When looking to build muscle, most people tend to gravitate toward adding more protein to their diets. And while protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery, it is not the only nutrient that can help build muscle.
Carbs also play a critical role in the process.
Consuming carbs can delay fatigue, increase time to exhaustion and refill energy stores so that the body is ready to build muscle and prepared for the next workout, according to Katie Salomone, RD, director of sports nutrition at Rutgers University.
Salomone spoke with Livestrong.com about the different types of carbs to incorporate into your diet, and some to avoid as well. Below is an excerpt from that article.
The 5 Best Carbs to Help Build Muscle
- Whole Grains — Things like oats, whole-wheat bread, and barley are a great option when you’re looking to build lean muscle and lose fat. For one, whole grains are full of fiber, which will help keep your blood sugar steady and your belly full until your next meal or snack.
- Fruit & Vegetables — Fruits and veggies (which are classified as carbs) contain vital nutrients your body needs during the muscle-building process. For instance, vitamin C — found in bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and citrus fruits — is fundamental for the growth and repair of body tissues, per the USDA.
- Beans & Legumes — Beans and other legumes like chickpeas supply stellar starchy, slowly digested complex carbs. Plus, they also provide a powerful punch of muscle-building plant protein.
- Quinoa — Like whole grains, this super seed is a complex carb. But it’s also one of the few plant-based foods that are considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the nine essential amino acids.
- Dairy — Dairy is a great option post-workout as it has carbs, protein, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium. Together, these nutrients support muscle building as well as bone health.
5 Carbs to Limit When Building Muscle
- Potatoes — Potatoes have a high glycemic load, which means they cause your blood sugar and insulin to spike rapidly and then dip, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Sugary Cereal — Many cereals masquerade as nutritious breakfasts, but they’re often stuffed with sugar (and other additives). “These are foods to have in moderation as they do not provide those vitamins and minerals that are necessary for overall health and muscle building,” Salomone says.
- Baked Goods — Sugar-stacked baked goods like cookies, doughnuts, or muffins won’t offer much in the muscle-building department. What’s more, they’re often made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which contain trans fats.
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- Snack Bars — Some snack bars boast as much sugar as a candy bar. Here’s why that matters: Simple carbohydrates (aka sugar) can affect your mood and lead to decreased energy levels and alertness, per an April 2019 meta-analysis in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. And you need energy and focus to crush your workouts.
- Fruit Juice — Many fruit juices are jammed with sugar. Not to mention, fruit juices lack belly-filling fiber, so they can send your blood sugar soaring (then crashing soon after).
To read the full story from Livestrong.com and learn more about carbohydrates, click here.