What Are Good Carbs for Weight Lifting?

Two mid adult men exercising in a gym with weights
Carbs provide energy for weight lifting. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram and are the body's main source of energy. However, carbs have different characteristics and each type should be used in a specific way to help you achieve your weight lifting goals.

Guidelines

The type and amounts of carbohydrates you eat should depend on what you are trying to achieve with your weight lifting program. For example, eat more carbs if you are trying to gain muscle mass and weight, and fewer carbohydrates if you are trying to maintain muscle tissue while losing body fat.

Complex Carbohydrates

Organic yams
Complex Carbohydrates (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, whole grain rice, whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams and quinoa are slowly assimilated by the body and provide energy for your weight lifting workouts. These are considered low-glycemic carbohydrates as they provide sustained energy, stable blood sugar levels, and do not elicit an insulin surge, which drives excess energy to fat stores. Eat up to six meals a day if you are trying to build muscle and gain weight. Include complex carbohydrates with at least four of these meals. Limit complex carbs to one or two meals if you are trying to gain lean muscle tissue and lose body fat.

Vegetables and Fruits

food items and ingredients on a kitchen counter
Vegetables and Fruits (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Vegetables, fruits and berries are ideal sources of carbohydrates if you are concerned about your levels of body fat. They also provide valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eat a variety such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, spinach, okra, avocados, bananas, apples, kiwi fruit, mangoes, papaya, blueberries and blackberries.

Post-Workout Carbohydrates

Close-up of assorted nuts and dried fruits in a market in Barcelona
Fruit juice and dried fruits provide quickly assimilated carbohydrates to replace depleted nutrients. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

An intense weight lifting routine depletes your body of nutrients such as muscle glycogen. To enhance recovery and muscle growth, replenish these nutrients within two hours of your workout. Your immediate post-workout meal is the most important meal of the day for gaining muscle. Fruit juice and dried fruits provide quickly assimilated carbohydrates to replace depleted nutrients. Eat a meal of complex carbs, protein and vegetables within two to three hours of your post-workout meal.

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