We’ve already covered protein sources you should be eating in our article on the Top 10 High Protein Foods You Need To Be Eating, and now we’re going to cover the next of the three major macronutrients; Carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are often touted as being the bad guys when it comes to loosing weight and burning fat, and it’s true an excess of carbs can lead to your body storing more fat. But at the same time, carbs are what fuels your muscles and the workouts you need to be putting in if you want to reach your goals with training – and to use the common metaphor, you wouldn’t put regular unleaded in an F1 car, so you shouldn’t be putting crap fuel in your body. Carbs are measured on the Glycemic Index (GI), which gives an idea of how long it takes to digest them. Typically the lower GI score the food has, the healthier choice it is and the longer it’ll give you energy for.
The amount of carbs you should be eating varies on several factors; if you’re cutting weight carbs are normally cut right down to just what you need to fuel your workouts and make sure you’re dropping weight whereas if you’re in between fights you’ll eat a higher carbohydrate ratio to make sure you’ve got plenty of energy for training. It’ll also vary person to person depending on your sensitivity too them, some people struggle on a low carb diet, whilst others can function just as effectively on practically no carbohydrates. You can experiment with different ratios yourself to find out what works for, or consult with a nutritionist.
So to help you out we’ve put together a list of the top ten carb sources you should be including in your diet:
1 – Oats
Let’s start with the most important meal of the day – breakfast. You’ve spent the past 8 hours or so not eating anything, so it’s important to fuel up properly with your first meal. Oats a are a great source of carbohydrates, they’re slow digesting (Scoring 42 on the GI scale) so they keep you fuller for longer and 100g doesn’t just pack over 66g of carbohydrates it also has 16.9g of protein as a nice bonus. Couple them with eggs and you’ve got the breakfast of champions right there.
2 – Brown Rice
This is probably the most common healthy carb source. Like the chicken breast, as soon as you mention you’re eating clean people immediately ask if you’re eating brown rice and chicken 6 times a day. But it’s a cliche for a reason, because brown rice is brilliant. It has a respectable 23g of carbs per 100g with a GI score of 55, and you can buy it in microwavable pouches straight from the supermarket, making it stupidly convenient.
3 – Basmati Rice
Basmati rice is another source of complex carbs, and good choice for people who aren’t so keen on brown rice. Scoring 58 on the GI scale it’s technically moderate rather than low GI (low GI foods are anything under 55) but it’s a good call to eat before or after a workout, when your body is just about to need a load of energy or right after when you’ve depleted your reserves and need to refuel quickly. With 77.1g of carbs and 8.1g of protein per 100g, it makes a great choice if you’re eating it at the right times.
4 – Quinoa
Over the last year or so quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa apparently) has been touted as a major superfood, with tons of benefits including having a broad spectrum of amino acids and 4.4g of protein per 100g, making it a popular choice for vegetarian or vegan fighters. It also contains 21.3g of carbs per 100g, and it scores 53 on the Glycemic Index so provides slow release carbohydrates to give you lasting energy.
5 – Lentils
Lentils are similar to quinoa, they’re a popular choice with vegetarian’s and vegans because they contain 26g of protein per 100g. They come in several different varieties, and you can get hold of them from any supermarket. Their GI score is really low, at just 21 for red lentils and 22 for green (probably the most common varieties), and they also give you 60g of carbohydrates per 100g as well.
6 – Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a brilliant source of carbohydrate, how you cook them changes how good they are for you, boiled in their skin they have a GI level of 45, which is brilliant, but baked in their skin raises to 94. But if you’re going to eat chips for your cheat meal, they’re better off being sweet potato chips. Coming in at 21g of carbs per 100g (for boiled sweet potato) they’re also full of fibre to keep you fully hey make a brilliant alternative to higher GI white potatoes.
7 – Pasta
Pasta has long been a healthy eating staple. It takes your body longer to digest pasta than it does other starchy foods such as bread, so overall the different types have a lower GI score than foods like bread. The rough range of the different types of pasta’s GI scores are between 43 and 61, with most types hovering around the mid 50’s. They therefore make good choices for both standard meals and pre and post workout meals, and on average you’re looking at around 25g of carbs per 100g.
8 – Noodles
Similar to pasta noodles make a versatile source of carbohydrates, and are a good choice for cooking in batches and freezing to reheat when you need them. The two most common types are rice and egg, rice being a good option for vegan or vegetarian’s. Rice noodles are slightly higher GI (53 compare to egg noodles 40) but they both fit nicely in the low GI category. Both types come in at an even 25g of carbs per 100g.
9 – Bananas
Another source of fast acting carbohydrates banana are good choice particularly post workout. Along side the 31g of carbs a single large banana provides they also contain a large dose of potassium, which will help a lot with you recovery. Try throwing a banana some oats and some weigh protein in a blender, add some milk and blend until it’s smooth.
10 – Fruit Juice
This is a bit of a trick one, fruit juice is often seen as a bad choice nutritionally – the fruit may be healthy but the juice contains all the sugars with none of the dietary fibre that makes them nutritious. However, in moderation they have their uses; if you’re training first thing in the morning and don’t want to do it in a fasted state or if you want a source of quick release energy you can have before training fruit juice is a great choice, just don’t go overboard! 100ml of apple juice contains 12.24g of quick release carbs, so a few hundred ml before training will keep you fuelled throughout.
So as we mentioned carbohydrates are the fuel you need to keep the engine running, and whilst cutting them down has proved to be the most effective way to loose weight, they are also essential for performing at your best. Make sure you’re getting the right kinds of carbs to keep you working at your peak.