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  • Writer's pictureBryce Boratko

Carbohydrates- Why & How

Carbohydrates still have a tendency to be blamed for unwanted weight gain. The role of carbohydrates seems to be somewhat misunderstood for the purposes of weight loss, and it’s classification as a macro-nutrient includes a generally large selection of food/ snack choices, some of which are significantly better options than others.

When carbohydrates are discussed as part of a healthy diet, not all carbohydrate food choices are created equal. People tend to lump ALL of the higher calorie, processed snack foods like granola bars, potato chips, etc. (many of which contain an equally high amount of fat) into the same ‘carbohydrate’ food group. But, throwing out ALL of your eggs so to speak, just because a couple are ‘bad’, is unnecessary, and fails to consider context.

Grains comprise a large part of the carbohydrate food group. Their least processed state is ideally what we want to include as part of a healthy diet. When they are milled, and refined into flours, etc. and are made into other things- bagels, muffins, pancakes, it becomes harder to control how much you consume because they lose their satiating qualities- some of the protein, and much of the fiber (as well as other important nutrients) when the bran, and germ have been removed. This is not to say that breads and other items made from the flour of various grains are ‘bad,’ but for many, the whole grain option will be a more viable way to control an otherwise sometimes ‘no-holds-barred’ carbohydrate intake. As a whole grain which contains the endosperm, as well as the bran and the germ, you now have a satiating source of carbohydrate that also contains more protein & fiber. As a result, you’ll feel satisfied/ full faster, and are considerably less likely to overeat. Conversely, you also get a good chunk of readily usable energy for your next workout!

Carbohydrates play an essential role in sports nutrition, to a point where it is much harder to build muscle, or improve fitness (endurance, stamina) without them. As a readily usable, preferred source of energy stored in the body as glycogen, the body does NOT as efficiently mobilize stored body fat to provide the same usable, and readily available energy for higher intensity activity, without the expense of unnecessary fatigue. Therefore, it becomes harder to perceive relative intensity in training. Weights may feel heavier, and you may just generally feel like you don’t have any gas in the tank.

Incorporating some of these better choices of carbohydrates such as steel cut oats, barley, brown & wild rice, farro, polenta, amaranth, rye, bulgar and quinoa to name a few, would provide a valuable source of carbohydrate energy as well as necessary micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) protein, and fiber. On top of that, these carbohydrate sources; whole grains, most certainly don’t leave you craving more in the way that muffins, or cookies have a tendency to do.

For those of you who are looking for a way to incorporate some of these better carbohydrate choices into your diet, try this:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Barley

-Brussels Sprouts rinsed, cut in half

-Pearl Barley cooked

-Bacon (optional) rendered crisp, drained of fat, chopped

-Red Pepper/ Chili flakes

-Garlic minced

-Extra Virgin Olive Oil

-Fresh Lemon Juice

-Fresh Parsley

-Parmesan Cheese

-Salt, Black Pepper & Nutmeg to taste

Toss brussels sprouts in olive oil, pepper flakes, garlic, salt and black pepper. Roast (cut side down) on a sheet pan at 350 degrees until the cut side browns, and they become tender. Once cooked, transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Add barley, crisp bacon, parsley, Parmesan, and seasonings. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and some fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Give it a toss to mix well, and enjoy!

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