Creative Ways to Boost Your Carb Intake

Fuel your muscles with smarter carbs, like ancient grains that contain muscle-building nutrients bodybuilders’ physiques love.

When you work up an appetite in the weight room, you may be tempted to fill up on crave-worthy carbs to put on weight, especially during bulking season. After all, you’ve earned the right to dive into a pepperoni pizza or a huge bowl of pasta, right? Well sure, you can indulge, but why undo the hard work you’ve put in at the gym? Instead, fill up on foods that fuel you, like ancient grains to gain weight without unraveling your smart eating plan.

Why Ancient Grains?

Savory and satisfying ancient grains are one of the smartest ways to boost your carb intake. These whole grains provide protein, a healthy source of fiber and each variety contributes different nutrients to your diet.

Kelly Toups, MLA, RD, LDN, Program Director the Whole Grains Council explains some of the benefits. “Teff, for example, is a good source of iron, a vitamin which helps carry oxygen throughout the body. Amaranth is highest in magnesium, which helps normalize our blood pressure and also helps muscles relax after exercise. Quinoa trumps them all in folate, while barley has the most fiber, including soluble beta glucan fiber, a special type of fiber that can help lower cholesterol,” Toups says.


So how do you boost your grain intake to take advantage of this food’s super powers while building lean muscle? Pre-planning is helpful. Whole grains can take longer to cook than processed grains. But if you use a few tips and recipes, you can incorporate them into any meal or snack.

SEE ALSO:  4 Ancient Grains for Enhanced Gains

Boost Grain Intake at Every Meal

Fitness expert and trainer Chris Freytag likes grains because of their nutty and savory taste. Quinoa is her favorite because it’s a complete protein. “I make a big batch of quinoa on the weekend, put it in a Tupperware container and use it all week in meals…  literally breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

If you’re handy in the kitchen you can also bake whole grains into healthy meal must-haves. For example, bake your own healthy bread by swapping enriched white flour for whole wheat flour. Or make a sweet treat with ancient grains to have as a snack or for dessert. Try the banana bread recipe on the last page of this article, courtesy of the Oldways Whole Grains Council and Kathryn Conrad, WGC Culinary Advisor.

Need more quick and simple ways to get more grains in your diet? Freytag and Toups provide these creative ideas and recipes to add them to every meal.

  • Breakfast: Eat a quinoa bowl as an alternative to oatmeal. Use Chris Freytag’s Rise and Shine Breakfast Quinoa recipe as a guide and swap out the toppings on different days to add variety to diet.  Or start your day with whole grain toast topped with mashed avocado and chili flakes.
  • Lunch: A freekeh salad with spring greens, chickpeas, tomatoes, radishes, and Greek dressing is a delicious lunch option, says Toups.
  • Dinner: Craving a quick and satisfying Tex-Mex meal? Flavor your favorite whole grains with traditional spices like cumin and chili powder. Then add them to a tortilla filled with ground beef or turkey, avocado, onion and tomato. Or if you’re craving food with an Asian flare, Toups suggests making a chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice, barley, sorghum or quinoa as the base. No time for a new recipe?  Simply add grains to the meals you’re already used to cooking. Quinoa is prized for its versatility, says Toups, and is a great substitute for rice in most stir-fries, curries, pilafs, and side dishes.