consume potatoes post-workout. Since they are high carb, fat-free food, they are an optimal choice easily customized to meet your personal carb needs. Ensure you are pairing a lean source of protein with your potatoes, such as chicken or fish, for the best recovery.
If you want to learn more about fish, check out my article Is Cod Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
Is Potato Good or Bad to Eat After Workouts?
Similar to before a workout, carbs are also important to consume after a workout. This will help replenish your body’s stored energy that is depleted throughout your workout.
When asked about consuming potatoes after a workout, Brenda Paralta, Registered Dietitian noted that:
“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 protein post-workout.
Research 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.
Therefore, potatoes are beneficial to eat post-workout but ensure you are pairing them with a lean protein source for optimal recovery.
Potatoes are on my list of cheap bulking carbs. Check out where it stands among 15 different carb sources
How Much Potatoes Should You Eat After a Workout?
To determine the number of potatoes to consume, it’s best to consider the optimal amount of carbohydrates you want to consume post-workout.
The Canadian Sport Institute recommends athletes should be consuming 1-1.2g of carbs per kg of bodyweight post-workout for optimal recovery. For a 150lbs/68kg athlete, this would translate to between 68-82g of carbs or 375 – 450g of potatoes.
To maximize your recovery post-workout, ensure you are also consuming your potatoes along with a lean source of protein.
It is important to note that to optimize your recovery, consume your high carb meal within 2 hours of completing your workout.
Which Type of Potato is Better for Bodybuilding
If you’ve ever been in a grocery store looking for potatoes, you will be familiar with the vast number of types of potatoes that are available. For this article, we are going to focus on white and sweet potatoes.
White potatoes include baking, Yukon gold, and russet. Sweet potatoes include both orange and purple sweet potatoes as well as Japanese sweet potatoes.
The macronutrients in both types of potatoes are virtually identical with sweet potatoes having 4g of carbs more per 200g. The most important difference comes within the fibre content: sweet potatoes have 6g of fibre per 200g, while white potatoes only have 2.5g.
For bodybuilders, this is an important consideration when you are choosing what to eat around a workout. The low fibre white potatoes will give you a quicker energy source, making them the best choice before a workout. Sweet potatoes will give you sustained energy over a longer period, making them best for post-workout or throughout your day.
Therefore, we can conclude that both white potatoes and sweet potatoes are important for bodybuilders to consume, your choice of which potato to consume is best made by when during your day you are consuming it.
Related Article: Can You Build Muscle Without Vegetables? (What Science Says)
Potato Recipe for Bodybuilders
Pre-Workout Potato Recipe: Southwest Chicken Potato Hash
This southwest chicken potato hash is a great pre-workout meal as it’s high in carbs and low in fat to provide you with a quick energy source that will last throughout your workout. White potatoes are lower in fibre compared to sweet potatoes and therefore make for a great pre-workout option.
- 3 small or 2 large (~1000g) potatoes peeled and diced
- 1lbs (450g) extra lean ground chicken
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 small onion diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- 2 tsp olive oil
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 1 minute and then add ground chicken.
- Use a wooden spoon to break apart meat and continue cooking approximately 8 minutes until browned.
- Add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir well to incorporate.
- Add onion and bell pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add diced potato and water. Stir and cover with a lid for approximately 10-12 minutes until the sweet potatoes soften.
- Add additional water during this process if needed to keep the meat from drying out.
- Remove lid and add additional salt and pepper if needed.
This recipe makes 4 servings with 365 calories, 29g protein (29%), 48g carbs (53%), 8g fat (18%). For a higher calorie option increase the serving size consumed.
Post-Workout Potato Recipe: Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries
Chicken and sweet potato fries make for an optimal post-workout meal as it’s high in carbs and protein promoting recovery. Sweet potato is a higher fibre potato and therefore is a better post-workout option.
- 1 small sweet potato (~250g)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ¼ salt
- ¼ garlic powder
- 4oz chicken breast cooked per your preference
- Chop the sweet potato into long thin ‘french fry shaped’ pieces. Place in a large bowl and toss in olive oil and seasoning.
- Lay the sweet potato on a baking sheet ensuring the pieces are not touching.
- Bake at 400 for 30 – 40 minutes until inside is soft and outside is browned.
- While the sweet potato is roasting, cook the chicken breast according to your preference.
This recipe makes 1 serving with 490 calories, 39g protein (33%), 50g carbs (41%), 14g fat (26%). For a higher calorie option, increase the serving size of any of the meal’s components.
I also give you another potato recipe in my article Are Hot Dogs Good or Bad For Bodybuilding, which combines potatoes and hotdogs in a delicious hash.
Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?
Overall, the benefits of potatoes outweigh the cons and therefore I recommend bodybuilders consume potatoes.
While the differences are not significant, white potatoes make for a better pre-workout meal option while sweet potatoes are better post-workout.
Ensure you are always pairing potatoes with a lean protein source and a source of dietary fat when not eating around a workout.
Other Carb Foods For Bodybuilding:
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. You can connect with Laura on Instagram or through her Website.