6 Incredible Clean Carbs Sources That Build Muscle and Improve Performance


Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for your brain, body, and overall athletic performance, but not all carbs are created equal. Clean carbohydrate sources, aka complex carbohydrates, provide the long-lasting, sustained energy you need for prolonged workouts, such as running, cycling, and high-intensity functional training. They also help you build more muscle and optimize workout recovery. The question is, what carbohydrates are best for building mass, optimizing body composition, and improving performance?

The Problem with Simple Carbs

Chances are you’ve had a snack or chugged a sugary carb drink before a workout or run and found yourself gassed-out midway through your training. Simple carbohydrates and supplements such as maltodextrin, dextrose, and cyclic dextrin spike your insulin, which can lead to low blood sugar, leaving you feeling fatigued and lethargic.

Most people, athletes included, will have some kind of simple carbs an hour or two before their training session to get that midday pick-me-up. This stokes a vicious cycle that we call the blood sugar roller coaster.

After you finish your pre-workout snack, your body is flooded with carbohydrates, resulting in a short boost of energy, followed by a devastating crash and burn. Your body releases the hormone insulin to regulate the amount of sugar, or glucose, in your bloodstream. Insulin sends the sugar out of your blood into the liver and muscle and stores it as body fat, resulting in low blood sugar, which translates to low energy.

As a result, you have mood swings, feel hungry all the time, and/or become fatigued and have low energy. Maintaining steady insulin and blood sugar levels depends on the type of carbohydrates you consume. When you hear that certain carbs are “high on the glycemic index,” it means that they will spike blood sugar and insulin more quickly than other types of carbohydrates.

You Need Complex Carbs

Complex carbs digest much more slowly than simple carbs, due to their longer-chain molecular structure. Complex carbs are also made of sugars, but they do not spike blood insulin; they keep your blood glucose stable and provide a sustained energy release. These types of carbohydrates work best for prolonged training, improving endurance, building more muscle, and optimizing body composition. Complex carbs slow the absorption of sugar, slowing digestion, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. There’s no blood sugar roller coaster with complex carbs.

Sweet potatoes, white potatoes, bread, and oats.

What are the best clean carbs for building more muscle and performance?

1. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have naturally occurring sugars and are full of dietary fiber and micronutrients. They are chock-full of vitamin B6, which can help maintain brain health, improving mood and energy levels. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which can help with immune health and eye health.

2. Yams

Nutritionally, yams resemble sweet potatoes. Both are low on the glycemic index, making them good choices for long-lasting, sustained energy without spiking blood sugar. Yams, however, have a higher vitamin C content than sweet potatoes but not nearly as much vitamin A.

3. Oats

Oats are an amazing source of complex carbohydrates and protein that can help build more muscle and optimize body composition. Oats are classified as a soluble fiber, which can help suppress appetite and slow digestion. Several studies have shown that oats can also protect against heart disease, reduce chronic inflammation, improve gut flora, help with inflammatory bowel disease, and provide sustained energy.[1-4]

4. Clean Carbs

Swolverine’s Clean Carbs is different from other carbohydrate supplements. Other products use maltodextrin, dextrose, and simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugar, creating more body fat and giving you an energy crash.[5] Clean Carbs is made with 100 percent natural whole foods from pure complex carbohydrates, including sweet potatoes, yams, and oats. Research indicates that your body burns rapidly through glycogen stores during high-intensity functional training, resistance training, and endurance workouts. Replacing glycogen after strenuous exercise is vital for optimal performance and faster recovery.[5]

5. Brown Rice

Brown rice is another great clean carb for mass building and weight management. Whether you’re shredding down or looking to increase size, brown rice is a great source of complex carbohydrates and will sustain a low insulin release for longer-lasting energy. Although similar, white rice is stripped of most of its nutrients and will trigger a blood sugar spike, as opposed to stable glucose levels.

Brown Rice

6. Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the only plant-based carbs that is considered a complete protein. With all the essential amino acids present, in addition to micronutrients such as manganese, magnesium, and iron, quinoa is a great clean carb source for athletes.

