If you’re a very active individual who plays sports or participates in intense exercise, for example swimming or dancing, eating high-energy carbohydrates is an absolute must.
Some people are fearful of adding energy-dense carbs because they think they will cause weight gain, but as long as you select the right sources and monitor portion sizes, this doesn’t have to be the case.
High-energy carbohydrates are necessary fuel to perform exercise properly so they need to be a part of your daily intake. To structure your diet for success, plan to eat these foods before and after exercising, as well as first thing in the morning.
• Sweet potatoes. Not only are these higher in nutrients than regular potatoes, but they won’t provide as fast of a blood glucose spike.
• Brown rice. Unlike white rice, brown rice breaks down slowly in the body and is great for providing steady energy levels.
• Barley. This grain is good for those who are looking to boost fiber intake while maximizing energy levels.
• Ezekiel bread. This sprouted grain bread is less processed than any other loaves you’ll find in the grocery store. It provides your body with high-quality nourishment and long-lasting energy.
• Quinoa. Although technically a seed, this is considered a grain because of its nutritional value and texture. A complete source of protein in itself, quinoa is a great replacement for brown rice and is recommended for vegetarian diets.
• Whole wheat pasta. This very dense energy source is fast to prepare and is extremely filling.
• Oatmeal. Oatmeal is high in fiber, low in sugar, and a delicious way to get any day started off right. Season it with cinnamon for added flavor without added calories.
• Bananas. This high-energy fruit contains more starch carbohydrates (as opposed to natural sugars) than any other fruit and works well pre-workout. Bananas are also loaded with potassium, a key nutrient needed to support muscles during intense exercise.
• Whole wheat tortillas. Create a high-protein wrap before or after any workout session. An easy combo is grilled or deli-sliced chicken, black beans or quinoa, low-fat cheese, avocado and spinach. Dress with mustard or fresh salsa.
• Bran buds. This cereal is high in fiber and therefore digests more slowly, helping to regulate your energy levels throughout even the toughest challenge to your physical endurance.
• Beans. A high-fiber, high-complex carb food, all varieties of beans work into a balanced diet by supplying a little protein too.
The Bottom Line
So there you have the best carbohydrates to add to your diet. For most of these, you’ll want to serve up around one-half to one cup, which will provide approximately 100–200 calories per serving. This amount fuels you through an hour or two of exercise and helps you recover after the workout is finished.
Remember to balance these foods out by eating vegetables at other points during the day. This mix of healthy carbohydrate sources will support low-calorie goals and essential nutrient intake, including enough dietary fiber.