Healthy Carbohydrates – How To Source For Performance Training?

Carbohydrates are organic compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen with the general structure of (CH2O)n. How can they help in your training? Simple carbohydrates such as glucose are used by your body as main the energy source in the form of calories. The energy produced is 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates.

When they are in complex form such as starch and glycogen they are broken down into simple sugars by the enzyme called amylase.  Salivary amylase initiates the digestion while pancreatic amylase completes the process. Cellulose, a dietary fiber however, remains insoluble and undigested.

So, while carbs do often have a negative reputation, when it comes to performance training for high intensity athletes, they are an absolute essential part of your diet. But that doesn’t mean you should go for any carbs available.

Choose The Right Carbohydrates

Before and after your training, you need to load up carbohydrates that are absorbed slowly into your system. Raw sugar carbs absorb very quickly and introduce blood sugar spikes that will not help your overall training.

So what are the best food sources? Examples of these are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans.

However, during competitive events and your toughest training times, you need to choose carbs with simple sugars for easy digestion such as energy drinks and fruit juices. As long as your body needs high volumes of energy, it’s best to provide it as easily as possible.

Whole grains contain lots of B vitamins and minerals to help your body make energy and red blood cells. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals to help fuel your brain, kidneys, heart and muscles. Whole foods give you fiber as well to aid in digestion and keep maintain blood and cholesterol levels.

So, not just any carbs will do. Choose wisely among different starches, sugars and fibers to eat before, during and after your training. Your choices enable you to avoid sugar crashes, stomach upsets and ultimately weight gain.


1. Acai Berry

Acai berry has more than twice the antioxidants content than blueberries and almost ten times that of grapes. Anthocyanins prove to be excellent in heart health because it lowers your cholesterol levels. It is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, D and E and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc.

A 50-gram serving of freeze-dried Acai powder provides about 265 calories and 26 grams carbohydrates. It has the highest phytochemical content of any fruit or vegetable and is considered one of the superfoods essential for building cells, tissues and muscles.

2. Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is a starchy vegetable which gives you 40 calories and 10 grams total carbohydrates per 100 grams of squash. It is rich in vitamins potassium, magnesium vitamins C, A, and B6. These nutrients help in forming muscle mass and boost fat-burning during workouts. The dietary fiber content is good for you which is only 1.5 grams.

3. Banana

Used as a snack or dessert, it contains 23 grams total carbohydrates with 2.6 grams dietary fiber and 89 calories per 100 grams of banana. It is rich in potassium and vitamins C and B6 and with decent amount of magnesium. It is also rich in glucose so effective as a pre-workout or post-workout snack as a source of immediate energy.

The high potassium content lowers blood pressure levels and prevents muscle cramps. Potassium helps nerve cells to respond, muscles to contract and helps maintain the regular beating of the heart during your workout. It also fights against bloating and water retention. Avoid rare-ripe banana as it may cause constipation due to its pectin content.

4. Barley

Barley provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals aside from very high calories and total carbohydrate content. Per 100 grams of barley, it gives you a whopping 354 calories and 73 grams of total carbohydrates with 17 grams of dietary fiber. It is wise to consume barley in a limited amount maybe as part of your snacks like energy bar.

Barley is rich in magnesium, vit B6, iron, protein and decent amount of potassium. It also contains selenium, vit B3, copper, chromium, and phosphorus. It decreases inflammation and stabilizes blood sugar levels and also acts as a bulking agent due to its high dietary fiber content.

5. Black Beans

Black beans are very affordable and a great source of carbohydrates as well as proteins, vitamins and minerals. It has 63 grams total carbohydrates with 16 grams dietary fiber and 339 calories per 100 grams serving. It is very rich in folate, copper, manganese, vit B1, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and a decent amount of vit B6.

B vitamins help in muscle growth while copper strengthens tendons of the muscles. Black beans also maintain blood sugar levels and help lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood to decrease the risk of heart disease. It accelerates fat-burning and muscle building.

