kabocha

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.

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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.

Ingredients
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

Preparation
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 Recipe: Tonight’s Dinner – Braised Baby Back Ribs Over Mashed Kabocha and Merguez Sausage in Lettuce Wraps with Yogurt Sauce

I fainted after eating this.

I fainted after eating this.

Ribs

Ingredients
3 lbs baby back ribs (I get extra thick from my butcher)
Several Tbsp rub of your preference (this time, I bought a pre-made rub)
1 cup white wine or red wine or unsalted chicken stock
a few cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp barbecue sauce

Preparation
Rub ribs with… rub. Refrigerate for a couple of hour wrapped in foil. Use one large sheet so that it completely encloses the ribs with the seam at the top. You’ll want to be able to tightly seal the ends once it’s in the oven.

Preheat oven to 225 F.

Mix liquid, garlic, onion, honey, sugar, Worcestershire, vinegar in bowl and warm in microwave for a handful of seconds to increase viscosity of honey.

Remove ribs from fridge and add about 2/3 liquid to foil pouch. Make sure pouch holds liquid inside. Reseal, put on baking sheet and into oven for around 2.5 hrs.

Toward the end of cooking time, pour remaining braising liquid into small pan. Add ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, mix and reduce to lightly syrupy consistency.

Remove ribs from oven, brush with reduction, place under broiler for 6-10 mins or however long it takes to get the caramelization you want on the ribs. Cut up and suffocate these with your stomach.

Ribs awaiting glaze in background; glaze and steaming kabocha in fore.

Ribs awaiting glaze in background; glaze and steaming kabocha in fore.

Mashed Kabocha Squash

Peel and cut a kabocha squash into approximately 1″ cubes. You can either steam them for 12-15 minutes until tender or roast at 425 F for 35-40 mins. Kabocha (more than any other squash IMO) takes on an amazing flavor during a nice roasting.

When finished cooking, place squash in large bowl. Add a few pats butter (I like organic cultured butter), some grated Romano, salt, pepper, milk or stock. Maybe some cinnamon. Smash with fork or potato masher. Load plate and place drippy ribs on top if you haven’t eaten them all before sitting at the table.

Merguez with Yogurt Sauce

This makes 30 sausages. I don’t know if it’s truly Merguez (probably not), but the flavor profile is similar.

Holy Merguez, beefman! My vision is closing in!

Holy Merguez, beefman! My vision is closing in!

Ingredients
3 lbs 90/10 ground chuck (I actually use a mix of 90 and 85)
1/2 large sweet onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Tbsp fresh mint, minced
3-4 Tbsp dried parsley
4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp Ras El Hanout
3 Tbsp zatar (of which I ran out, so I substituted it with the following, which approximates the flavor: 4 tsp ground thyme; 2 Tbsp tahini; 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)
1 tsp cinnamon

Preparation
In a bowl, mix everything listed above and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 F

Roll beef mixture into balls, then elongate into sausage shape. Place onto parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with glaze recipe below. Into oven for around 20 mins or until cooked through.

For glaze:
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp honey
a few Tbsp unsalted chicken stock
pinch kosher salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cumin

Mix all of the above and warm for a few seconds in microwave to decrease viscosity of honey.

For yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt
juice 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey
a few leaves minced mint
1/2 tsp garlic powder
scant 1 tsp cumin
scant 1 tsp ground thyme
scant 1 tsp Ras el Hanout
shake cinnamon
2 pinches kosher salt

Mix all of the above and refrigerate for a little while.

To serve, wrap sausage in lettuce leaf (bib or romaine is nice). Spoon on some yogurt sauce and kill it with your teeth. Heck, I even smashed some steamed cinnamon kabocha in there for extra drama.