The Six Best Grain-Free Carbohydrate Sources for Lifting Energy

Like grains? So do I, but I don’t eat them because I believe they’re objectively not great for optimal health and just feeling good. I’ve experienced a host of positive changes in my body since I stopped eating them more than a year ago (except for the odd bowl of oats and an occasional helping of white rice). But if you’re lifting heavy and you’re thinking about dropping or heavily limiting grains, where are you gonna get those carbs? I’ll tell you where.

The holy quintet. Clockwise from top: kabocha squash, cassava, sweet potato, white potato, yellow plantain.

The holy sextet. Clockwise from top: kabocha squash, cassava, sweet potato, white potato, yellow plantain. Yam not pictured.

1. Cassava a.k.a. yucca a.k.a. manioc.

With a whopping 38g carbs per 100g serving, cassava is the king of natural, unprocessed, unrefined carb sources. It’s packed full of starches that go to replenishing muscle glycogen, and contains very little sugar. I personally love its dryish texture. Make sure to peel it, cut into large chunks, then boil it until fork tender. Cooking is very important because it contains cyanide-containing compounds that are destroyed in the process. I like to boil mine in salted water, drain and just eat like that, or dip in mayo mixed with sriracha, fresh lime juice, cumin and chili powder.

2. White potato

The classic. A 100g serving contains around 31g carbs, almost 85% of which is starch and the rest of which is fiber and a little sugar. I’m about easy, so I just wash it with soap (organic potatoes are better), pierce with a knife, microwave on high for 3-4 mins and eat out of hand like an apple.

3. Yam (not in photo)

Don’t get it twisted: yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing; yams contain more starch and virtually no sugar. At 27g carbs per 100g, yams get you those killer carbs you need to replenish after a session of big, heavy compound lifts. Pierce with knife a few times and microwave on high for five minutes or until tender.

4. Plantain

I prefer yellow ones, but they do contain more sugar and less starch than the less ripe green version. Yellows contain around 30g carbs per 100g, about half of which is sugar (I don’t pay much attention to sugar content if the food is whole and completely natural without any refinement. Processed sugar and sugar naturally occurring in whole foods affect me in two totally different ways). They have an earthy-sweet-tart flavor that’s totally unique to them. Plantains must be cooked (unless completely black). The easiest way is to trim the ends off, pierce through the skin a few times with a knife, wrap in a damp paper towel, and microwave on high for three minutes. Once cooked, remove peel. I like to slice into 1/2″ discs, toss with butter and sprinkle with a little salt. It’s my favorite snack right before bed.

5. Sweet potato

The dessert tuber. 100g of sweet potato has around 21g carbs, only around 35% of which is starch, with another 30% as sugar and a decent hit of fiber. While it’s not as effective for glycogen restoration as king cassava or the white potato, it’s great for fat loss, because it makes you full with a relatively light weight to calorie load. Pierce with a knife, microwave on high for five minutes or until tender.

6. Winter squash (butternut and kabocha)

Ok, you’ll have to eat a lot of kabocha to get a lot of carbs, but that’s only because it isn’t a calorie-dense food. Virtually all of the calories it does have come from carbs. It’s about a 50-50 split between starch and sugar, but you can eat an absolute sh*tload of it without breaking 200 calories. It’s another great fat loss option because it’s so filling, nutrient dense, and calorie poor, and lets you get some carbs in. My favorite way to prepare is to cut in half (need large sharp knife and strong arm), gut seeds, peel, cut into ~1-inch cubes, toss in coconut oil, kosher salt and cinnamon and roast at 400 degrees until tender (around 35-40 mins). The texture is soft/ fluffy/ pillowy and the taste is sweet.

Butternut squash is another winner–higher in calories than kabocha and packing three times the carbs with less sugar, it’s a very good non-grain carb option (10g carbs per 100g serving, two of which come from sugar). Same preparation as kabocha.

Ripped Recipe: Thai Italian Sausage Green Curry

Thai Italian

I really like combining flavors, especially Asian and Italian. I don’t have a photo of this Thai Italian Sausage Green Curry, but you’ll have to trust me, it’s excellent. Every time I eat it I tell my wife it’s my favorite thing ever.

I also have to preface this by saying that when I cook, I cook big. I usually make one huge thing on a weekend that will last four to five days and then one smaller dish during the week that will last for two. So be warned, the recipe below is for a gigantic load. Let’s all get ripped eating this together.

