Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source. Brain function, athletic performance, and overall energy depend on carbohydrates, or carbs. Unfortunately, not all carbs are created equal. If you want to sustain energy for longer workouts or build muscle efficiently, you have to consume the right carbohydrate sources, also known as complex carbs.
The Simple Carb Problem
For starters, simple carbs are the easiest foods to get your hands on. A sugary drink, pasta, bread, or some other processed food with refined ingredients may provide a short burst of energy, but there’s an eventual crash. Simple carbs and supplements like maltodextrin, dextrose, and cyclic dextrin all spike insulin, which causes a blood sugar crash. This can induce feelings of lethargy and fatigue. During a workout, you want to be able to sustain energy and keep blood sugar and insulin from spiking.
Why You Need Complex Carbs
The body digests complex carbohydrates much more slowly than it does simple carbs. This is because complex carbs have a longer-chain molecular structure. Although complex carbs are also made of sugars, they don’t spike insulin; rather, they work to keep blood glucose stable for sustained energy release. If you want to improve endurance, build muscle, optimize body composition, and engage in longer workouts, direct your attention to complex carbs. They slow the body’s absorption of sugar and slow the digestive process, helping you fee full for a longer time.
If you want to learn more about the difference between simple and complex carbs, click here. For the best carbs to eat to help you build muscle, continue reading.
Sweet Potatoes & Yams
Although people consider these to be the same food, they are quite different. Sweet potatoes contain naturally occurring sugars, dietary fiber, and other micronutrients like vitamin B6. Nutritionally speaking, both sweet potatoes and yams are very similar, providing complex carbohydrates that help you sustain energy levels. The primary difference is that sweet potatoes are great sources of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, a nutrient necessary for immune and eye health. Yams do contain vitamin A, but not nearly as much as sweet potatoes. Yams happen to have a higher vitamin C content than sweet potatoes.
Quinoa happens to be one of the only plant-based carbohydrates that is also a complete protein. In addition to being rich in manganese, magnesium, iron, and other micronutrients, it contains all the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. Quinoa, much to people’s disbelief, is actually not a grain; rather, it is a seed, but people treat it like a grain. It’s an excellent dietary staple for anyone who wants to fill up on protein and complex carbs in order to build muscle.
Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide the body with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and complex carbs. In order to build and repair muscles, you need the vital nutrients in these natural foods. Vitamin C, for example, is necessary for the growth and repair of muscle tissues. Additionally, consuming more fruits and vegetables helps to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and certain cancers.
Legumes are naturally rich in fiber, which aids nutrient absorption. The fiber also helps to optimize digestive function and aid the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Legumes are also great sources of protein and iron, both of which are necessary for muscle growth. Chickpeas, black beans, lentils, kidney beans, and more contain carbs that the body digests slowly, which helps to stabilize blood sugar. The combination of carbs and protein means that legumes should fall on your muscle-building food list.
The breakfast of champions and muscle builders, so long as you aren’t eating one of those processed, sugary packets. That’s not oatmeal, folks, just in case anyone was unclear about that. Rolled oats and steel cut oats are great sources of complex carbs and protein, helping you optimize body composition and build muscle. Because oats are rich in soluble fiber, they also help slow digestion to keep you full for longer. Lastly, several studies found that oats may reduce inflammation, improve gut microbiome, and provided sustained energy levels.