I have a question about starchy carbs. I was reading an article online that said to eat starchy carbs (i.e. brown rice, sweet potatoes) only on days when I lift weights or do cardio. It said to avoid them on rest days and stick with veggies for carbs on those days. What’s your opinion on this? 

– James B.


Thanks for asking my opinion, James. There is no nutritional minimum for starches as a source, only for the carbohydrates they contain (at least 130 grams daily*). So, if a person can meet his/her carbohydrate needs – which may still be quite high on rest days – I’m all for maximizing vegetables along with fruit and milk products for carbs. Although it would provide lots of micronutrients, consuming 300 grams of carbohydrate only from vegetables would probably overwhelm your gastrointestinal system.

Starch (complex carbohydrate) from grains, tubers, legumes and seeds, and products made from them (like pasta, cereals, bread and fries) provides a concentrated source of extended energy suitable for physical activity. Although I follow the logic to reduce carbs on non-workout days, there is no evidence that replacing starches intermittently will benefit your performance or physique. Besides, you’re still physically active outside the gym, right? If you’re completely sedentary in bed all day but not sick, then feel free to skip them on your off days.

* Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: energy, carbohydrates, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids. Washington: National Academies Press; 2002

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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