  1. Chappell, A. J., Simper, T., & Barker, M. E. (2018). Nutritional strategies of high level natural bodybuilders during competition preparation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 4.
  2. Rebello, C.J., Johnson, W.D., Martin, C.K., Xie, W., O’Shea, M., Kurilich, A., Bordenave, N., Andler, S., Klinken, B.J.W.V., Chu, Y.F. and Greenway, F.L. (2013). Acute effect of oatmeal on subjective measures of appetite and satiety compared to a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal: a randomized crossover trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 32(4), 272-9.
  3. Valeur, J., Puaschitz, N. G., Midtvedt, T., & Berstad, A. (2016). Oatmeal porridge: impact on microflora-associated characteristics in healthy subjects. British Journal of Nutrition, 115(1), 62-67.
  4. Rasane, P., Jha, A., Sabikhi, L., Kumar, A., & Unnikrishnan, V. S. (2015). Nutritional advantages of oats and opportunities for its processing as value added foods-a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(2), 662-675.
  5. Alghannam, A. F., Gonzalez, J. T., & Betts, J. A., (2018). Restoration of muscle glycogen and functional capacity: role of post-exercise carbohydrate and protein co-ingestion. Nutrients, 10(2), 253.


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Does Eating Carbs at Night Help You Fall Asleep?


chinese woman sleeping on the bed

Have you ever eaten a tonne of carbs — we’re talking pasta with all the free bread — and immediately wanted to crawl into bed? If so, you might be on to something.

You may already know that carbs, one of the three macronutrients (the other two are protein and fat), are the body’s first source of energy, but eating carbs, at night specifically, can help you fall asleep faster, according to Rizwana Sultana, MD, assistant professor of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Why Eating Carbs at Night Can Help You Fall Asleep

Carbohydrates “quickly raise [your] blood sugar and help with falling asleep,” Dr. Sultana said. Carbs also boost both your tryptophan (an essential amino acid that leads to the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps you fall asleep) and serotonin levels, according to Dr. Sultana.

Although carbs can help you fall asleep, there’s a caveat. “One must be careful in eating carbs and going to bed as it can lead to weight gain and sleep disturbance with snoring and sleep apnoea,” she explained. To circumvent this, Dr. Sultana recommends consuming “a moderate quantity of complex carbs like whole grains” in order to fall asleep.

Other Foods That Help You Fall Asleep

Carbs aren’t the only foods that can improve your sleep. Foods such as fish, which is high in vitamin B6, help with melatonin production, she said. Bananas are also a great choice because they contain high levels of magnesium and potassium “which may help muscle relaxation and improve sleep,” according to Dr. Sultana. Foods rich in calcium like yoghurt, cheese, and kale are also good for sleep because they promote melatonin.

You can also try eating honey before bed as it “promotes sleep by reducing wake-promoting hormones,” Dr. Sultana said. Nuts are another great option because they have high levels of magnesium and tryptophan. “Overall, food high in tryptophan, serotonin, calcium, magnesium, and B6 can help promote sleep,” Dr. Sultana said.

At the end of the day, you’ll more than likely have to experiment with what foods work the best for you and improve your sleep. If you are still experiencing trouble falling and staying asleep, we recommend consulting a sleep expert.


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What Are the Side Effects of Not Eating Carbs?


Woman stressed or worried with a headache. She is sitting at her desk using a laptop computer with her hands on her head. She has her eyes closed and is massageing her temples. Close up with copy space

The ketogenic diet, aka keto, has brought super-low-carb diets back into the limelight, and if your goal is weight loss, you’re almost sure to see results (especially in the stubborn belly fat area). Just like any extreme diet, though, very low-carb eating plans come with their fair share of side effects. POPSUGAR talked to registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute to see what those side effects are, why they occur, and how you can avoid some — but probably not all.

Side Effects of Going Low Carb

  1. Headache: In the first few days of a low-carb diet, your body is making major adjustments in order to switch from its favourite fuel, glucose and glycogen stores (which come from the sugars and carbs that you eat), over to ketones, compounds made in your liver by burning fats. The physical effects of this process are collectively known as the “keto flu,” and it’s behind the headaches you might experience at the start of your diet. Kristin said your body starts using ketones about three or four days into the diet, which should clear up the headache.
  2. Bad breath: The presence of ketones, and specifically acetone, in your breath can make it smell “fruity and sometimes unpleasant,” Kristin said.
  3. Weakness and/or fatigue: You might feel tired or shaky during the first few days of a low-carb diet, again because your body is looking for a fuel source to replace glycogen. This is another side effect that will usually go away once you hit ketosis, Kirstin said.
  4. Muscle cramps: Muscle cramps can stem from a few causes: dehydration, lack of potassium, or lack of magnesium, all of which have to do with the big shifts in the foods you’re eating on a low-carb diet. Kristin recommends proper hydration (11 cups of water a day is a good goal) and said that some of her patients have found magnesium supplements helpful, too.
  5. Constipation or diahorrea: If you’re cutting complex carbs, like beans and legumes, you’re also cutting fibre — or at least greatly reducing it, Kristin said. This is a big reason why people experience gastrointestinal issues on keto, like constipation or diahorrea.
  6. Skin rash: “This is a rare side effect without a definitive cause,” Kristin said. It’s typically seen in women of Asian descent, she added.

