Breaking Down the Glycemic Index for Bodybuilding
A calorie is just a calorie? A carb is simply just a carb right?
In the modern day era focused on flexible dieting rather than strict food choices, many people tend to simply look at the caloric values and numbers. With this in mind, why is it that until recently, bodybuilders tended to stick to certain clean food choices rather than random eating?
Take for example carbohydrates. Carbs are the most common type of macronutrient available on the market. They can come in the form of everything from a Twinkie to a cup of brown rice. Aside from the preservatives and other additional additives in processed foods, there are additional factors causing foods to differ in terms of digestibility.
Take for example the glycemic index. The glycemic Index as it relates to food is essentially a measurement of how fast or slow blood sugar rises after the carbohydrate source is ingested. After consuming any type of carb it is then turned to glucose and is used by the body to manufacture ATP which in turn becomes a fuel source for the entire body.
Carbohydrates are the main source of macronutrient that are converted to glucose. Although if you go into strict ketosis your body will use fats as a fuel source through a process called gluconeogenesis. To measure the body’s glycemic index it is assigned a value from 0-100. A higher value means a faster blood sugar response.
Moderate glycemic index foods are better for purposes of fat loss because a higher glycemic index food means insulin levels will rise much faster. Fat loss cannot occur when insulin levels are extremely elevated. On the other hand a slow releasing carbohydrate will produce less insulin and maximize fat loss.
- Low GI Foods – In regards to the glycemic index scale, a food under 55 is considered to be low glycemic index.
- Medium GI Foods – Foods that have a GI under 70 and over 56 are considered to be medium glycemic foods.
- High GI Foods – Foods that have a GI over 70 are considered to be high glycemic foods.
The glycemic index of foods cannot be taken into account solely on their own as eating protein and fat sources alongside carbohydrates will affect the overall glycemic level of the carbohydrate source.
The International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values show the following glycemic index for several commonplace foods.
|Food||Glycemic Index (Glucose = 100)||Serving Size (Grams)||Glycemic Load Per Serving|
|Bakery Products and Breads|
|Banana cake, made with sugar||47||60||14|
|Banana cake, made without sugar||55||60||12|
|Sponge cake, plain||46||63||17|
|Vanilla cake made from packet mix with vanilla frosting (Betty Crocker)||42||111||24|
|Apple, made with sugar||44||60||13|
|Apple, made without sugar||48||60||9|
|Waffles, Aunt Jemima® (Quaker Oats)||76||35||10|
|Bagel, white, frozen||72||70||25|
|Baguette, white, plain||95||30||15|
|Coarse barley bread, 75-80% kernels, average||34||30||7|
|50% cracked wheat kernel bread||58||30||12|
|White wheat flour bread||71||30||10|
|Wonder® bread, average||73||30||10|
|Whole wheat bread, average||71||30||9|
|100% Whole Grain® bread (Natural Ovens)||51||30||7|
|Pita bread, white||68||30||10|
|Coca Cola®, average||63||250ml||16|
|Fanta®, orange soft drink||68||250ml||23|
|Lucozade®, original (sparkling glucose drink)||95 ±10||250ml||40|
|Apple juice, unsweetened, average||44||250ml||30|
|Cranberry juice cocktail (Ocean Spray®)||68||250ml||24|
|Orange juice, unsweetened||50||250ml||12|
|Tomato juice, canned||38||250ml||4|
|Breakfast Cereals and Related Products|
|Coco Pops®, average||77||30||20|
|Cream of Wheat® (Nabisco)||66||250||17|
|Cream of Wheat®, Instant (Nabisco)||74||250||22|
|Instant oatmeal, average||83||250||30|
|Puffed wheat, average||80||30||17|
|Raisin Bran® (Kellogg’s)||61||30||12|
|Special K® (Kellogg’s)||69||30||14|
|Pearled barley, average||28||150||12|
|Sweet corn on the cob, average||60||150||20|
|White rice, average||89||150||43|
|Quick cooking white basmati||67||150||28|
|Brown rice, average||50||150||16|
|Converted, white rice (Uncle Ben’s®)||38||150||14|
|Whole wheat kernels, average||30||50||11|
|Cookies and Crackers|
|Rice cakes, average||82||25||17|
|Rye crisps, average||64||25||11|
|Dairy Products and Alternatives|
|Ice cream, regular||57||50||6|
|Ice cream, premium||38||50||3|
|Milk, full fat||41||250ml||5|
|Reduced-fat yogurt with fruit, average||33||200||11|
|Peach, canned in light syrup||40||120||5|
|Pear, canned in pear juice||43||120||5|
|Beans and Nuts|
|Baked beans, average||40||150||6|
|Blackeye peas, average||33||150||10|
|Chickpeas, canned in brine||38||150||9|
|Navy beans, average||31||150||9|
|Kidney beans, average||29||150||7|
|Soy beans, average||15||150||1|
|Pasta and Noodles|
|Macaroni and Cheese (Kraft)||64||180||32|
|Spaghetti, white, boiled, average||46||180||22|
|Spaghetti, white, boiled 20 min, average||58||180||26|
|Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled, average||42||180||17|
|Corn chips, plain, salted, average||42||50||11|
|M & M’s®, peanut||33||30||6|
|Microwave popcorn, plain, average||55||20||6|
|Potato chips, average||51||50||12|
|Green peas, average||51||80||4|
|Baked russet potato, average||111||150||33|
|Boiled white potato, average||82||150||21|
|Instant mashed potato, average||87||150||17|
|Sweet potato, average||70||150||22|
|Hummus (chickpea salad dip)||6||30||0|
|Chicken nuggets, frozen, reheated in microwave oven 5 min||46||100||7|
|Pizza, plain baked dough, served with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce||80||100||22|
|Pizza, Super Supreme (Pizza Hut)||36||100||9|
Complex vs. Simple Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are made up of hundreds of units and provide much more sustained energy as they take more time to be broken down by the body. Some common examples of complex carbohydrates include starchy substances such as oatmeal, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
Fibrous complex carbohydrates are mostly of the vegetable variety including such common vegetables as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes.
Simple carbohydrates are made up of far fewer molecules and provide immediate sources of energy such as fruits and other sugary foods.
When to eat carbs
Prior to beginning your workout it is recommended to have low to medium GI carbohydrates roughly one hour before your workout. If you choose to consume higher GI carbohydrates those may be consumed thirty minutes or less before to provide an immediate source of energy.
Post-workout, focus on faster absorbing carbohydrate sources to provide the appropriate anabolic response for achieving optimal results. Although subject matter experts may differ today in their opinions on the necessity of post-workout protein and carb sources, it is usually better to air on the side of caution because as we all know it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Although flexible dieting and use of the “If it Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) approach has helped to revolutionize dieting making it easier to use for the vast majority of individuals, it is important to consider other extraneous factors beyond simply carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Eating whole foods will aid the body in providing the appropriate metabolic and anabolic response for achieving results and building muscle effectively.
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