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The 10 Best Carbohydrate Sources For Endurance Athletes

  • By Matt Fitzgerald | Competitor.com
  • Published Jun 26, 2013
  • Updated Jul 24, 2013 at 12:45 PM UTC
Bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrates. So start peeling. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Here are some ideas for eating and drinking the best carbohydrate sources for endurance athletes. Eat (and drink) these items to up your carbohydrate intake and reap their performance benefits.

Runners need a lot of carbohydrate. Why? Because your muscles are fueled primarily on carbohydrate when you run hard. Thus, sports nutrition experts generally recommend that runners get approximately 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrate.

But you need to get the right kinds of carbs at the right times. Immediately before, during, and after exercise, fast-acting high-glycemic carbs are best. At all other times, your carbs should come from low-glycemic foods that provide longer-lasting energy and are packed with lots of other nutrition.

The following are the top 10 carbohydrate sources for runners. Some are best for use during and after exercise, while others are ideal for regular meals and snacks.

Bananas

Because they are easy to eat and digest and are loaded with fast-acting carbohydrates (one large banana provides 31 grams of carbs), bananas make the perfect pre- or post-exercise snack. Just be sure to have your banana with some form of protein after exercise to promote muscle recovery and repair.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, and other berries are among the most nutritious sources of carbohydrate. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote health and performance in all kinds of ways. Berries are not the most concentrated source of carbs, however (a full cup of strawberries contains just 12 grams), so don’t rely on them too heavily to meet your daily carbohydrate needs.

Brown Rice

Cereal grains such as brown rice are among the richest sources of carbohydrate. One cup of brown rice has 45 grams of carbohydrate. Whole grains such as brown rice are considered healthier than refined grains such as white rice because they contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are also absorbed more slowly (their glycemic index is lower), so they provide more lasting energy and promote less fat storage.

Energy Bars

Real energy bars — the kind designed specifically for use before, during, and after exercise — are great for fueling and refueling around workouts as they provide abundant, fast energy. Before and after workouts, choose bars that are high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber. With 44 grams of carbs, 9 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fat, and 1 gram of fiber, PowerBar Performance is a good example. For snacking, choose bars made from real food — fruit, nuts, and whole grains — and with minimal added sugar, like Forze GPS.

Lowfat Yogurt

Lowfat milk-based foods such as yogurt are very rich sources of carbohydrate. A six-ounce serving of lowfat blueberry yogurt supplies 26 grams of carbs. Lowfat yogurt is a better choice before and immediately after exercise because it has a higher glycemic index, so the carbs go to work quickly. Most yogurts, even those with fruit in them, contain added sugar, which is totally unnecessary and less healthy. So try to find a brand with no added sugar.

Read about the other five carbohydrate sources at Competitor.com.

RELATED: How Many Carbs?

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FILED UNDER: Nutrition / Performance Nutrition

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