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 many options exist!
Before I show you exactly what the best carbs for bodybuilding are, I want to explain some of the basics about carbohydrates for bodybuilders.
Below I will outline the differences between simple vs. complex carbohydrates, high glycemic index vs. low glycemic index carbohydrates, how many carbohydrates bodybuilders should consume per day, and more important info about the best carbs for bodybuilders!
For those of you who would like to add a carb supplement to your daily diet, Swolverine Clean Carbs is a nutrient-rich carb supplement that you can take along with your protein powder to enhance your post-workout recovery.
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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
Along with having a higher fiber content and more complex sugar molecule makeup, complex carbohydrates usually contain more vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients. 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 by 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 the carbs best for bodybuilding, it is also important to understand how many carbohydrates bodybuilders should consume per day.
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 or not.
Now that you know many carbohydrate for bodybuilding basics, let’s look at the best carbs for bodybuilding!
The 12 Best Carbs for Bodybuilding
Please note that this list is not in a particular order. There are many great carbs for bodybuilding, but I felt these twelve deserved a special mention.
Here is my list of the twelve best carbs for bodybuilding:
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!
2.) Millet, Buckwheat, and Amaranth
Millet, buckwheat, and amaranth are all heirloom grains cultivated for more than 7,000 years by indigenous populations. All three are highly nutritious and gluten-free carbs for bodybuilding.
Millet, buckwheat, and amaranth contain more minerals and vitamins than other grains, and because of their high fiber and antioxidant content, they are beneficial for blood sugar control.
Also, these grains are all excellent examples of vegan protein sources!
My wife is a huge fan of buckwheat, which is far more commonly eaten in Eastern countries than in the West.
3.) Sweet Potatoes
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!
These “tubers” that have a bright orange color are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, making them one of the healthiest carbs on the planet.
Sweet potatoes have a medium to high glycemic index, which varies from 44-96.
Sweet potatoes provide large amounts of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin B6, and manganese.
One of the main reasons sweet potatoes are great for bodybuilding is they also contain a fair amount of protein. A medium-sized sweet potato contains about 2 grams of protein.
Lastly, sweet potatoes are an amazing source of fiber. A medium-sized sweet potato contains about 3.8 grams of fiber.
The fiber in potatoes is both soluble (about 15-23% in the form of pectin) and insoluble (about 77-85% in the form of lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose).
Soluble fibers like pectin have been shown to help reduce overall food intake and reduce blood sugar spikes by slowing down the digestion of starches and sugars in the body. Insoluble fibers provide several health benefits, such as a reduced risk of diabetes and improved gut health.
Quinoa is technically a seed and is composed of an exceptional nutritional balance between protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Quinoa is exceptionally beneficial for cell membrane health and brain function. Quinoa is great for a post-workout meal or with dinner, and you can enhance your glucose uptake by eating Quinoa with vegetables or spices.
Quinoa isn’t especially “tasty” so mixing it with other vegetables or into a soup is an excellent way to enjoy the health benefits!
The variations of squash that can lighten up your meal are endless. Some of these variations include yellow summer squash, spaghetti squash, acorn, butternut, and zucchini. They are all packed with fiber and nutrients and are relatively low in overall carbohydrate content.
You can bake them, sauté them with greens, or they can be used as a substitute for popular refined carbs such as regular pasta noodles.
You have probably heard that bananas contain a large amount of sugar, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the best complex carbs for bodybuilding.
Bananas are high in antioxidants which help protect us from free radicals that we encounter daily.
Each banana contains about 105 calories and exclusively consists of carbohydrates and water.
Ripe bananas are one of the best sources of carbs for bodybuilding because they are fast-absorbing but still provide a lot of micronutrients.
One medium banana contains about 400 mg of potassium and 30 mg of magnesium, making it an excellent source of these two vital minerals.
Bananas are also a good source of fiber because a medium-sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber.
Bananas are an excellent carb source for bodybuilders directly after a workout. A smoothie that contains protein powder and bananas is an excellent way to speed up your muscle recovery!
