Glycemic Index


The Importance Of The Glycemic Index In A Bodybuilding Diet

What is glycemic index?

The ability of a carbohydrate food to raise blood sugar quickly or slowly is called the glycemic index (GI). The GI was developed to track what foods effect blood sugar at different rates.

The way that GI works is that each food is assigned a value, typically from 0-100, based on how fast blood sugar increases in the next two hours after consuming a carbohydrate. A value of 100 would represent a food that increases blood sugar very rapidly, such as a straight glucose drink.

Foods with a high GI produce a large, sudden release of glucose—and energy. Those with a low GI are used slowly, over a long period of time, and help ensure a steady blood sugar level throughout the day.

Blood sugar is used by the body to manufacture ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate), which is the molecule that the body uses to power up all of its functions.

Most healthcare organizations use a “high,” medium” and “low” rating system for GI. Using this system, foods get classified in the following way:

Glycemic Index Chart

Glycemic Index Chart

Simple carbs provide a quick burst of energy. When they are digested, they turn into glucose, a major source of energy that can be burned rapidly.

Complex carbs, on the other hand, fuel the body over a longer period of time.

Everyone needs both types of carbohydrates, but bodybuilders should focus on complex carbs because they provide a more sustained energy supply throughout the day.

Blood glucose level

Blood glucose level

So, forget anything made with white (read processed) flour. Largely without nutritive value and high on the glycemic index scale, this stuff is likely to add to your waistline. When grabbing bread, cereal, rice or pasta, pick wholegrain versions every time. Whole grains are low in fat and high in fiber and complex carbohydrates – they convert to long-term energy.

How does glycemic index affect appetite?

The rapidly falling blood sugar levels that follow the consumption of high-GI foods may increase appetite, potentially increasing food intake and contributing to obesity. Low-GI foods take longer to digest and cause a slower, longer-lasting rise in blood sugar; hunger tends to return much more slowly after eating low-GI foods.

What is glycemic load?

Some experts recommend looking at the glycemic load of a food rather than its glycemic index to get a better picture of how the body responds to it.

Glycemic load is calculated by measuring the carbohydrate content of a specific amount of food and multiplying it by the GI.

For example, carrots have a relatively high GI, but the glycemic load of a serving of carrots is quite low because the total amount of carbohydrate in one carrot is very small.

What is the glycemic index of different foods?

In general, rapidly digestible starchy or sugary foods such as white bread, white potatoes, and sweets tend to have relatively high GIs, while foods higher in fiber and fat are digested more slowly and have lower GIs. Fiber and fat both slow the rate of digestion, so high-fiber foods and high-fat foods tend to have low GIs. A food’s ripeness and how a food is prepared also affect GI values.

How can I use glycemic index in making foods choices?

GI can be a tool for selecting among carbohydrate-rich foods, but it should not be used as the sole criterion for selecting foods: Low-GI hard cheese isn’t a healthier choice than high-GI carrots, for example. Whole grains, nonstarchy vegetables, and fruits tend to have lower GIs than starchy or highly refined foods and are highly recommended for their overall positive effect on health.

How insulin works to regulate blood glucose?

Two hormones from your pancreas help regulate the level of blood sugar.

The hormone insulin moves sugar from your blood into your cells when your blood sugar level is high. Insulin is like a key that opens up the locks on your body’s cells so that glucose (blood sugar) can get inside and be used for energy.

If the glucose can’t get into your cells, it builds up in your blood stream. If left untreated, high blood glucose can cause long-term complications.

The hormone glucagon helps release the sugar stored in your liver when your blood sugar level is low. This process helps keep your body fueled and ensures a natural balance in blood sugar.

The glycemic index and glycemic load of foods can be used to determine how much they cause insulin levels to rise. The lower a food’s glycemic index or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels.

Insulin level and fat loss?

insulin helps fat storage

insulin helps fat storage

How quickly a carbohydrate is turned into glucose and released in the bloodstream affects the amount of insulin that the pancreas will release to control blood sugar levels.

Too quickly of a conversion and your insulin levels skyrocket, a bad situation if you are trying to lose body fat since fat loss cannot occur in the presence of high insulin levels.

Such a hormonal environment triggers fat storage. Therefore, it stands to reason that if a carbohydrate is released slowly into the blood stream, then less insulin is released and thus fat loss is maximized. Low GI carbohydrates throughout the day suppresses the person’s appetite and provides more stable energy levels as blood sugar is better controlled (Note: sudden drops in blood sugar make you feel hungry and lethargic). In addition, eating low GI foods allows for more consumption of food without body fat storage and for a leaner you due to body fat loss. However, there are other factors that affect body fat storage not taken into account by the GI.

Insulin helps build muscle?

Insulin stimulates protein synthesis (muscle growth)

Insulin stimulates protein synthesis (muscle growth)

Yes! Insulin carries amino acids into the muscles promoting protein synthesis (muscle building) and preventing protein breakdown (muscle loss).

When you’ve been sick or injured, or if you’re recovering from surgery, insulin helps you heal by bringing amino acids (the building blocks of muscle protein) to your muscles. Amino acids repair muscular damage and help them regain their size and strength. If there isn’t enough insulin in your body when your muscles have been injured, amino acids can’t do their job, and your muscles can become very weak.

Final thoughts on insulin effects

From the above analysis, we can see that insulin is definitely a double edge sword so to speak. This hormone can be either your best friend or worst foe. It is great when it promotes muscle building and it sucks when it promotes fat storage.

Insulin carries amino acids into the muscles promoting protein synthesis (muscle building) and preventing protein breakdown (muscle loss). Your muscles and liver has a limited storage capacity and once they reach capacity insulin has to carry the remaining glucose somewhere else (fat cells). You must learn to balance your insulin levels to maximize the benefits of muscle building and to minimize the af­fect of fat storage. You can control insulin levels by what you eat. Different foods can cause higher insulin release than others.

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