By: E.C. Synkowski
Whole, unprocessed carbohydrate sources have significant health and performance benefits that might go unnoticed with macronutrient counting. For example, a doughnut and an orange can both provide the carbohydrate grams one needs, but other constituents should be considered. Even honey has more health value compared to table sugar due to the vitamins and minerals it contains. This brief describes some of the factors to consider when selecting carbohydrates, including total carbohydrate grams. While the brief is not meant to be exhaustive, this information can help someone make more optimal choices based on needs and goals.
When selecting a carbohydrate, consider these components:
• Total carbohydrate (for body composition)
• Non-caloric constituents (for health)
• Fiber (for satiety)
• Glucose vs. fructose (for recovery)
Choosing the Most Optimal While spinach and kale are low in carbohydrate load, high in fiber, and offer a dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, they might not be the most optimal choices at all times.
• Variation: The greater the diversity in one’s diet, the greater the diversity in the micronutrients and phytochemicals consumed. It is best to rotate whole food sources to maximize coverage across all nutrients.
• Realistic: Excessive consumption of (green) vegetables to meet carbohydrate needs is uncomfortable at best, if not impossible or even stressful for the digestive system (assuming consumption of more than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day).
• Mass gain/compressed feeding window: Those looking to gain weight might specifically try to avoid fiber and target carbohydrate-dense foods simply to achieve daily targets. Others might employ the same strategies when eating in a compressed window (e.g., fasting).
• Performance: Athletes might find increased performance when incorporating lesser-quality sources specifically near workout times. Quickly absorbed nutrients can aid the recovery process. This is more appropriate for someone doing multiple sessions a day, endurance athletes, and/or individuals with the more important aspects of their diet already dialed in (such as consistently eating quality foods in known quantities).
• Enjoyment: Many people find enjoyment in some treat that cannot be justified based on its ingredients. And that’s OK! Dietary indiscretions can serve as sources of motivation for adherence and can be part of social enjoyment.
Overall, various carbohydrate sources can be “optimal” in different contexts based on these factors. It is generally best to select the majority of one’s carbohydrates from a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods. These foods are the most nutrient dense and offer an array of nutrients that can optimize long-term health and performance, but they are not necessarily calorically dense and often inadvertently reduce total caloric intake by making people feel full. However, individuals can optimize choices to meet needs and even fit nutrient-poor and/or carbohydrate-dense items into a varied diet based on whole foods. The “right tool” can be selected for the right job without blanket descriptions of “good” or “bad” for specific carbohydrates.
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75/60 Calorie Row
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KB Swings 35/25#
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5 Strict Chin Ups (palms facing you)
1 Minute Plank
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