Constipation appears to be the most common side effect, Kristin told POPSUGAR, simply because “fibre stores can tank.” The good news is that it’s avoidable: eating non-starchy vegetables and nuts will shore up your fibre intake. Kristin recommended adding foods like broccoli and macadamia nuts to your diet.

The takeaway? Do your research, Kristin said. Know what you can eat (and what you can’t), what the effects on your body will be, and what you can do to make them more bearable. She also recommended working with a dietitian who specialises in low-carb diets.

“Some side effects, like bad breath and headaches, may not be avoided,” Kristin said, but others can, like constipation, muscle cramps, and potentially the weakness and fatigue. Not much research has been done on long-term effects of the keto diet — “the jury is still out,” Kristin said. As far as these shorter-term side effects, Kristin said that they’re just that: short term. They tend to taper off as your body adjusts to the diet. So, good news for anyone new to keto and struggling: just hold out for those first few weeks!

Image Source: Getty / courtneyk


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This Woman Lost 185 Pounds By Cutting Back On Added Sugars and Carbs


This Woman Lost 185 Pounds By Cutting Back On Added Sugars and Carbs – Health

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Carbs in Popular Cheeses | POPSUGAR Fitness UK


Cheeseboard: variety of cheese (cheddar, brie, parmesan, gouda...) with grape.

Want some cheese with that wine? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be here. If you also want a cheese that fits into your low-carb diet, we have some good news. Most cheeses do! In fact, many are so low in carbs that they fit the stricter keto diet.

From asiago to Velveeta, this table lists the amount of carbs in each 1-ounce (or 28-gram) serving of the most popular cheeses out there, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Composition Database. So the next time you’re feeling cheesy, consult this list to help you decide what’s a gouda idea to snack on, and what’s nacho style. (We’re so sorry.)

American 3.25
Asiago 0
Blue 0
Brie .13
Burrata 0
Cheddar (sharp) .6
Colby .72
Cottage 1.49
Cream 1.56
Feta 1.1
Fontina .44
Goat (hard) .62
Gorgonzola 1
Gouda .63
Gruyère .1
Havarti 0
Limburger .14
Mascarpone 1
Monterey Jack 1
Mozzarella (whole milk) .68
Muenster .32
Nacho 2.26
Parmesan (grated) 3.94
Pepper Jack 0
Provolone .61
Ricotta 2.04
Romano 1.03
Swiss .41
Velveeta 3


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Dietitian on J Lo’s 10-Day No Carbs and Sugars Challenge


MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 14:  Jennifer Lopez is seen on the set of

In case you didn’t know, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez have started a 10-day no sugar and no carbohydrates challenge that is going viral. The couple also challenged a few of their celebrity friends like Michael Strahan, Leah Remini, and Hota Kotb to join in on the, err, uhhh fun? We love a good challenge, but we wanted to know the pros and cons of eliminating carbs and sugars from our diet. POPSUGAR spoke to Despina Hyde Gandhi, MS, RD at NYU Langone’s Weight Management Program to find out if their challenge is worth following.

Is it OK to Eliminate Carbs From Our Diet?

“Our body preferentially burns carbohydrates for energy, it’s our preferred fuel source,” Despina told POPSUGAR. “So what happens when people restrict carbs to a really low amount, and that number is usually around 40 to 50 grams per day, the body has to shift gears so it needs to find another fuel source.” Instead of burning carbs for energy, your body will begin to burn fat for energy which is a metabolic state called ketosis, she explained.

If you’re trying to burn fat this may sound great, but Despina said when going low-carb, “Not everyone feels well. It may make you feel tired, lethargic, have headaches, and dizziness.” People cut out obvious sources of carbs like bread, pasta, and rice, but according to Despina, it’s hard to completely cut out carbs because foods like vegetables still contain carbs.

