The best carbohydrates for bodybuilders provide consistent energy, assist with muscle building, and promote overall health.
Fortunately, there is a long list of healthy carbs for bodybuilders, so you have many options!
Before I show you exactly what the best carbs for bodybuilding are, I want to explain some of the basics about carbohydrates for bodybuilders.
FAQs About Carbohydrates and Bodybuilding
Below I will answer a few common questions related to carbs and bodybuilding including:
- Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
- High Glycemic Index vs. Low Glycemic Index Carbohydrates
- How Many Carbohydrates Should Bodybuilders Consume
- And More!
Simple Carbs vs. Complex Carbs
There are many different types of carbohydrates, but we often categorize them into “simple carbs” or “complex carbs.”
In short – simple carbohydrates consist of one or two sugar molecules, and complex carbohydrates consist of three or more sugars and usually have a rich fiber content.
Examples of Simple Carbs Include:
- Table Sugar
- Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
- Refined or Processed Grains
- Processed Foods with “Added Sugar”
Examples of Complex Carbs Include:
- Whole Grains
Complex carbohydrates usually contain more vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients, along with higher fiber content and more complex sugar molecule makeup.
However, some natural, simple carbohydrates like honey or maple syrup contain many additional micronutrients.
Many people wonder whether simple or complex carbs are better for bodybuilders, but the answer is that you need both!
Simple carbs can be very beneficial directly after a workout, while complex carbs are more important throughout the rest of the day.
Bodybuilders and athletes should eat complex carbs instead of simple carbs throughout the day because complex carbs reduce hunger, provide a longer energy source, and provide more micronutrients for optimizing overall health.
Along with vitamins and minerals, complex carbs also provide phytonutrients and prebiotic fiber, which are critical to good health.
High GI vs. Low GI Carbs
Carbohydrates can be categorized as either simple or complex carbs, but they also can be categorized by their glycemic index.
The glycemic index of a carbohydrate describes how quickly the body absorbs the carbohydrate and how quickly it promotes an insulin response in the body.
Complex carbs generally have a lower glycemic index than simple carbs, but that is not always the case.
A lower glycemic index is often beneficial because it is healthier for your body to have more stable blood sugar levels, but there are times when a high glycemic index carb is better for bodybuilders.
Research indicates that high glycemic index carbs are particularly beneficial for bodybuilders directly after a workout when consuming a significant amount of carbs is important to replenish muscle glycogen stores adequately.
How Many Carbs Per Day for Bodybuilders?
Now that you know more about the best types of carbs for bodybuilding, it is also important to understand how many carbohydrates bodybuilders should consume daily.
Although there are some low-carb diets, such as the Ketogenic Diet, which can still produce good results for bodybuilders, research clearly indicates that an intake of 7-10 grams/kilogram of body weight (or 7-10 grams/2.2 pounds) produces optimal muscle glycogen replenishment, which will contribute to optimal muscle growth and muscle recovery.
You can play around with carbohydrate intakes to see what your body responds best to, but using these numbers as a guide will help you determine whether you are eating enough carbs per day.
Now that you know the basics of carbohydrates for bodybuilding, let’s look at the best carbs for bodybuilding!
The 10 Best Carbohydrates for Bodybuilding
Please note that this list is not in a particular order. There are many great carbs for bodybuilding, but I believe these are the ten best.
Here is my list of the ten best carbs for bodybuilding:
Blueberries are a good source of carbohydrates for bodybuilders due to their carbohydrate composition and their high levels of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been found to exhibit significant health benefits.
Blueberries are particularly beneficial for bodybuilders because research has shown that blueberries can help counter oxidative stress and inflammation caused by strenuous exercise.
In a study, well-trained subjects who consumed 250 g of blueberries daily for six weeks and 375 g given 1 hour before 2.5 hours of running at approximately 72% maximal oxygen consumption experienced less oxidative stress and increased anti-inflammatory cytokines.
Additionally, individuals who ingested the blueberries were found to improve the recovery rate of muscle performance during the first 36 hours after intense physical training.
Blueberries are a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, meaning they are slowly absorbed and can provide sustained energy without causing a significant insulin spike.
Also, blueberries are readily available whole food and can be easily consumed in smoothie form.
