While anti-carbohydrate crusaders have quieted down in recent years, many people still cling on to the mistaken belief that all carbs are bad.
The glycemic index (GI) is a way to measure the effect of one carbohydrate food vs. another. Specifically, the GI measures the impact of carbs on blood sugar levels. When carbs are consumed, they’re eventually broken down into their simplest form of glucose, which is sugar. The rate at which a carb breaks down determines its blood sugar level. Carbs that break down quickly will have a high GI and those that break down more slowly will have a low GI. Carbs are necessary to fuel all daily activities, from exercising to working, and general brain function. Depriving yourself of carbs leads the body to break down its own muscle mass for energy, and severely decrease blood sugar levels.
The chart below represents the three main categories used to classify carbohydrates.
Figure 1: The GI uses a numerical scale of 0 to 100 to measure how quickly or slowly a particular food raises blood sugar levels. Foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar level will have a higher numerical value. As a reference point, glucose is used with a GI value of 100.
The benefit of using the GI is to regulate blood sugar levels. When they’re kept within a normal healthy range (80-120 mg/dl), our body runs more efficiently. If blood sugar levels dip too low, this results in feeling lethargic and/or increased feeling of hunger. When blood sugar levels are too high as a result of excess carb intake (as well as consuming an improper balance of proteins, carbs, and fats) insulin is released. Insulin’s job is to lower blood sugar levels, but it does this by taking excess sugars and storing them in fat cells when muscle and liver storage is at capacity. The faster blood sugar levels increase, the greater the insulin response is in order to minimize this spike. This could lead to an excess amount of insulin being released. The end result is greater fat storage. Consuming protein and/or fat with meals will help to minimize the spike in blood sugar levels.
Although the GI isn’t perfect (some say the food isn’t well defined) you can’t lose sight of the goal of regulating blood sugar levels for optimal daily performance, both physically and mentally. Learn how to maximize this for your workouts and everyday recreational activities by contacting Dan @ (978) 807-8579, or visit seachangefitness.net, to learn more.