Last night, I did a ton of research of the glycemic index, because the concept always kind of confused me. I found out some great information that can be used by everyone, whether they are trying to lose weight or train for a marathon. Feel free to discuss in the comments if the concepts are more complex than I convey here! 🙂
However, (and this is where things can get confusing) some complex carbs elicit a stronger insulin response than other complex carbs. As a result, we can’t completely base the value of a carbohydrate on whether it is complex or simple. This is where the glycemic index comes into play.
The glycemic index is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. Simply put, a food’s glycemic index is the amount that it increases your blood sugar compared to the amount that the same quantity of white bread would increase it. Foods with a lower glycemic index will cause your blood sugar to rise and then fall more slowly than foods with higher glycemic indexes, keeping you feeling fuller, longer! Remember: for your everyday diet, low is good.
White bread’s glycemic index is 100. Wheat bread, which is considered a complex carbohydrate, has a glycemic index of 99—just one point lower than white bread! Foods with a significantly lower glycemic index include: peanut butter (14), low-fat yogurt (20), soybeans (23), peanuts (21), and cherries (32). Most vegetables [with the exception of green peas (68), sweet corn (78), and pumpkin (107)] have a glycemic index lower than 20. Generally, a glycemic index is 70 or more is high, a glycemic index of 56 to 69 is medium, and a glycemic index of 55 or less is low.
Understanding the glycemic index is crucial in determining the best pre– and post-workout snacks. The ideal pre-run snack should incorporate foods with a lower glycemic index, as this snack will give you a slow and steady supply of energy. In contrast, the perfect post-run snack would have a higher glycemic index, as these foods will give you an immediate burst of energy and help you recover faster. Remember: pre-run = low; post-run = high.
An example of a glycemic index-savvy pre-run snack would be peanut butter (GI = 14), carrots (GI = 47), and yogurt (GI = 20). For a post-run, a delicious bowl of brown rice (GI = 79) and kidney beans (GI = 74) would be ideal. Of course, pre– and post-run snacks should always incorporate a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.