Overall, blueberries are a great carbohydrate source for bodybuilders due to their antioxidant properties and potential to improve muscle recovery and performance.
Oats are one of the best carbohydrates because they are a highly nutritious gluten-free cereal that contains a healthy type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is known to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in the body.
Oats are unique because they have a blend of different forms of starch, making them great for replenishing energy stores and managing blood sugar.
Oats have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels and are very effective at keeping you full without needing to eat too many calories overall. I love to start my days off every morning with a bowl of oatmeal containing honey, maple syrup, and coconut oil!
Oats are one of the best options for a healthy metabolism-boosting breakfast!
Sweet potatoes are probably my favorite source of carbohydrates and are certainly one of the healthiest carbs for bodybuilding.
The indigenous people of Okinawa, Japan, are one of the longest-living populations on the planet. Researchers believe this is partly due to their unique diet that obtains about 70 percent of its calories from sweet potatoes and yams!
Sweet potatoes are an excellent carbohydrate source for bodybuilders due to their rich nutritional composition, ability to support muscle building, and high fiber content.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, making them one of the healthiest carbs on the planet.
They are a medium to high glycemic index carb, ranging from 44-96, making them an excellent choice for pre and post-workout meals.
Sweet potatoes also provide large amounts of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin B6, and manganese.
One of the main reasons sweet potatoes are great for bodybuilding is they contain a fair amount of protein, with a medium-sized sweet potato containing about 2 grams of protein.
Additionally, sweet potatoes are an amazing source of fiber, with a medium-sized sweet potato containing about 3.8 grams of fiber.
The fiber in sweet potatoes is both soluble and insoluble, with soluble fibers like pectin helping to reduce overall food intake and blood sugar spikes, while insoluble fibers provide several health benefits, such as a reduced risk of diabetes and improved gut health.
Overall, sweet potatoes are an ideal carbohydrate source for bodybuilders, providing energy, nutrients, and fiber to support muscle building and overall health.
Brown rice is a great carbohydrate source for bodybuilders due to its high fiber content and its association with various health benefits.
In a study comparing the effects of polished rice and brown rice on the digestibility of nutrients and fecal weight in healthy young men, the brown rice diet had three times as much dietary fiber as the polished rice diet.
This high fiber content contributes to the increased fecal weight and reduced absorption rates of certain minerals such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus, which are associated with improved gut health.
Additionally, brown rice has been found to have health-promoting benefits such as anti-diabetic, anti-cholesterol, cardioprotective, and antioxidant effects, which are attributed to the presence of various phytochemicals mainly located in the bran layers of brown rice.
Although another study found that brown rice reduced protein digestibility and nitrogen balance, rice protein has been found to modify triglyceride metabolism, improving body weight and body composition.
Therefore, brown rice is a complex carbohydrate that has a low to medium glycemic index and can support muscle building through its high fiber content and association with various health benefits.
Despite their reputation for being high in sugar, bananas are a great carbohydrate source for bodybuilders.
While they are technically a simple carb due to their fructose and glucose content, bananas are a low glycemic index food, meaning they release energy into the bloodstream slowly and steadily rather than causing a spike and crash.
In terms of their nutrient composition, bananas are a great source of carbohydrates and water, with one medium banana containing about 105 calories.
Ripe bananas are particularly beneficial for bodybuilders as they are fast-absorbing but still provide plenty of micronutrients, including 400 mg of potassium and 30 mg of magnesium, which are essential for muscle function and recovery.
Additionally, bananas contain about 3 grams of fiber per medium-sized fruit, which can help regulate digestion and keep you feeling full.
After a workout, a smoothie with protein powder and bananas can help speed muscle recovery by providing a balanced mix of nutrients.
White potatoes are a great carbohydrate for bodybuilders because they are a concentrated source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and resistant starch.
Potatoes are also a concentrated source of vitamin C and potassium, which are critical nutrients in the diet.
Recent research has shown that potato protein can also support muscle building, making it a suitable alternative to animal-based proteins.
Ingesting 30 g of potato protein concentrate increases muscle protein synthesis rates at rest and during recovery from exercise in healthy, young males.