Despina doesn’t promote eliminating carbs because, “When you cut out carbs, you’re saying no to fruit, you’re saying no to legumes and lentils, sweet potatoes, and all these wonderful foods that provide fibre for us. It’s really hard to get fibre from protein and most vegetables so carbohydrates provide a good source of fibre and also vitamins and minerals,” she explained. Despina said people may overeat carbs but, “I don’t think we need to cut them out completely.” Instead, she recommends incorporating “a reasonable amount at each meal” in order to stay balanced.

In a previous interview with POPSUGAR, Lori Zanini, RD, CDE said, “45 to 65 percent of the average person’s daily caloric intake should be made up of carbohydrates.” The USDA recommends that people one year and older consume a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Is it OK to Eliminate Sugar From Our Diets?

Eliminating carbs may make you feel lackluster but cutting out added and processed sugars won’t do you any harm. “If you cut out sugar from added sources it’s going to be a good thing. In the American diet we probably get too much of that,” she said. A benefit of eliminating added sugars is that you’ll more than likely begin to eat more whole foods as opposed to foods that have been processed, Despina said. You may also experience a boost in your mood as added sugars disrupt our insulin levels and tend to make us feel unwell and tired.

But when you cut out complex carbohydrates (the “good carbs”) like sweet potatoes and lentils, which are technically a form of sugar, you miss out on fibre which promotes digestion and can actually help you lose weight. According to Despina, naturally-occurring sugars like fructose, which occurs in fruits, and lactose, which naturally occurs in milk and yoghurt, provide nutrients in the form of minerals and protein for us. “If you say goodbye to all of those things just because they have sugar, you’re going to miss out on nutrients that your body needs.”

Despina’s final verdict on the no carbs and sugar challenge: “Instead of taking the approach of cutting [them] out completely…make sure that you’re eating healthy, high-fibre complex carbohydrates and eliminating refined sugars and added sugars and processed carbs.”


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Do Carbs Build Muscle? | POPSUGAR Fitness UK


Portrait of a happy woman eating a protein bar at the gym after exercising - healthy lifestyle concepts

You’ve probably heard that eating plenty of protein is key for building lean muscle and generating strength. And while it’s important to eat enough of this macronutrient for muscle gains, it’s not the only macronutrient you should be focused on. In fact, it’s not even the most important.

To build muscle, registered dietitian and personal trainer Jim White, RDN, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition studios, said to eat about 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should shoot for 75 to 120 grams of protein a day, which can be spread out among meals and snacks.

But while protein is important, there’s another macro that should actually take up most of your diet: carbs. “Carbs give us energy, and the more energy we have, the more we can push to have stronger workouts and have a better chance of increased muscle mass,” Jim told POPSUGAR. Have you ever gone on an extremely low-carb diet and found yourself so fatigued you barely able to make it through your workout? It’s not uncommon with people who drastically reduce their carbs.

And it’s not just the energy to crush it in the gym; carbs help your body process the protein that’s necessary for muscle growth. Jim explained that when you eat in an extreme carb restriction over an extended period of time, your body doesn’t have a chance to break down and use the protein for your muscles.

What Your Macro Breakdown Should Be for Muscle Gain

In terms of your macronutrient profile, carbs should be the focus of your day. “A diet that is higher in carbohydrates, and lower in protein and fat, is ideal,” Jim explained. To build muscle, he recommends a general macro breakdown of 55 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.

So go ahead and enjoy that whole wheat pasta or quinoa with dinner, throw a banana in your protein shake, and don’t be afraid to enjoy a slice of whole grain toast with your eggs.


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Metabolism & Nutrition, part 1: Crash Course A&P #36

Metabolism is a complex process that has a lot more going on than personal trainers and commercials might have you believe. Today we are exploring some of its key parts, including vital nutrients — such as water, vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats, and proteins — as well as how anabolic reactions build structures and require energy, while catabolic reactions tear things apart and release energy.

Anatomy of Hank Poster:

Table of Contents
Water, Vitamins, Minerals, Carbs, Fats and Proteins 3:47
Anabolic Reactions Build Structures and Require Energy 2:59
Catabolic Reactions Tear Things Apart and Release Energy 3:17
Metabolism 2:30


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