Glycemic Index

24 Feb


Everyone is preoccupied with calories. "How many calories does that have in it?" Or, "I can’t eat that, it has too many calories." If you read between the lines of the last blog, you now understand that calories are less of a concern than the types of food being eaten in the context of fat loss and overall health. "Keep calories low if you want to lose weight," it’s often said. In fact, caloric deficit is the method that nearly all commercial weight loss (notice I didn’t use the term "fat loss") programs employ to drive the number on the bathroom scale southward. But at what cost? In a caloric deficit, you will lose metabolically precious muscle. Your ability to burn fat is a function of your skeletal muscle mass (SMM). It’s like your car’s engine. The smaller it is, the less gas (or fat, in this case) it burns. And the opposite is true as well. So preserve muscle at all costs. How? Well, if you are already within a good weight range, by eating at your basal metabolic rate (BMR – Here is a calculator to help you find your BMR: and concerning yourself with the glycemic index of your foods rather than fractions of a calorie. No, you won’t “lose weight” as quickly (relatively speaking), but the "weight" lost will be predominantly composed of fat and, to a much lesser degree, muscle. This is exaggerated if you are hitting the intensity levels in the weight room, as you should be.

So how does one accomplish this metabolic trickery? Easy (in concept). Live in a low insulin (fat-burning) state by consuming small amounts (50-100g) of carbohydrates daily and eating only those with glycemic indices < 40 (explained below). To support your fat-burning machinery (muscle), consume 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass, and derive the remainder of your calories from fat.  All said and done, 50%(ish) of your calories will be "fat calories." Does eating fat make you fat? Not necessarily. It’s typically those high GI carbs that do. If you download MyFitnessPal or a similar app, these macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein) are much easier to monitor. My recommendation when attempting to change your diet in a manner such as this is to supplement with Omega 3 supplementation. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory and these fats make you feel better, while also making you healthier.

If you google foods high in Omega 3 fats, you can determine how much Omega 3 your diet is providing. In my humble opinion, Omega 3 supplementation is more important than creatine, protein powder, and all of the other more expensive, performance-based supplements. Omega 3 is good for your overall well-being, while you can easily increase protein intake (which will subsequently increase creatine intake in most cases) through your diet. With the American diet being what it is, it’s much harder to eat a substantial amount of Omega 3 than it is to eat enough protein and creatine.

People on Keto diets, Atkins diets, and other “war on carb” diets talk about carbohydrates with equipoise, as if they were all created equally. Reality? The difference between so-called "high glycemic index" carbohydrates and "low glycemic index" carbohydrates is the difference between fat and thin. So what is glycemic index or GI? It is the relative increase in blood glucose (sugar) when a certain food is consumed. Relative to what? Glucose. It has been arbitrarily rated 100, while foods such as beans and onions have indices less than 25. Sweet vs. not. Exactly. So why is this important? Think insulin.

High glycemic index carbohydrates drive blood sugar through the roof, so what chases it down? A concomitant spike in insulin. The pancreas releases insulin and in essence orders your cells to remove sugar from the bloodstream. All surplus is then stored as fat. So, in the context of high insulin levels, fat is amassed and that flab around your waist is inflated. But that’s not all. High levels of this anabolic hormone also drive the growth of cancers and that plaque lying dormant within your arterial walls. That is bad news, in case you weren’t sure.

The trick is to stick to low glycemic index carbohydrates that may not taste as good as jelly beans and cake, but will maintain blood sugars and, therefore, keep insulin levels in check. Low insulin levels, signaling an energy-deficient state, encourage the body to utilize its own energy stores, namely fat. Gut fat deflated, confidence inflated.

Low and high glycemic index carbohydrates: Same macronutrient outside the body, very different effects inside the body. So make the right choice. Choose low GI. Choose health.

This link will provide you with some additional information on both Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. The one thing that everyone should note on any nutritional choices is that some people are anomalies to the rule of thumb. This is not all about having low body fat and high muscle mass. Some of the concepts I hope you glean from all of this information pertain to longevity. Even if you were to choose that this career path is not for you, the quality and longevity of your life can be impacted by educating yourselves on how foods react in your body and applying those concepts to lifestyle changes.

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