Muscle protein synthesis rates after ingesting 30 g of potato protein do not differ from rates observed after ingesting an equivalent amount of milk protein.
Although you might not eat 30 grams of potato protein at a time, eating white potatoes can positively impact muscle protein synthesis.
Additionally, white potatoes are a complex carbohydrate, meaning they take longer to break down and provide a steady stream of energy over a longer period, which can be beneficial for sustaining workouts.
They are also considered a medium to high glycemic index (GI) food, which means they can provide a quick boost of energy.
Overall, white potatoes can support muscle building and provide a nutrient-dense energy source for bodybuilders.
Pumpkin is a nutrient-dense carbohydrate source that can benefit bodybuilders in various ways.
Pumpkins are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full for longer periods.
They also contain a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, which can support muscle building and recovery.
Additionally, pumpkins are a good source of carbohydrates, providing both simple and complex carbs that can be useful for energy production during workouts.
The simple carbs can be quickly absorbed and used as an immediate energy source.
In contrast, the complex carbs can be broken down more slowly, providing a sustained energy release, making them a great option for bodybuilders looking to fuel their workouts and support muscle building.
Sunflower seeds are a healthy carb source for bodybuilders, rich in healthy complex carbohydrates and various essential nutrients.
In addition to carbohydrates, sunflower seeds are packed with vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative stress and can aid in post-workout recovery.
Intense exercise and heavy weightlifting increase the production of free radicals, leading to oxidative stress and damage to cells. Vitamin E helps prevent this damage by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause harm to cells.
Including sunflower seeds in the diet can provide a significant amount of dietary vitamin E, aiding muscle recovery and reducing the risk of oxidative stress-induced damage caused by intense exercise.
Sunflower seeds are also a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help improve cholesterol levels and support overall heart health.
Additionally, sunflower seeds are a quality source of protein, which is essential for muscle growth and maintenance.
Lastly, they contain folate, a B-vitamin essential for producing red blood cells and plays a role in metabolism.
Sunflower seeds are not a significant source of simple carbohydrates but contain complex carbohydrates that can provide sustained energy during workouts.
They are a low glycemic index food, meaning they are absorbed slowly and can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Overall, sunflower seeds are a nutrient-dense food that can support muscle building and provide a convenient and energizing snack for bodybuilders on the go.
You can add sunflower seeds to your homemade trail mix for an excellent and energizing snack on the go!
Peanuts are a great source of carbs for bodybuilders due to their nutrient composition.
They are not only rich in healthy unsaturated fats but also in protein, providing a substantial amount of amino acids essential for muscle building and repair.
Peanuts contain essential minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, which play a significant role in muscle growth and repair.
Additionally, peanuts are a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps prevent oxidative damage to muscles caused by intense exercise, promoting faster recovery and preventing muscle loss.
In addition to their high protein and healthy fat content, peanuts are a good source of the amino acid arginine. Arginine plays a crucial role in protein synthesis and helps to improve blood flow and circulation in the body.
Arginine also supports the production of nitric oxide, which can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles during exercise, helping to reduce fatigue and improve performance.
Research has also suggested that arginine may help to stimulate muscle growth by increasing the production of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in the body.
Peanuts contain approximately 2 grams of arginine per 100 grams, making them a valuable addition to the diets of bodybuilders and other athletes looking to optimize their muscle-building potential.
Lastly, peanuts have a low glycemic index, meaning they release energy slowly, making them an excellent source of sustained energy for bodybuilders during their workout sessions.
Peanuts are versatile, making them easy to add to your diet.
You can enjoy them as a healthy snack, a natural peanut butter spread on toast, or added to smoothies.
Buckwheat is an excellent carbohydrate source for because it is a complex carbohydrate slowly digested, providing sustained energy throughout the day.
Buckwheat is also a rich source of protein, with 13-15% protein content, containing all essential amino acids needed for muscle building.
Buckwheat is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including magnesium, iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
Additionally, buckwheat contains high levels of flavonoids, which can help reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and promote heart health.
Buckwheat also has a low glycemic index, meaning it does not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, making it an excellent choice for bodybuilders looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Overall, buckwheat is an excellent source of carbohydrates for bodybuilders due to its nutrient density, protein content, and low glycemic index.