6. Brown Rice

For every 100 grams of cooked brown long rice, it has 111 calories, 23 grams total carbohydrates with 1.8 grams dietary fiber and 2.6 grams protein. It is a good source vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6 and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc with small amounts of iron and vitamins B2 and B9.

You can eat brown rice everyday as part of your well-balanced diet. It is one of the ideal sources of carbohydrates and a very excellent source of manganese. A cup of cooked brown rice gives 3.74 mg manganese or 178% DV. It regulates sugar levels, relieves inflammation, supports metabolism and protects you against diseases.

7. Quinoa

100 grams of cooked quinoa has 120 calories, 4.4 grams protein and 21 grams total carbohydrates with 2.8 grams dietary fiber. It is rich in vitamins B2, B6 and folate (vit B9); and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc. It has a small amount of choline, potassium, vit B3 and vit E.

Quinoa is actually a seed but cooked and consumed like a grain. You can serve it as breakfast porridge, side dish, and salad or soup ingredient. It provides two-fold health benefits: has low carbohydrates content at the same time contains more high quality proteins with all the nine essential amino acids.

8. Rolled Oats

Rolled oats contain 379 calories and 68 grams total carbohydrates with 10 grams dietary fiber per 100 grams. It is high in protein (13 grams), calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins B1, B2 and B5 and small amount of potassium and folate (vit B9).

Oats are loaded with slow digesting complex carbs which in turn produce relatively slow increase of glucose in the bloodstream and modest insulin release. It helps maintain peak energy levels while doing your triathlon workouts. The B vitamins help manage stress and mood.

9. Whole-wheat Bread 100 grams

A whole wheat bread is a healthier choice of carbohydrates source than white bread. It has 247 calories and 41 grams total carbohydrates with 7 grams dietary fiber per 100 serving of bread. It is a good source of magnesium, sodium, protein, iron, and calcium. Other bread is high in sugar and enriched with vitamins and minerals so make a healthy choice.

10. Whole-grain Pasta

Like the whole grain bread, whole grain pasta supplies more nutrients and longer lasting energy. Choose a 100 percent whole-grain pasta since it has more natural fiber, vitamins and minerals that the refined ones. Nothing is removed during the processing so the bran, the germ and the endosperm are still present.

Whole-wheat spaghetti for example has 326 calories, 13.5 grams protein and 62 grams carbohydrates with 8 grams dietary fiber. Serve it with a protein source like lean ground pork beef, turkey or tuna flakes. You will get a lower glycemic index meal and have stored energy for your rigorous training.

Final Thoughts

Sourcing the right types of carbs can make a huge difference, especially during the training phase of any athlete. At peak times you may need the fast and easily digested sugars, but those will have very negative effects on regular training days.

Using the above ingredients for snacks and meals at the right times before and after training will make a huge difference. And for any supplementary needs you can use the following link for some more info.

Hi there, I’m Kate Young and I’m a fitness coach from California, but I now live in Austin. I have been involved in so many different sports over the years, including swimming, running, athletics, gymnastics, rugby (yeas, you read that right), baseball, tennis, and so many more that I have lost count.

I just love competing in sports, but struggled to find the one that I would stick with. So, instead I decided to become a fitness coach as it allows me to work with so many different types of athletes.

I’ve also become heavily involved it diet. The reason for this is that I’ve seen too many athletes fail in their fitness goals because their diet didn’t support it. And I’ve seen just as many people fail in their diets, because their fitness activities weren’t effective.

A lot of my work has involved working up with college tennis teams where I have tailored some endurance type fitness programs. Tennis coaches are great at teaching techniques, but a lot of them struggle with general fitness levels.

And that’s where I come in. On this site I contribute to anything tennis, fitness and diet related, which will help you get to your goals quicker and with more ease. And if you have some very specific questions then why not reach out on one of the social media channels where all of us are very active.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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