For some of us the idea of increasing our carbohydrate intake may sound counterintuitive. The truth is, carbs, like fat can be a source of fuel, and if consumed properly can help build muscles.

Carbohydrates live in the body as glycogen, which translates into fuel for your workouts. When you cut out carbs improperly you lose a significant amount of energy supply. Leaving your body with no choice but to burn muscle for fuel, potentially resulting in limited muscle growth and excess body fat. Imagine going to the gym and working out to build muscle, and then going home and eating to burn it.

One thing to remember with your carbohydrate intake is to focus on complex carbs, complex carbs are made up of long chains of sugar that allow for a slow, longer release of energy. Foods like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, butternut squash, brown rice, lentils, apples, carrots (the list keeps going) all support slow energy release within the body.

It can be a challenge to make the switch especially if you grew up on donuts and pancakes for breakfast – like I did. It’s important to stay away from simple carbs, foods like pasta, refined white bread, candy, cupcakes, cookies, pretty much any baked good, soda, chips, and anything that can fall into the junk food category are low in fiber, quickly digested, and cannot provide a consistent supply of glycogen for energy. Simple carbs are usually refined, overly processed and add little to no value.

Once you get into the groove of consuming complex carbs you’ll be able to workout longer and build muscle. Carbs can be good, if done right.