1 lb hot Italian sausage AND 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing and pulled into chunks
700g eggplant (one large), cubed to ~3/4 inches
650g sweet potato (two large or three medium), cubed to ~3/4 inches
600g zucchini (a few medium), cubed same as above
1 large Vidalia onion, rough chopped
1 large red bell pepper, large diced (preferably organic cause the non-organic version is heavily sprayed)
180g or so carrots, sliced ~1/2 inch thick
1 large can (28oz or 790g) diced tomatoes (I prefer the Muir Glen organic variety)
2 cans lite coconut milk
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
2-3 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup arrowroot flour (you can use corn starch, but I’m not really into grains so much)
2 or so stalks of lemongrass, split and cut into 4 or 5 inch-long pieces
3-4 kaffir lime leaves (can be found in any good grocery)
1.5 or 2 Tbsp ground coriander
1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 Tbsp Thai basil
2 Tbsp sweet Italian basil
2 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp Thai green chili paste
2 Tbsp Sriracha (or to taste)
1 Tbsp chili flakes (or to taste)


  1. Brown sausage chunks in an 8qt stock pot.
  2. Once sausage is browned, remove from pot and add onions to remaining pork fat. Cook until lightly browned.
  3. Add garlic, both basils, ginger, coriander, oregano, chili paste, Sriracha, chili flakes. Sautee for a few minutes over low heat to release oils from everything. Don’t burn it!
  4. Put sausage back in pot. Add both cans of lite coconut milk, chicken stock and can of diced tomatoes. Also add kaffir leaves and lemongrass. Increase heat, cover, and let mixture come to a simmer.
  5. Once simmering, add eggplant and honey and simmer covered for 30 minutes. The eggplant should get really velvety and soft.
  6. Add carrots and sweet potato. Wait 10 minutes and add zucchini
  7. When sweet potatoes are tender, mix arrowroot flour with a little water or chicken stock to form slurry. Stir into pot and cook on low heat for another minute or so. Do NOT boil. It will destroy arrowroot’s thickening properties.
  8. Make sure to remove kaffir and lemongrass before eating, unless you actually like eating leaves and sticks :).

This can be eaten as-is, or served over rice, spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, rice pasta, or even regular pasta (I ain’t into wheat, but you do you, not me).

Nutrition info
One serving is ~2.3 cups. ~420 calories, 15g protein, 20g fat, 35g carbs

Ripped Recipe: Baked Veggie Oat Patties with Lime-Cumin Aioli

Ripped Veggie Oat Patties

Sounds weird, I know, but they’re good. I created these several months ago when trying to figure out how to get lots of vegetables into my son. I’m not a fan of disguising vegetables, but sometimes it’s just necessary. This recipe is gluten-free. You could make it dairy-free too by eliminating the cheese and figuring out what else you could bind it with.

You can use literally any vegetables you like. For this particular batch I used the following:
1 large zucchini
3/4 head cauliflower
1/2 head broccoli
1 medium vidalia onion
3 large carrots
1 medium sweet potato
1 small can tomato paste
2 beaten eggs
1.5 cups oat flour (I just put quick oats in the blender for a few seconds to make flour) *you could sub in some almond flour or coconut flour too
a cup of shredded cheese of your choice
optional grated parmesan or pecorino, like a half cup

Grate all veggies except onion into a big bowl (I use a regular box grater). Small dice the onion because it doesn’t grate cleanly. You could also just dump everything into the food processor.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cook the grated veggie mixture in a couple of batches just until a little soft (like 5 mins). Add oat flour, tomato paste, cheese and spices to veggies once they’re done cooking and back in the bowl. Taste the mix and add whatever seasonings you want. You can go really simple with salt and pepper or go Italian and add garlic powder, basil and oregano. Or you could go more Middle Eastern with cumin, ras el hanout and fennel. You could go Indian with curry spices. Do whatever you want really. Let this mix cool so it’s not more than warm. Then add eggs (you don’t want the eggs to cook until you bake).

Lay some parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Next, using your hands, form patties with the mixture (it will be sticky). If it seems too wet and sticky (like it’s not staying together at all), just add more oat flour until it holds together better. I like to wet my hands with a little water so the mix doesn’t stick as much to my fingers. Set the patties on the parchment-covered baking sheet with at least a centimeter between them. Bake at 350 until golden brown. I’ve never timed how long this takes, but somewhere in the 45-60 minute range.

