Fit Food Spotlight: Sweet Potatoes

Kristen Arnold, MS, RDN, CSSD
by Kristen Arnold, MS, RDN, CSSD
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Fit Food Spotlight: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not only a delicious fall-weather favorite, they are also a nutrient powerhouse filled with complex carbs to provide steady energy throughout the day and during workouts. Easy to eat, easy on the gut and easy to cook, sweet potatoes are a great food to incorporate into your pre-workout fueling.

A medium-sized sweet potato contains 90 calories primarily from carbohydrates with some protein. The 20g of carbohydrates in one medium sweet potato are composed of 13g from starch (complex and slow-burning), 3g from fiber (complex and slow-burning) and 4g from sugar (fast-acting). The mix of complex and simple carbohydrates make sweet potatoes a great pre-workout ingredient for long-lasting, sustainable energy during any type of workout.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, providing 89% of your daily value. They are also good sources of vitamin B5 and B6, providing 16% and 15% respectively. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, which helps the body combat cellular damage. B-vitamins provide an energy boost, improve brain function and cell metabolism. In addition to antioxidants and B-vitamins, sweet potatoes are also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Compared to other common pre-workout foods like white bread toast, sugary cereals or granola bars, sweet potatoes enhance the quality of your overall diet in addition to providing a great energy boost for workouts.

Sweet potatoes with the skin have a glycemic index of 41, which is relatively low compared to other carbohydrate-rich foods. This makes them not only great for slow-burning fuel for workouts but also controlling blood sugar for those who live with pre-diabetes, diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Studies show sweet potatoes to be a beneficial source of complex carbohydrates for people with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Poke holes in a sweet potato with a fork, pop it in the microwave and press the potato button. If your microwave doesn’t have a button specifically for cooking a potato, try 3–5 minutes. A microwaved sweet potato with a dollop of 0% plain Greek yogurt and salsa on top makes a great pre-workout meal in less than five minutes. In addition to cooking them in the microwave or roasted whole in the oven, try making potato cakes or potato pancakes.


Sweet potatoes are an easy pre-workout snack to provide a valuable boost of energy to enhance performance and add nutrients to your overall diet. Their nutritional profile helps to control blood sugar and provides a steady stream of energy throughout your day and workout. In addition to being a great pre-workout snack, they are filled with beneficial antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals to benefit overall health and prevent disease. On top of all those benefits, they are delicious, satisfyingly sweet without adding too much sugar and easy to make.

About the Author

Kristen Arnold, MS, RDN, CSSD
Kristen Arnold, MS, RDN, CSSD

Kristen is a registered dietitian (RD), professional cyclist and cycling coach. She is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD), received her master’s in human nutrition (MS) from Ohio State University and is a Level2 USA Cycling coach with Source Endurance LLC. Her private practice nutrition counseling business focuses on performance nutrition for athletes. Kristen competes in national-level cycling races across the USA as a professional cyclist for ButcherBox Pro Cycling.


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