Despite the popularity of low-carb diets, a more mixed approach to diet makes a lot of sense for individuals who want to build muscle and strength. The inclusion of nutritionally dense sources of carbohydrates, or "supergrains," in their diet provides energy to power them through their workout as well as aid with recovery, moving them closer to their fitness goals.
If your primary goal is muscle and strength gain, opting for a low-carbohydrate diet may hinder your progress since carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel, and are what is used to restore muscle glycogen after a particularly intense session.
Since not all carbohydrates are created equally, it’s important that you learn to recognize which carbs are going to offer you the most nutritional content and minimize spikes in blood sugar levels that can cause a sharp energy crash shortly afterward.
Here are the main supergrains to consider.
One of the lesser-known grains that offers a powerful nutritional punch is bulgur. This is a form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, steamed, dried, and then ground into an assortment of different formats including fine, medium and coarse.
Bulgur is a supergrain that has been precooked, making it a very quick option for when you’re in a hurry. Typically, it takes about 10 minutes of boiling to cook this supergrain so it’s ready to eat. Many individuals will choose to replace rice with bulgur in recipes to boost the total nutritional content.
Per cup of cooked bulgur, you’re looking at 151 calories, less than one gram of fat, 34 grams of carbohydrates (none of those from sugar), and 5.6 grams of protein, making it an extremely healthy addition to a muscle-building or fat-loss diet. Bulgur also contains 8.2 grams of dietary fiber, which really helps to meet your daily nutritional needs.
The next supergrain you may want to consider adding to your diet is quinoa. Quinoa is a popular one among vegetarians as it offers more protein than plain rice, including a full complement of essential amino acids, which rice lacks.
This grain has a light and fluffy texture, and gives off a mild nutty flavor. Quinoa is often eaten for breakfast instead of traditional oatmeal. Others choose to make quinoa into a lunch or dinner meal by adding an assortment of vegetables, nuts, spices, or sauces.
The process of cooking quinoa is similar to that of brown rice: bring water to a boil first, and then allow the supergrain to simmer for 14 to 16 minutes.
Those individuals who are adopting a lower-carbohydrate diet or who are looking to boost their intake of healthy fats will want to turn to flax. Flax is a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fat. In addition to this, flax is also a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber — it helps to keep your digestive system regulated and provides a feeling of fullness. Finally, flax is a source of lignans, which have been shown to help reduce a variety of cancers in the body.
Each ounce of flax contains approximately 130 calories, 9.5 grams of fat, 9.5 grams of carbs (7.6 of which are fiber), and 5.7 grams of protein. This makes flax a very healthy addition to your shake in the morning if you’re looking for a simple way to boost your calorie intake to build muscle.
Finally, the last supergrain to think about adding to your diet is millet. Millet is a very good grain option for those who are intolerant to gluten as it is gluten-free and rich in many B vitamins. It’s also a good source of folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Millet is typically eaten in place of rice, buckwheat or quinoa and doesn’t form an acid in the body, so it’s easy to digest. Millet gives off a nutty flavor and is approximately 15% protein, with each cup cooked providing 207 calories, 1.7 grams of fat, 41.2 grams of carbohydrates (2.3 grams of fiber), and 6.1 grams of protein.
One thing that is important to note is that millet does tend to have a negative impact on the uptake of iodine to the thyroid, so those with thyroid issues may want to opt for a different grain.
Supersize With Supergrains
So, before you grow bored with your traditional carbohydrate sources of rice, pasta or oatmeal, give one of these supergrains a try. The greater variety you can incorporate into your diet, the easier it will be to stick to that diet and the more well-rounded nutrition you will receive.
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