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Friday, September 25, 2015

5 Reasons the Glycemic Index is a Total Load…

Glycemic Index vs Glycemic Load
If you love to count and micromanage your food, the glycemic index (GI) or glycemic load (GL) might be perfect for you.

The GI measures how quickly a food converts to sugar in your body and raises your blood sugar. Higher-glycemic foods spike your blood sugar quickly, whereas lower-glycemic foods create a slower effect.

What the GI doesn’t measure is how much of that food you eat. That’s where the glycemic load (GL) comes in: It measures quality and quantity.

You can determine a food’s GL by multiplying the GI times the amount of carbohydrate grams and dividing the total by 100. So while carrots have a GI of 47, whole-wheat spaghetti clocks in at just 32. 

You’re better off eating the spaghetti, right?

Nope. Carrots carry far fewer carbs than pasta, and the GL accounts for both. So: 

Carrots – 47 x 6/ 100 = 2.82
Pasta – 32 x 48/ 100 = 15.36 

Wait: Is this nutrition or math class? Are you getting excited yet? (Me neither.) 

While the GI and GL become infuriatingly confusing, nutrition experts

continue to trot out these confusing, refuse-to-die criteria. Here are five reasons to ditch the GI and GL (along with those so-called experts):

1.     Isolation. The GI and GL look at isolated foods. One big problem: We don’t eat foods in isolation, and these measures couldn’t possibly look at every food combination. So for instance, while a white baked potato has a high-glycemic index of about 76, you’ll probably throw in some butter that buffers the potato’s blood sugar spike.

2.     Quality. A sweet potato and graham crackers both have a GI of about 70. Graham crackers actually have a lower GL than a sweet potato (14 versus 22), yet that sweet potato – a whole food, to boot – comes packed with beta-carotene and other nutrients plus fiber. The graham crackers are just a processed, sugary train wreck.

3.     Fructose. The GI and GL look at how a food raises your blood sugar. All sugar breaks down to glucose and fructose. Glucose raises your blood sugar; fructose doesn’t. High-fructose foods register low on the GI and GL scales, yet this problem-child sugar increases inflammation, stresses out your liver (the only organ that can process it), and converts to fat. To boot, processed foods often contain high-fructose corn syrup, making them low on the GI (as manufacturers proudly tout) but also your health.

4.     Individuality. The GI and GL assume your metabolic machinery works correctly. Sorry, not everyone falls into that “average, healthy adult” category. If you’re a heavy lifter, foods will have an entirely different effect on your blood sugar and how your body handles that sugar load than an overweight, sedentary person. The GI and GL couldn’t possibly account for such biochemical individuality, but nice try.

5.     Inconsistent studies. One study found athletes should eat low-glycemic carbs 30 – 60 minutes before exercise, high-glycemic carbs during exercise, and high-glycemic carbs for post-exercise meals. Other studies yield way different conclusions. One looked at how seven male athletes performed during high-intensity interval training (HIIT) using either high-glycemic or low-glycemic. Researchers concluded despite “the relationship between GI and sporting performance has been a topic of research for more than 15 years, there is no consensus on whether consuming [carbohydrates] of differing GI improves endurance performance.” In other words: Nobody has much freaking clue whether or how GI and GL work.

Ditch the Math and Do this Instead

I gave up on the GI and GL years ago because they’re too dang confusing and really, who wants to tally up numbers or reference charts? Counting sucks the joy out of eating.
Instead, I focus on whole, quality, nutrient-dense foods. Those include leafy and cruciferous greens, lower-sugar fruits like berries and apples, complete protein sources like grass-fed beef, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds.

If you’re an athlete, lift heavy, or otherwise move vigorously, you can also comfortably incorporate medium-glycemic foods like sweet potatoes and legumes. Throw some dark chocolate into the mix and you’ll still be fine.

If you’re especially concerned, center higher-glycemic foods around your workout; otherwise, stick with lower-glycemic foods. And leave the counting for your next Lululemon sale.

Besides the glycemic index and load, what other expert-endorsed food or exercise trend do you wish would permanently vacate? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!
© 2015 Jinifit, Inc.

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