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.
Recipe: Beet, Arugula & Quinoa Salad with Citrus Dressing
This is one of Freytag’s favorite healthy lunch recipes, created by GetHealthyU.com.
Total Time: 60 minutes
Yield: 6 serving(s)
- 1 cup quinoa
- 3 beets, cleaned and washed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sprinkle of salt
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/4 cup red onion
- 1 large orange, segmented
- 1/2 cup candied pecans
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions and allow to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place scrubbed beets on a foil lined baking sheet and season with salt and olive oil. Cover with an additional piece of foil and crimp the edges. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.
- When beets are cooked and cool enough to handle, quarter the beets and cut each quarter into bite size wedges.
- In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, arugula, beets and red onion.
- Cut 1 large orange into 4 parts and reserve 1 quarter for dressing. Pull apart remaining 3/4 orange into bite-size segments and add to salad bowl.
- Mix dressing ingredients with juice from reserved orange and toss over salad. Top with candied pecans.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 363 calories, 6 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 33 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 11 grams sugar.
Recipe: Banana with Teff and Chocolate
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- 2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast or 2 ½ tsp. instant yeast
- ½ cup lukewarm water*
- ½ cup lukewarm milk
- ½ cup orange juice
- 5 Tbsp. melted butter
- 1 ½ tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- ¼ cup nonfat dry milk
- ¾ cup instant mashed potato ﬂakes
- 3 ¾ cups whole wheat ﬂour or white whole wheat ﬂour
- *Use 2 Tbsp. less water in summer (or in a humid environment), 2 Tbsp. more in winter (or in a dry climate)
- Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes, till it becomes puﬀy. If you’re using instant yeast, you can skip this step.
- Combine the yeast/water with the remaining ingredients, and mix and knead—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—until you’ve made cohesive dough. If you’re using a stand mixer, knead at low speed for about 7 minutes. Note that 100% whole wheat dough will never become smooth and supple like dough made with all-purpose ﬂour; it’ll feel more like clay under your hands, and may appear a bit rough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise till it’s expanded and looks somewhat puﬀy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Note that dough kneaded in a bread machine will rise faster and higher than bread kneaded in a mixer, which in turn will rise faster and higher than one kneaded by hand. So if you’re kneading by hand, you may want to let the dough rise longer than 90 minutes.
- Lightly grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan. Gently shape the dough into a smooth log, and settle it into the pan, smooth side up.
- Tent the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaf to rise till it’s crowned over the rim of the pan by about ¾”, about 75 minutes. Don’t let it rise too high; it’ll continue to rise as it bakes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Lightly tent it with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, or until the center registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack.
- Run a stick of butter over the top of the hot loaf, if desired, for a softer crust. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.