While limiting carbohydrate intake is vital for a ripped physique, it's still important to include them in your diet to fuel and help your muscles grow. So here are 8 carbs you should be eating if you're looking to put on lean muscle and keep your body functioning.
Promote muscle recovery
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating carbs after a big workout helps release insulin, aiding muscle growth. And while you might want to stay as lean as possible, you still need to include fats along with protein. So Calum Von Moger's go-to post workout fuel is the perfect solution finds the University of Connecticut - chocolate milk, packed with protein and calcium while providing your body with the necessary fats to help your body function.
Keep your blood pressure under control
Although meat is high in protein, it also tends to raise your blood pressure. Balance this out with plant-based foods that will help keep it down, says the University of Minnesota. Their findings are backed up by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which reported that whole grains alone can slash hypertension by 19%. And what's the perfect wholegrain to include in your diet? Quinoa. Not only does it provide almost half your recommended daily amount of magnesium (crucial for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease), it's loaded with other health benefits as well. Quinoa is "one of the few whole grains that also contains a complete amino acid profile (essential for muscle growth) while also a source of low GI carbs which make it the perfect slow acting fuel food pre-training (long) session," says Bounce Foods Nutritionist, Susie Burrell.
Boost your brain power
If there's one thing everyone learns at bodybuilding school, it's 'tuna is your best friend.' Apart from being packed with protein in a small serving (around 20g of protein in a small 95g can), the go-to snack also boosts brain health. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles actually found that tuna can halt the progression of dementia. And yes, it's okay to eat tuna every day but If you need another reason to tuck in, even Nick Jonas loves it and he's swole AF.
Steer clear of a cold
If you're looking to keep that gym routine up, you're going to need to make sure you can avoid a cold. Just one week's bed rest can affect your muscle gains. Gulp. Containing close to 30g of carbs in a small 150g serve, sweet potato isn't just great for bulking up, it's packed with Vitamin C too, notes Burrell. According to a study by the Loughborough University, cortisol levels can soar as a result of a carb-deficient diet, compromising the immune system. So sweet potato is a great perfect combination of carbs and nutrients to keep you on your feet.
Don't let those sugar levels spike
Some of the sugar you consume is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle, but for the most part, the rest is converted into fat. By eating low GI carbs like wholemeal bread, your body avoids the the fat-storing process by slowly breaking down for a steady rise in blood sugar.
Keep your cool
Chowing down on too much meat-based protein can give you the sweats. Mix up your meals by adding brown rice into the fold - rich in magnesium, helping to regulate the body's temperature. it comes with other benefits as well: "with a massive 45g of carbs in a single cooked cup, brown rice is also a rich source of carbs and has essential nutrients including selenium. Most importantly it is easy to eat when you need relatively large volumes of fuel to support lean muscle gain," says Burrell.
Go the distance
While long-distance events require low G.I food for a gradual release of energy, if you're after a hard weight-lifting session, high G.I foods will provide the boost you need. Look to fruit-based sugary carbs which will give you an instant spike in energy. Fruits like watermelon or (albeit slightly lower G.I) bananas are a great solution. Bananas also pack 36 grams of carbs, perfect for 60 - 90 minutes of exercise.
Protein-rich foods aren't just great for building muscle, but they also have an amino acid, tryptophan, which boosts the feel-good hormone serotonin. Coupling this with a high-carb food will help amplify the effects. "Pasta is a carbohydrate rich food that is particularly low GI - a single serve of 2 cups of pasta contains close to 90g of carbs or the equivalent of 5-6 slices of bread making it the perfect choice for lean tissue gain," adds Burrell.