Clean carbohydrates provide the fuel you need to power your training and workout performance. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. Clean carbohydrate sources provide long-lasting sustained energy and help build more muscle mass as compared to refined or simple carbohydrates.
Glycogen, which is derived from carbohydrates, is the major fuel source that your body utilizes during exercise. Your body naturally depletes glycogen stores during your workout and is the main factor in the onset of muscle fatigue.
Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course
3 Benefits of Clean Carbohydrates
By incorporating clean carbohydrates sources into your diet, you’ll improve performance, build more muscle, optimize your recovery, and crush your goals.
1. Better Athletic Performance
We’ve all had those days where we gas out mid-workout. Even after a good night’s sleep and taking down your pre-workout, you may still feel like you don’t have the energy to finish your last few sets. There are two main contributing factors to this. One, you had simple carbohydrates an hour or two before your workout, which results in a quick burst of energy, followed by a lapse and lethargy. Or two, you didn’t eat enough carbohydrates to begin with and now you have low glycogen stores resulting in low energy levels.
Consuming an energy drink, or eating packaged convenient foods, may sound like a good idea, but oftentimes it results in a quick burst of energy followed by a devastating crash. That’s why including clean carbohydrates into your daily nutrition regimen is so crucial to hitting your goals.
Numerous clinical studies1 have proven that prolonged exercise correlates with low glycogen muscle content. Glucose is oxidized through aerobic and anaerobic exercise to produce ATP, which is required for muscle contraction. Glycogen is depleted at the rate of physical activity; therefore, high-intensity training will deplete glycogen stores2 quicker than moderate-intensity exercise. If your training for an extended amount of time or have multiple workouts per day, it’s crucial to include clean complex carbohydrates to help replenish glycogen stores, for long-lasting energy and improved endurance.
2. High In Fiber
Unlike simple carbohydrates, clean carbohydrates have an incredibly high fiber content. Fiber helps keep you regular and improves digestive health and your gut microbiota. With better digestive health, you’ll avoid feelings of bloat, constipation, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
3. Keeps Your Fuller For Longer
Clean carbohydrates have a slower insulin release resulting in more satiation, or an increased feeling of fullness. This is especially important if you’re trying to lose weight since it will help with appetite suppression. Being in a manageable caloric deficit is crucial, in order to lose weight and meet your health and fitness goals. Simple carbohydrates are high in calories and cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. With more glucose coursing through your veins, you get a short-lived burst of energy and crash due to the release of insulin. Insulin dispels glucose, and which results in low blood sugar, making you feel irritable and hangry all over again. This is called the infamous blood sugar roller coaster. If you want to avoid it, then stick with clean carbohydrates. They have fewer calories, keep you fuller for longer, and will provide better sustained energy.
Sweet potatoes are a sweet and starchy clean carbohydrate packed with vitamins, and rich in fiber and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes contain 796% the daily recommended value of vitamin A and beta carotene, which can help in immune health, eye health, and maintain low blood sugar levels.
Yams are the less sweet and starchier version of its root vegetable friend, the sweet potato. Yams are packed full of fiber and important micronutrients such as potassium and manganese, which support bone health, growth, metabolism, and heart function. Including clean carbohydrates like yams in your diet will ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to optimize endurance training and recovery.
Oats are by far one of the best clean carbohydrates you can eat. Oats provide valuable soluble fiber which is crucial for digestive health and satiation. Oats can provide long-lasting sustained energy, protect against heart disease, and improve gut health. It’s important to note, that when you’re looking for oats, opt for rolled, steel-cut, or whole oats instead of instant. They’ll keep you fuller for longer and provide better sustained energy.
Related: Overnight Oats: The Best Post-Workout Nutrition Solution
Quinoa is known as a superfood anomaly. Not only is it an amazing clean carbohydrates source, but it’s also one of the best plant-based protein sources and packed with omega-3 fatty acids. With a full essential amino acid profile, quinoa is a great source of protein, to help improve athletic performance measurements, such as increasing strength, muscle mass, and optimizing body composition. Quinoa contains 7.2% leucine content to total protein. Leucine is proven to be the one branched-chain amino acid, that is responsible for initiating muscle protein synthesis the best. The more leucine, post-workout, the more muscle mass you’ll build3, which translates into better athletic performance. Adding in some quinoa to your meal prep is a great way to hit all of your clean macros.
Brussels deserve a seat at the dinner table, and here’s why. Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Not to mention, they’re loaded with fiber which will help keep you on the regular and support gut health.
Related: 6 Ways Better Gut Health Can Lead to Better Gains
Squash is commonly thought of as a vegetable, but the truth is that squash is technically classified as a fruit. One cup of cubed butternut squash provides around 20g of quality clean carbohydrates, 6g of fiber, and 87% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Not only that squash is low calorie and fiber-rich making it a tasty addition to your weekly meal preps to help optimize your health and wellness.
- Alghannam, Abdullah F et al. “Restoration of Muscle Glycogen and Functional Capacity: Role of Post-Exercise Carbohydrate and Protein Co-Ingestion.” Nutrients vol. 10,2 253. 23 Feb. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10020253
- Murray, Bob, and Christine Rosenbloom. “Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes.” Nutrition reviews vol. 76,4 (2018): 243-259. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuy001
- Stephan van Vliet, Nicholas A Burd, Luc JC van Loon, The Skeletal Muscle Anabolic Response to Plant- versus Animal-Based Protein Consumption, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 145, Issue 9, September 2015, Pages 1981–1991.