7.) Lentils and Legumes
Since they are very high in fiber and provide a balanced macronutrient profile to help fight hunger, beans and lentils are some of the healthiest complex carbohydrates.
Lentils contain the highest phytonutrient levels of all legumes, which makes them protective against many diseases associated with stress including:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
8.) Leafy Green Vegetables
One of the unique benefits of leafy vegetables is that you can eat them in enormous quantities since they are very low in calories and filled with fiber and nutrition. Some of the best leafy green vegetables to try to add to your diet include kale and spinach, which contain antioxidants linked to cancer prevention and blood sugar management.
Others are Swiss chard, collards, and arugula, which are packed with nitrates that help improve blood flow and may enhance exercise capacity.
Pumpkin is one of the healthiest complex carbohydrates for bodybuilding, even though few people understand its incredible benefits! The benefits of pumpkin include making weight loss easier, improving your eye health, reducing your risk of cancer, and much more!
Pumpkin can be eaten naturally or made into a soup, among other options.
Eating pumpkin pie might not be the healthiest way to get your daily intake of pumpkin in, but the benefits of pumpkin are so strong that even a dessert pie can help you get healthy and stay healthy!
Pumpkin is particularly rich in carotenoid, which is the compound that gives the gourd its orange color.
Furthermore, pumpkin oil contains a plant-based substance known as phytosterol. According to various studies, this substance reduces LDL (also known as bad cholesterol). Reducing LDL plays a major role in enhancing the performance and health of the heart.
Lastly, pumpkin is rich in Vitamin C, one of the main vitamins needed for the immune system.
10.) Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are one of the best carbs for bodybuilding for various reasons. Along with providing healthy complex carbohydrates, they also provide loads of additional nutrients.
Sunflower seeds provide your body with a large amount of vitamin E, a necessary and often overlooked vitamin in your daily diet. The National Sunflower Association explained that an ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E.
Furthermore, sunflower seeds contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also known as the “good” fats, since they help raise HDL (good cholesterol) while reducing LDL (unhealthy cholesterol levels).
The National Sunflower Association says that about 90 percent of the fat in sunflower seeds is unsaturated (healthy) fats.
Sunflower seeds also contain protein and are effective in building and maintaining muscle tissue in the body.
Along with that, folate is a form of vitamin B9 found naturally in foods, with the synthetic form of this vitamin being called folic acid. Folate is necessary for the body to produce new red blood cells and for metabolism and maintenance of normal levels of homocysteine-an amino acid.
Not too many foods are abundantly rich in folate, but sunflower seeds are one of them!
Along with these already mentioned benefits, sunflower seeds also contain several other vitamins and minerals. A ¼ cup serving of sunflower seeds contains:
- 16 grams of fat
- 190 calories
- 34% of selenium
- 33% of phosphorus
- 82% of vitamin E
- 70% DV of copper
- 34% of Manganese
- 20% of Folate
You can add sunflower seeds to your homemade trail mix for an excellent and energizing snack on the go!
Besides being a great carbohydrate source for bodybuilders, peanuts have a high amount of monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats are healthy for the heart and other parts of your body. Peanuts contain unique vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamins B1, B3, and E
Furthermore, peanuts are an excellent natural source of arginine, a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps expand blood vessels and can decrease blood pressure.
Peanuts also have high amounts of fiber, which helps stabilize your digestive system when eaten in moderation and consistently.
Almonds are recognized as one of the most nutritious nuts, and I rank them as one of the best carbs for bodybuilding. Almonds are beneficial to your health because they help prevent many diseases. Almonds serve as a good source of nutrients such as:
- Vitamins B and E
- Healthy fats
Studies have shown that people who eat almonds frequently (about five times a week) are fifty percent more likely to reduce the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
The Best Carb Supplement for Bodybuilding
Although I always 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.
However, my main issue is that most carb supplements for bodybuilding use maltodextrin or dextrose. In my opinion, these are not the best carbs 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 that contains carbs from sweet potatoes, yams, and oats- 3 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.
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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.
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!
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