The Glycemic Index: Slow & Steady Carbs Win the Race
"Not all carbohydrates are created equal." - Vincent van Gogh
...No that's not an actual quote of his, but now that you're tuned in, let me elaborate -the Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement/ ranking system of the effects of carbohydrates and their effect on blood sugar. As mentioned in the earlier blog post Insulin: Flip the Switch, at Pulse design our meal plans around improving blood sugar by prescribing a daily total amount of carbohydrates consumed based on age, weight, height, body type, and most importantly, goals. The GI allows us to get even more strategic with our approach, looking at the impact of foods on our actual blood sugar and controlling insulin even further. In other words, instead of counting the total amount of carbohydrates in foods, we can prescribe specific carbs at specific times to maximize performance.
How Does It Work?
Carbohydrates that break down slowly, and gradually release glucose into the blood stream are low glycemic. Foods on this low end of the glycemic index promote a slower rate of digestion and absorption of the sugars and starches in the foods, this satisfies hunger longer and fights off cravings. Foods such as:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
Carbohydrates that result in a sharp spike in blood sugar when digested are high glycemic. This rollercoaster ride pushes your hormones and endocrine system to its limits. Examples here include:
- French Fries
- Corn chips
- Instant Mashed Potatoes
What Are The Benefits?
Chronically ingesting high glycemic foods can damage blood vessels and nerves and lead to a buildup of plaque, or even a heart attack or stroke. But remember - you are in control of this! Switching to eating mostly low glycemic foods has enormous benefits including increased insulin sensitivity, reduced blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk, and minimized cravings and energy crashes.
Where Do I Start?
- Shop the outsides of the grocery store, throw out the box and stay away from the fortified packaged foods. Get your carbs from Mother Nature not Kelloggs or Kraft.
- Skip the bread entirely, or at least for a more hearty oat or wheat bread - a tip here, if the first ingredient on your wheat bread contains the word "enriched"...its not wheat bread
- Eat green! Start adding in a couple veggies at a time to your meals, they're high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and will keep you feeling full
Knowledge is power when it comes to carbohydrate consumption and the glycemic index can be a powerful tool in your fat loss and/or sports performance arsenal. Be aware of what you are eating, read labels more closely, and become your own masterpiece!