The “Five Best Carbs for Athletes” (According to USA Triathlon)

Two out of five of the ‘five best carbs for athletes’ as per a recent article in the USAT’s newsletter are actually food.   One, bananas and two, sweet potatoes.

I suppose it’s a good starting point, but there sure is a long way to go!

Here’s what they’ve got to say.   Very happy to see mention of sweet potato and banana, but alas, oats, rice and chick peas certainly leave a lot to be desired.   

1. Sweet Potatoes
The bright orange color of these root vegetables is a visual cue that they are an abundant source of the high-powered antioxidant, vitamin A. They also are a great source of potassium to help soothe sore muscles and maintain the right amount of fluids in the body. One cup provides 27g of carbs, 4g of which are fiber.

2. Oats
This breakfast staple has been promoted as a “heart-healthy” food due to its high soluble fiber and low saturated fat content, both of which have been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.

Besides keeping your ticker kicking, the magnesium found in oats helps to maintain nerve and muscle function and is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions in the body. One 1/2 cup of dry oats provides 27g of carbs.

3. Wild Rice
Going a little wild on your rice gives you an edge over the commonly hyped brown rice. Wild rice has the added bang for your calorie buck by providing 6g of protein and double the amount of fiber (3g) for 35 less calories than brown rice per 1 cup serving.

4. Banana
This finger-shaped fruit is widely recognized as a source of potassium. While this is true, bananas are also a source of vitamin C and support your immune system. They also contain prebiotics and help maintain healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics help improve the absorption of other nutrients (i.e. calcium) for added bone health benefits.

5. Chickpeas
The legume that is used to make hummus is often forgotten as a quality source of carbohydrates. Chickpeas not only provide a generous 22g of carbs in one ½ cup, but also a whopping 6g of fiber and 7g of protein. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full, maintains steady blood sugar levels, and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

What will it take to set the record straight that oats aren’t some sort of panacea to help support cardiac health and that the protein found in chickpeas is not remotely absorbed as easily as flesh protein?  It pains me to see an older family member of mine who has diagnosed hypertension having cut meat out of his diet completely and is now eating a vegetarian diet in order to ‘improve his health’ based on one article his old-fashioned MD suggested to him.

I suppose I should look on the bright side and be happy that at the very least, the suggestion was not to gorge on packaged energy bars or bagels with peanut butter?

How about a little mention about how invaluable the complex carbohydrates found in fresh veggies and fruit are to the athlete population in order to provide mega doses of natural antioxidants, fiber and vitamins to the body in order to support the physical stress we put our bodies through?

Just sayin’…