Fresh bread being sold at a bake sale. healthy carbohydrates

Food and Recovery: Demystifying Carbohydrates

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How to Get Energy for Your Physical Recovery

We all know that eating right makes a huge difference for our health. It’s common sense: eat well, feel good. But sometimes that isn’t enough of an incentive. How many times have I (and others) bemoaned gaining a few pounds in recovery, without wanting to do anything about it because it isn’t causing the same harm as drugs or alcohol? I’m not here to tell you to do something about your extra weight! But I am here to tell you how you can boost your recovery by eating right.

Food is fuel, and you need the energy it provides.

Today, I want to focus on the importance of food and the role it plays in recovery. I’ll start first with demystifying carbohydrates. I’m not sure about you, but in my first 18 months of recovery, I was plagued with exhaustion. I wish I had known then what I know now. The reality is that recovery requires an immense amount of energy. Whether you’re recovering through rehab and treatment, 12-step fellowships, or a holistic modality, your recovery takes both mental and physical energy. Add to that the physical needs of your body healing from years of abuse, and you need energy by the bucket load.

“The reality is that recovery requires an immense amount of energy.”

In my early recovery, I consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates, caffeine, and candy. I felt terrible about myself and my body. Since then, I’ve undertaken a nutrition coaching qualification and lost 50 pounds. So I now know how to fuel my body right! I’ll start by talking about each macronutrient and its role in the diet.

Carbohydrates belong in a balanced diet, in moderation.

First up in this series, is carbohydrates. We always hear that ‘carbs are bad for you.’ Many low (paleo) or extremely low (Atkins) carbohydrate diets promise fast results. These diets mislead you to think you can eat a diet high in saturated fat, under the guise of it being healthy.

I’m not an advocate of cutting out any food group. I believe in a balanced diet, including all food groups and all fats. An optimal diet is one that includes healthy carbohydrates—carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI). My advice is to eat unprocessed carbohydrates (low GI) that are high in fiber. These foods are digested slowly, so they’ll help sustainably control your energy levels. Low GI carbohydrates include whole oats, brown rice, legumes, nuts, bran, dried beans and peas, barley, dark green leafy vegetables, and root vegetables (with the skin on). If you want to eat more processed carbohydrates (white potatoes, white breads, pasta, cereals and packaged oats), try to do so within 60 minutes of intense exercise. This allows them to quickly replenish your carbohydrate stores.

Food is to fuel your body well and to be enjoyed. So, here’s one of my favorite recipes for a high fiber, whole grain breakfast. It’s super easy to make and will keep you full all morning until lunch. Enjoy!

 Workit Health Liv's Recovery Kitchen Berry Breakfast Balls

Workit Health Liv’s Recovery Kitchen Berry Breakfast Balls

Makes about 20 servings. Keep in airtight container in the refrigerator for a week.


  • 400g whole oats

  • 100g raisins (or other chopped dried fruit or dried berries)

  • 50g smooth peanut butter (use organic)

  • 50g desiccated coconut

  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup

  • 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil

  • 2 scoops hemp or pea protein powder

  • 400-500ml boiling water


  • Preheat oven to 350. Mix the oats, raisins, oil, desiccated coconut, peanut butter, maple syrup and protein powder in a large bowl.

  • Gradually stir in 400-500ml boiling water until thick.

  • Use an ice cream scoop or large dessert spoon to create about 20 balls on the baking tray.

  • Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until brown on outside.

  • Allow to cool completely.

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container.

A future free of addiction is in your hands.

Recover from addiction at home with medication and online therapy––from the leader in virtual addiction care.

Olivia Pennelle is a writer, journalist, and recovery activist. Her work has appeared in STAT News, Insider, Filter Magazine, Ravishly, The Temper, and Shondaland. She is the founder of popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen. She lives near Portland, Oregon. Follow her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.