Thursday, March 11, 2010

Potatoes, the new athletic performance enhancer?

This morning I was having a conversation with a long time friend. This friend works in the Track and Field world. He works closely with Olympic athletes from all sides (business, nutrition and athletic). He also works for a former Olympic medalist, and World Champion.

During our conversation about professional and ammature athletes the top of performance enhancing steroids came up. I love this topic. For some reason it sparks a great interest to me. Anyway my friend agrees with my opinion on drugs and sport. I will quote my unnamed friend to have said "Over 90% of Track and Field athletes are on something." I believe this to be true because if WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) doesn't know that the performance enhancing drug exists then there can be no test for it. Therefore any drug test results will come back negative, which means a clean test. It's that simple. Find a new drug or create a fancy new synthetic drug and bingo, you test clean, you have an advantage, and you might just have picked a great one to give you an advantage over all the other athletes that are experimenting with their own drugs. It's sad but true, and I have no idea when the IOC (International Olympic Committee) or WADA are even going to recognize this. Clearly these professionals are smart enough to realize this. I would love to interview Dick Poud on this topic. I am sure that he would have an opinion on my theory.

After we discussed the abuse of performance enhancing drugs my friend mentioned something that I had never heard of, or even thought of. However, it makes perfect sense now that I have read into the idea. He told me that a certain group of elite Track and Field athletes were using something. What they were using was aiding there performances, helping them be one of the best clubs in the country, helping them win word championships, and Olympic medals. This something is completely natural, legal and readily available to the the entire modern world.  Their coach, whom is very well recognized in the sport of track and field has them eating....POTATOES. Yep, regular old startchy, yummy potatoes. Did you know that my entire family grew up around the potato industry. Yep My Great Grandfather owned a potato farm, the house I grew up in was surrounded by potato fields, and my fist job ever in my life was picking potatoes. I grew up on a meat and potato diet. 

According to Wikepida (2010), "Potatoes yield abundantly with little effort, and adapt readily to diverse climates so long as the climate is cool and moist enough for the plants to gather sufficient water from the soil to form the starchy tubers. Potatoes do not keep very well in storage and are vulnerable to molds that feed on the stored tubers, quickly turning them rotten. By contrast grain can be stored for several years without much risk of rotting." And that, "the annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the twenty-first century would include about 33 kg (or 73 lb) of potato." I don't know about you but that is a decent amount of potatoes. I'm guessing that most people the stat includes friend potatoes i.e french fries. Not a very healthy choice. 

So when I asked my friend what kind of potatoes he answered, "just boiled potatoes nothing on them. The reasoning he said was that "it spikes the insulin levels lets your boday shoot more than it normally would be." This struck me as interesting and I thought about it and potatoes are high on the Glycemic Index. Potatoes also include vitamin C, potassium, B6, trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zince, and fiber.

So I did some research and it turns out the potatoes are in the highest category on the GI. That means their GI rating is 70 and above, probably closer to 100. So because the potatoe has such a high rating in the GI scale it breaks down quicky during digestion and releases glucose into the body via the bloodstream.

Glucose in the body is important in insulin release in the body. The use of injecting insulin has been banned by the IOC since 1998. This is key for the athletes because Acording to Mark A. Jenkins (2010) "Insulin promotes anabolic (storage) processes and inhibits catabolic (breakdown) ones. Thus, it signals a "fed state" and instructs the body to store fuels for use later. Insulin promotes uptake and storage of glucose in muscle and fat cells. In the muscle, glycogen is built from glucose molecules." The idea works because insulin boosts stamina by increasing glycogen. What does glycogen do? Well it fuels muscles during exertion, and it prevents muscles from breaking down. The "advantage" of using insulin for this purpose is that it doesn't linger in the blood stream and thus is very hard to detect with current drug tests. However because it is illegal the group of athletes in the states are creating this insulin boost legally, through the use of potatoes.

Hmm Potatoes...the new super food of athletes?

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