CARBS HAVE a bad reputation. The category can be subdivided into simple sugars, like fruit and milk, and complex carbs, like potatoes, beans, oats, and brown rice
And while many folks do overeat the wrong kinds (processed foods), wholesome carbs—when eaten at the right time and in the right amount—help maintain a healthy body and provide you with the energy you need.
For example, 90 percent of carbs fuel your brain in the form of glucose (part of the reason you should think twive about trying the extremelt low-carb keto diet). Some of the glucose is stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. When your blood sugar dips, like when you’re working out, the glycogen is released and used as energy.
So which carbs are the best? We tapped several expert registered dietitian nutritionists throughout the country, many who work with professional and collegiate athletes, to find out which carbs they prefer.
“Oats are rich in nutrients for a moderate amount of calories and carbohydrates. They have a special type of fiber linked to lowering cholesterol levels, making them a great heart-healthy grain; they even have a decent amount of protein. Whole grains like oats can help you maintain a healthy weight, too. They’re the foundation of my go-to breakfast—along with a topping of seasonal fruit and nuts—for a satisfying meal that keeps me going until lunch.”
– Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life.
“I’m a big fan of pasta. First of all, Italian men eat pasta and look great. Second, pasta is a great way to complete your plate or bowl by adding protein and veggies. Third, pasta can fuel workouts so you don’t burn muscle while exercising and/or carbs post workout providing the 1-2 punch with protein to help the body effectively restore itself.”
“For the money, you can’t beat a traditional baked, stuffed spud to fuel your body and provide an easy protein-packed dinner. One serving (about one small baked potato) costs less than 20 cents and is loaded with quality carbohydrates. A small baked potato is only 113 calories, so don’t believe that old wives’ tale that they’re ‘fattening.’ Microwave a spud and stuff it with black beans, salsa, and cheese for a protein-rich, muscle-loving meal in less time than it takes to shower post-workout. Nutritional bonus: A small baked potato will also provide over 650 milligrams of blood pressure-lowering potassium, a mineral most Americans are falling short of daily.”
4. Chocolate milk
“Chocolate milk is the perfect choice after a workout. It contains carbs and protein in the ideal ratio for muscle recovery, plus offers fluid, electrolytes, calcium, and vitamin D—nutrients most men need more.”
– Dana Angelo White, M.S. R.D., A.T.C., Sports Dietitian and Clinical Professor, Quinnipiac University and owner of Dana White Nutrition
“Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse that provide high-quality carbs to fuel your muscles, optimizing workouts and recovery. Lentils provide 18 grams of protein per 1 cup (cooked), 16 grams of fiber, and a good amount of iron. Lentils are versatile—easy to add to soup, salad, tacos, and/or made into vegetarian meatballs (like these Lentil Meatballs with Zoodles).”
– Mitzi Dulan, R.D., author of The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin
“Blueberries are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and antioxidants. Grab a cup or two of blueberries pre-workout to provide a supply of glucose to your working muscles. Post-workout, pair blueberries with some protein (like in one of these smoothies). The carbs will help replenish your muscle glycogen stores and enhance the transport of protein into cells, while the antioxidants can help repair your muscles post-workout.”
– Alissa Rumsey M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
“Beans, like chickpeas and black beans, are one of my favorite carbs because they contain complex carbohydrates including soluble and insoluble fiber, and a significant amount of protein. This winning combination helps keep you fuller longer. Beans also provide iron and potassium, electrolytes important for muscles and balancing blood pressure.”
– Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., nutritionist, author and chef of DishwithDudash.com
“Whole-grain sorghum is gaining a lot of attention. It’s a protein powerhouse when it comes to grains and is packed with fiber. Sorghum provides magnesium and phosphorus, the key minerals for bone health, as well as B-vitamins and iron to help convert food into energy and maintain a healthy immune system. It may have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiota. Emerging research suggests prebiotic-rich foods, such as sorghum, may protect against the development of inflammation and chronic disease. Cook and use sorghum, just as you would enjoy rice.”
– Kathy Siegel, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., New York City based nutrition consultant at Triad to Wellness and consultant for the Sorghum Checkoff
“Bananas are my favorite carb of choice. They’re loaded with potassium and offer a good source of fiber. They’re a versatile snack you can add to yogurt, toss in a protein shake, or just eat it topped with a tablespoon of almond butter. “
– Jim White R.D., A.C.S.M. EX-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios
by Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D.