You’re probably going to read this title and think I’m out of my mind! Some of you will immediately think that carbs can’t get you ripped, and others might think that it’s the calories and macros that matter and that the carb sources aren’t overly important. Well to address this, eating too many calories is what gets you fat. Period! So yes, you can eat plenty of carbs and get ripped provided that a calorie deficit is present. In fact, having a moderate amount of carbs tends to be the most enjoyable strategy. This is because carbs trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts mood, relaxation and quality of sleep. Carbs also play a significant role in testosterone, sex drive, exercise performance and muscle growth. For these reasons, very low carb diets suck! Sure they can get you ripped (if you create a calorie deficit), but at the expense of your sanity, mood, quality of sleep, sex drive, workout performance and muscle mass.
Now in terms of fat loss, it’s really all about the calorie deficit that matters! If you’re in a deficit you could be eating whatever carbs you want, including the often demonized white bread, sugar cereals and coke and still lose weight. However, that would be a really terrible approach. Not only because these carbs are very low in vitamins and minerals, but also because they simply don’t do a very good job at filling you up. When you’re eating under maintenance, a little hunger is part of the package. Why exacerbate that with non filling foods that leave you wanting more?
Now I’ve played around with many different carb sources to see what I found to be the most filling and satisfying and I’ll share them with you below. I’m not going to include any veggies in this list because I don’t bother counting veggies towards my calorie intake. Not to mention, the amount of veggies you would have to consume to hit your carb numbers is simply not feasible. Without further ado, let’s get it started!
1. Russet Potatoes
Easily my absolute favorite carbs source! Russet potatoes are absolutely fantastic. Funny enough, many people are under the impression that potatoes are unhealthy and fattening. Well I say erroneous, erroneous on both counts!
Russet potatoes are absolutely fantastic. Not only are they one of the most filling starchy carb sources in the world, they also are very high in vitamin c, vitamin b6, manganese and potassium. I will note, they’re not quite as low on the glycemic index as sweet potatoes, but that doesn’t even matter! Forget about the glycemic index, scrap it! It’s completely irrelevant. In no way, shape or form does the GI have any effect on fat loss. Not to mention, if you’re consuming potatoes with meat and veggies then the protein, fat and fiber will completely slow down digestion rendering the glycemic index meaningless.
What you really should be asking yourself is what carb sources do you find the most filling per unit of calories. Potatoes happen to be highly filling! Compare a 300 calorie serving of potatoes to brown rice and you’ll find that the potatoes are far more filling!
Baked potatoes with butter, baked potato wedges in macadamia nut oil and rosti potaotes are my favorite potato recipes by far! Note: I share my recipes on instagram
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another great choice! I don’t have them as often as russet potatoes because I find I get tired of them if I have them all the time. That said, like russet potatoes, sweet potatoes are a nutritious and highly filling carb source. Sweet potatoes are very high in vitamin A and fiber and also high in vitamin c, manganese and vitamin b6. I love to bake sweet potatoes in the oven and add some cinnamon and butter for taste, it’s sweet and delicious. You can also make baked sweet potato wedges, which are pretty fantastic.
Apples (red delicious apples) are definitely my favorite fruit! Rarely a day goes by that I don’t have 1-2 apples. Of all fruits, I find apples to be the most filling and satisfying per unit of calories. The crunchiness of apples makes me quite satisfied after eating a big apple. Usually I break my fast with one large red apple before eating my meal. Apples in the fasted state taste like a refreshing dessert. I like to have apples on their own as a snack if I’m getting hungry before a meal. Having an apple before a big meal can help you become fuller faster and actually consume fewer calories.
4. Gluten Free Pretzels or Rice Cakes
I recommend having a quick and convenient carb source for the times when you can’t cook up potatoes or sweet potatoes. My favorite options are gluten free pretzels or rice cakes, both of which are decently filling. If you’re going to be having a packaged food as a carb source for a meal then make sure to be conscious of any fat content and adjust your meal accordingly. If you don’t have any issues with gluten then you can pick whatever convenient carb source that you prefer and that leaves you pleasantly full. Remember what’s most important, hitting your calorie and carb numbers for the day. Don’t stress out about eating clean foods all the time. It’s perfectly okay to have some low fat snack foods to use as a carb source for a meal with protein and veggies.
5. Low Fat Ice Cream or Pancakes
Let’s face it, sometimes you’re going to want to eat something sweet and tasty! Now I actually rarely, if ever, get sugar cravings! You see, intermittent fasting with a solid ratio of proteins, fats and carbs keeps me very satisfied and pretty much eliminates all of my junk food cravings. With that said though, I am human and I do enjoy my fair share of ice cream or pancakes every now and again. Sometimes I just love to watch a good TV show like Ray Donovan, Shamless or Dexter with a big bowl of ice cream loaded with chocolate chips. As long as I leave some room for the calories then it’s completely fine and the rate of fat loss will remain unchanged. I opt for low fat ice cream because you can eat twice as much for the same number of calories as regular ice-cream and it still tastes really, really good! Just make sure to let it sit for a bit and become soft and yummy. Alternatively I’ll make gluten free pancakes but I won’t add any butter to the mix, this keeps the fat and calorie content much lower.
Remember to exercise some self control and not let one bowl of ice cream turn into an entire container. But usually binge eating on junk food is due to the guilt associated with breaking your diet. When you allow yourself to eat ice cream or desserts within the guidelines of your daily calorie targets then there is no need to feel an inkling of guilt. In fact, I always feel great when I fit treats into my calorie budgets for that day. I’ll tell you when I don’t feel great, when I deprive myself from delicious foods only to invariably binge eat on them. When you can indulge in ice cream a couple times per week while dropping fat then cutting is going to be damn easy because you’re not giving anything up.
These are definitely my five favorite carbs that I have gravitated to after three years of tracking my macros and testing out carb sources. Working with many consultation clients confirms that these are top picks. Generally speaking many of my clients tend to complain about being too full while following the nutrition plan. They also can’t believe how many carbs they can eat while getting lean. If I had them consuming bread or rice or pasta, it wouldn’t seem like very much at all! But by focusing on potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples and occasional indulgences, dieting becomes a walk in the park! Share your favorite carb foods in the comments below.
PS. After finishing up some big projects I finally have a few open spots for consultation clients. Learn more here
PPS. For great food pics of what I eat you can follow me on instagram (gregogallagher)