For too long, carbohydrates has been a bad word. We’ve embraced the idea that cutting out most forms of carbs from our diets will help us lose weight and build muscle. And certainly, eliminating the most processed forms—white flour, white rice, plain pasta—can go a long way toward helping you reach your fat-loss goals. But as an active woman, you can’t afford to fear carbohydrates. In fact, the right type and amount can make a huge difference in your training and your results.

“Muscle glycogen, or stored carbs, is the No. 1 fuel source used during high-intensity training sessions, so it’s important to have enough in your diet to get you through your workouts,” notes Christian Coates, founder of Soulmate Food in the U.K., which seeks to blend functional, fitness- friendly food with high-level cuisine; and author of Soulmate Food Fitness Gourmet. Post-workout, carbs help restore muscle glycogen and even give your immune system a boost.

The key, of course, is knowing which carbs to embrace and which to avoid. While all carbs increase blood-sugar levels, high-fiber, lower- sugar foods slow this reaction. Opt for nonrefined whole-grain carbs such as bulgur wheat, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and brown rice. And make sure to balance meals with lean protein and healthy fats, adds Coates.

These recipes, developed by Coates, highlight carbs that are low on the glycemic index and are packed with nutrients. They’re perfect to fuel you up for your workouts and aid in recovery—especially on hard-training days when your body needs that extra edge.

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