I like to eat these wrapped in lettuce with a cumin-lime aioli made with:
a couple Tbsp mayo
cumin to taste
juice of half a lime
salt to taste
chili powder to taste
(mix all the above together)

Ripped Recipe: Stupidly Fast and Easy Low Carb Zoodle Zoop

Why, after recently extolling the virtues of eating lots of carbs while dropping fat (and lifting very heavy) would I post a low-carb recipe? Although I eat lots of carbs, I try to do it as close to bedtime as possible. After my daily 20-hour fast, I’m extremely sensitive to insulin. The first carb-rich food I eat puts me in a near stupor for up to 30 minutes. That’s why I like to come off my daily fast with lower carb foods and ramp up carbs closer to bed.

1 large zucchini
1 cup of low-sodium boxed soup (I used Pacific Organic creamy tomato and red pepper soup @ 110 cal/ cup)
Whatever seasonings you like.

Spiralize the zucchini. [Never heard of spiralizing? It’s what a spiralizer does. Never heard of a spiralizer? See photo below.

I highly recommend you buy one if you’re interested in diving deeper into the wide world of making spaghetti out of any semi-hard vegetable (like zucchini (actually a fruit, but whatever), carrot, sweet potato, etc.)]. Sautee resulting “zoodles” for a couple of minutes in dry pan with a little salt to draw out some water. Add cup of soup. Cover and simmer until desired level of tenderness is reached (like five mins). Season with whatever you want. I added some garlic powder, curry powder and cayenne to this batch. Eat. A big bowl of this weighs in at a wimpy 130-150 calories and is pretty filling.

Ripped Recipe: The 100g Carb Bomb for Draining Fat

Carbs are not evil. No matter what anyone says, I promise, carbs are not evil (or at least not all of them). In fact, I’ve been using an awesome blend of carbs as one of my primary weapons in the process of shedding bodyfat. This recipe provides muscles with their favorite source of fuel: glycogen. Additionally, between all the wet ingredients, this recipe contains around 20 oz of water, so it’s fantastically hydrating. Read this article if you want to know why carbs can be an awesome tool for getting ripped.

2 cups water
1 cup 1-minute oats
3/4 cup organic unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup natural applesauce
1/2 cup wild frozen blueberries
2 packets stevia
cinnamon to taste

In large bowl, mix raw oats with water and pumpkin puree. Microwave for around three minutes until oats are cooked. Remove from microwave and stir. Add all other ingredients. Eat.

475 calories, 95g carbs (18g fiber, more than half of which is soluble), 11g protein, 6g fat

Ripped Recipe: Kabocha Carrot Chicken and Egg Soup

Since it really pains me to throw food away, I attempt to rid my fridge of leftovers and random items around once a week by incorporating them in a single dish [that I usually refer to as a snack, but might be a meal for others]. What materialized last night was a nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse soup:

Simple, all whole foods, nutrients like a mofo.

Simple, all whole foods, nutrients like a mofo.

1 roasted chicken carcass/ scrap skin bones/ whatever else
a couple of carrots, sliced
a few oz of left over roasted kabocha squash
1 egg
a few cloves garlic, crushed
some random sprigs of rosemary
a few cups H20 and/ or unsalted chicken stock
salt/ pepper/ curry powder to taste

Place chicken carcass/ garlic/ rosemary in cold water in medium saucepan on high heat, bring to simmer, cover. Chicken should be covered at least 3/4 by liquid. Simmer for at least 30 mins. Can go longer to extract more flavor from chicken. Remove chicken carcass, pull any residual meat off bones and leave in broth. Add carrots and simmer for 5 mins or so or until desired tenderness is achieved. Turn off heat. Beat egg and slowly pour into stock while stirring. Add squash and let warm in broth for 10 mins or so. Salt/ pepper/ curry powder/ whatever other spices to taste. Eat.

Ripped Salad: Daikon and Cucumber with Shaved Beets, Black Plum and Scallion in Peanut Vinaigrette

A vision for this salad materialized in my head yesterday in the grocery store when I happened to look down and notice I was standing over a stack of Daikon.

Refreshing and extremely tasty.

Refreshing and extremely tasty.

