Active Cookbook: Healthy Carbs for Endurance Athletes
High Carb vs. Low Carb for Athletes
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Inadequate carbohydrate intake may reduce your training capacity without you even noticing it. This is especially likely for runners who have been consuming too little carbohydrates all along. An Australian study revealed that those with less glycogen in their muscles had effectively run with a half-empty gas tank and didn't even realize it. The amount of carbohydrate a runner needs in order to handle his or her training is tied to the amount of training he or she does. The requirements vary from as little as 3 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight daily to 10 g/kg.
Is it OK to Eat Candy During a Race? The Impact of Glycemic Index
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"There's evidence to show that out-of-shape, overweight people who eat a lot of high glycemic-index foods may be doing detrimental harm to their health, but athletes who don't have these health risks are well equipped to deal with a rapid rise in insulin," says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis. "We're always consuming glucose [sugar, which is what the body converts carbs into], and that's what we need as fuel."
Plant-Based Carbs for Athletes: Break Away From the Bread and Pasta Boxes
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Legume-based salads are among the quickest, most convenient ways to build up your glycogen stores while also getting protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals— particularly if you use canned or already-cooked beans, lentils and peas. Simply rinse and drain the legumes before tossing with other fresh ingredients to get rid of excess salt, and you're well on your way to creating nutritious, meat-free, carb-filled lunches and dinners.
Carb-Rich, Tasty Dessert
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A long-time spa cuisine trick, pureed beans, fruits and vegetables can also serve as great stand-ins for a lot of the oil, butter and other fats used in baked goods. When you replace most of the butter or oil in a brownie recipe with pureed black beans, for example, the result is an ultra-moist, fudgy dessert that's packed with good-for-you carbs, fiber and protein, compared to the original low-nutrient, fat- and sugar-packed counterpart.
Carb- and Protein-Packed Super Grain Veggie Burger
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Revered in recent years for its super food qualities, quinoa is a South American seed recommended by dieticians for its high fiber, vitamin, calcium as well as anti-inflammatory properties. One cup of quinoa contains 39 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein and 818 milligrams of potassium, an important electrolyte for athletes that regulates heartbeat and muscle function.
Eat Carbs for Recovery, too
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Your main nutrition objectives post-race: Replace fluids, carbs, salt and a little protein. Be sure to get all four of these key ingredients into your body within the first 30 minutes after your race to optimize your recovery. Oftentimes upset stomachs or lack of appetite post-race is due to lack of liquid or salt intake (or both) during the run. A smoothie made of fruit and yogurt or fruit and low-fat milk is another great choice, as it provides carbs, protein and much-needed antioxidants to start repairing your tired and sore muscles.
Fruit: A Quick Source of Carb Replenishment
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There's a reason most races offer bananas, apples or orange slices next to the bagels in the finish area: Fruit is a vitamin-packed source of carbs that the body can convert quickly into energy to start repairing damaged muscles. However, if your stomach is upset after a hard race, chowing down on acidic citrus fruits could cause further irritation. Stick to more alkaline choices like bananas, apples and dates. In fact, dates contain a whopping 134 grams of carbs per cup—compare that to a medium banana, which contains about 27 grams of carbs—which is fantastic for replenishing spent muscle glycogen.
Black Is the New Brown Rice
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Black rice offers a wealth of nutrition, including fiber, vitamin E and more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries, according to research conducted at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. A team of researchers at Cornell University found that antioxidant levels in black rice were six times higher than those found in brown and white rice.
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Farro, the Italian name for emmer wheat, has a pleasantly chewy texture and nutty flavor, making it ideal as a stand-in for oats in granola bars, white Arborio rice in risotto, slow-cooking oats in oatmeal, and as the starch in room-temperature pasta salads. A one-cup serving of contains both 8 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein as well as vitamins E and B.
Not Your Average Oatmeal
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A seed native to Central America, amaranth has a toasty, nutty flavor and is sold as seeds, flour or puffed cereal. One cup of gluten-free amaranth contains a whopping 13 grams of fiber, 980 grams of potassium, an important electrolyte that regulates heartbeat and muscle function, as well as 30 percent of the USDA recommended daily amount of calcium, 81 percent of the recommended amount for iron and 55 percent of the recommended daily amount for vitamin B6.
Eat Like Ethiopian Elite Runners
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Teff, a tiny, high-protein whole grain, is a staple in Ethiopian cooking. The major ingredient in injera, the spongy, sour, crepe-like bread that is a staple in the Ethiopian diet, teff is gluten-free and an excellent source of vitamin C. Teff takes the crown for the most calcium of all grains; it offers 123 milligrams of calcium in a 1-cup serving, which is the equivalent to a half-cup of cooked spinach.
A Healthier Spin on Rice Krispies Treats
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A gluten-free grain, millet is loaded with antioxidants and high in magnesium, a mineral that maintains muscle and nerve function. There are four types of millet: pearl, foxtail, proso and finger. In India, finger millet is most commonly used to make roti, a flatbread staple. In Africa, millet is typically eaten as a porridge. Millet can be ground into flour and, because of its mild taste, can be combined easily with other flours in baking applications.