Are Carbohydrate Supplements Good for Bodybuilders?
Carbohydrate supplements can be beneficial for bodybuilders for several reasons.
Primarily, supplementing with carbohydrates can help replenish glycogen stores and provide the energy needed for sustained high-intensity exercise in a fast and convenient way.
Additionally, consuming carbohydrates supplements post-workout can help facilitate muscle recovery and promote muscle growth without needing time to prepare.
Several types of carbohydrates are commonly found in carbohydrate supplements. Here are some examples:
- Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate easily digestible and rapidly absorbed by the body. It is often used in carbohydrate supplements because it provides a quick energy source without causing a significant insulin spike.
- Dextrose: Dextrose is a simple sugar that is rapidly absorbed by the body and can provide a quick energy source. It is often used in carbohydrate supplements because it can cause a rapid insulin spike, which can help shuttle nutrients to the muscles.
- Fructose: Fructose is a simple sugar that is commonly found in fruits. It is absorbed more slowly than glucose or maltodextrin, but it can still be a useful energy source during exercise. Additionally, fructose can help replenish liver glycogen stores, which can be depleted during prolonged exercise.
- Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD): HBCD is a relatively new carbohydrate rapidly absorbed by the body and has a low glycemic index. It is often used in carbohydrate supplements because it can provide sustained energy without causing a significant insulin spike.
When selecting a carbohydrate supplement, it is important to consider the type of carbohydrate used and the ratio of carbohydrates to other nutrients (such as protein).
Different types of carbohydrates can have different effects on the body, so it is important to choose a supplement that is appropriate for your specific goals and needs.
Additionally, it is important to choose a carbohydrate supplement that is free of added sugars and artificial sweeteners, as these can have negative health effects.
Carb Supplements vs. Whole Carbohydrate Sources
Whole carbohydrate sources are generally better for bodybuilders than supplements for several reasons.
First, whole carbohydrates provide additional nutrients and fiber that are often absent in supplements.
Fiber helps to regulate digestion and keep blood sugar levels stable, which is important for maintaining energy during workouts.
Second, whole carbohydrate sources are typically more satisfying and can keep you feeling full for longer periods, which can help with body composition and muscle-building goals.
Third, whole carbohydrates tend to have a lower glycemic index than many carbohydrate supplements, meaning they release energy more slowly and steadily into the bloodstream rather than causing a sudden spike and crash in blood sugar levels.
This can help to sustain energy levels throughout a workout and prevent fatigue.
Finally, consuming whole carbohydrate sources as part of a balanced diet can also help to support overall health and well-being, which is important for optimal athletic performance.
The Best Carb Supplement for Bodybuilding (2023)
Although I recommend you choose whole foods instead of supplements, sometimes you don’t have time for a meal, and a carb supplement might be a better option.
Fortunately, there are carb supplements that are great for bodybuilding.
If you want good carbs for bodybuilding in supplement form, your best option is Swolverine Clean Carbs.
Swolverine Clean Carbs is a complex carbohydrate supplement containing carbs from sweet potatoes, yams, and oats, three of the best complex carbohydrates for bodybuilding!
Along with that, it is only flavored with Natural Flavors and stevia.
If you want a carb supplement to help your body refuel and improve your overall health, I suggest Swolverine Clean Carbs.
Concluding Thoughts – The Best Sources of Carbs for Bodybuilding
Carbohydrates are essential for your body and are critical for anyone looking to build a healthy and aesthetic body.
Choosing the right carbohydrates is essential for individuals starting bodybuilding and trying to build a healthy, aesthetic body.
Whole food carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, oats, fruits, and vegetables offer a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them a healthier and more nutrient-dense option than carbohydrate supplements.
These whole food sources also provide the necessary energy and nutrients to fuel and support muscle building and recovery.
It is important to choose carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycemic index, which can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes during workouts.
Incorporating a balanced and varied diet that includes these types of carbohydrates can be key to achieving optimal results in bodybuilding.
All the carbohydrates listed above will make excellent additions to your diet and can be extremely helpful in creating a well-rounded diet overall!
If you have trouble intaking enough of these healthy carbohydrates, you can also use Swolverine Clean Carbs, which I believe is the best carb supplement for bodybuilding!