1 large Daikon radish, sliced thin (mandolin helps)
1 large cucumber, diced 3/4 inch
1 medium beet, shaved
1 black plum, julienned
2-3 scallions, sliced thin

3 or 4 Tbsp of one or a combo of white vinegar, rice wine vinegar, apple cider (I use all three. You can also play around with some fresh lime juice.)
1 or 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp fish sauce if you like
Several leaves coarsely chopped mint
Red pepper flake to taste

Add all salad ingredients to bowl. Mix dressing ingredients well and add to salad. Toss well. This is better if you leave in your fridge for a couple of hours to allow the Daikon to really absorb the flavors of the dressing. Can also add a few pinches of salt–if you add early, it will draw water out of vegetables, which I sometimes like. Add salt late for flavor purposes only. Grated carrot also goes nice in this.

Ripped Recipe: Easy Sunday Italian… Chili?!

I’m half Italian. I live in Brooklyn. I’m third generation Brooklyn on both sides. I grew up eating pasta with red sauce at grandma and grandpa’s for Sunday dinner (at 2pm). They might have shaken their heads at this one if they were alive today. I promise this is so freaking delicious. My three year old boy goes bananas for it. Warning: vegetarians might consider skipping this post entirely.

This makes an enormous pot.


A handful of simple ingredients are killin it in this recipe.

A handful of simple ingredients are killin it in this recipe.

1.5 lbs ground 90% beef (much better if your butcher grinds it)
~1 lb sweet Italian sausage (my butcher makes these) decased and broken up
~1 lb hot Italian sausage (ditto)
~1 lb grass fed chuck stew chunks
2 jars Classico Florentine Spinach and Cheese sauce**
1 large can diced organic tomatoes
1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 large sweet onion, diced
3/4 to 1 cup red wine
a little unsalted beef stock on standby (might not be necessary)
4 large carrots, one diced small, the rest medium diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground fennel
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Dried basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste

**I use this particular Classico blend because I think it tastes very good and it only contains 4g sugar per serving. That’s around half of others. And I know, the real Italian thing to do would be to cook everything from scratch, but this is a quick prep recipe, so don’t hate.

Awaiting their awesome saucy destiny.

Awaiting their awesome saucy destiny.

This is a Cote du Rhone I used for this particular batch of chili. I think  it tastes a little like grandma's closet, so I have no reservations about dumping it into a recipe.

This is a Cote du Rhone I used for this particular batch of chili. I think it tastes a little like grandma’s vest closet, so I have no reservations about dumping it into a recipe.


  1. Add a pat of butter to a large (8qt) stock pot. Get it really hot, and add chuck and sausage chunks. Brown them well. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add ground beef to pot and brown. Add crushed garlic and let turn golden brown in beef fat. Add pepper to taste. Don’t salt yet or else you’ll draw out too much water from items in pot and reduce cooking temp too much. Add onions and cook until translucent with some pieces lightly browned. Add salt to taste now. Add ground fennel, oregano (I like a lot), basil (I like a lot), cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Continue to cook for a few minutes until the sweet fragrance makes you drool onto your toes.
  3. Add browned chuck and sausage back to pot. Add jarred tomato sauce, small diced carrot (adds sweetness) canned diced tomatoes and wine. Bring pot to a simmer and leave there for 2.5 to 3 hours. Chuck should be very tender. Add eggplant, peppers and remaining carrots. Cook until tender (15-25 mins depending on how soft you like). Done.

I serve this over rice pasta, jasmine rice, oatmeal (yes, that’s right), potatoes, cauliflower, cauliflower and cabbage, butternut squash, kabocha squash, spiralized zucchini, etc.

Ripped Recipe: Two-minute Avocado Banana Chocolate Protein Pudding

This is my every night go-to. It’s a staple. Excellent rich texture.

An awesome staple for me.

An awesome staple for me.

1/2 avocado
1/2 banana
1.5 scoops chocolate casein or 1 scoop casein and .5 scoop chocolate whey (The more casein, the thicker and denser the product. More whey = lighter, mousse-like.)
70g frozen mixed berries (a little more than a quarter cup)
3/4 cup water
3 ice cubes
cinnamon to taste

You’ll need a very strong, small blender for this with a small cup so that the final product is smooth. I use a NutriBullet (600 watt motor) with the small (18 oz) cup.

Add avocado, banana and most water, followed by berries, ice cubes and finally protein powder topped with a little more water and cinnamon. Order is important. protein should be closest to blade so that it gets completely incorporated. Blend until smooth (around 20 seconds in the NutriBullet). If the blender chokes, add a little more water. I eat right out of the blending container.