Recently, there has been a lot of talk and many questions about carbs, insulin, and the glycemic index. People want to know how they effect weight loss and if paying attention to the glycemic index can help them. This recent interest in the glycemic index is due, in part, to the many low carb diets that actively promote the “evilness” of carbs.
Some low carb proponents would have you believe that all carbs are bad. This is BS, and can lead to a very unhealthy diet.
A more educated and reasonable approach is that there are carb choices and that some choices are better than others. Knowing about the glycemic index can help you make better choices.
What is the Glycemic Index?
In short, the glycemic index is a way to measure and rank carbohydrates on a scale of 0-100 for their effect on blood sugar levels and insulin. Foods with a high glycemic index are quickly absorbed into the body and cause a spine in blood sugar and insulin.
Low glycemic index foods have a different effect. When those are consumed, blood sugar and insulin rise more minimally. This can aid in weight loss, which I will explain in a moment.
However, before we move forward, I did want to note that the GI (glycemic index) is used solely for measuring carbohydrates. Fats and proteins do not have the same effect on blood glucose and insulin and are not measured for GI.
Why is the Glycemic Index Important for Weight Loss?
A recent study done at the University of Sydney compared high carbohydrate diets. One diet consisted of low GI foods and the other consisted of higher GI foods. Over a 12 week period, there was a very significant difference in weight loss results. Those on the low GI diet lost twice as much weight as the other group. Interestingly, they also found that this weight loss was even more pronounced in women.
Other Studies Have Noted that a Low GI Diet:
- Allows better control over hunger
- Keeps blood sugar and insulin from spiking
One big advantage to low GI foods is that they tend to keep your hunger in check better than high GI foods. The reason is that when you consume high GI foods, your blood sugar spikes. The body then rapidly responds by raising insulin level to sweep those newly ingested sugars into storage (storage is can be in either the muscles, liver, or fat cells).
A little while after your blood sugar levels go up you’ll feel more energized as your body utilizes the sugars you’ve consumed. However, the other shoe is about to drop. Your blood sugar levels come crashing down after the spike. When this happens you’ll get hungry and tired again.
This leads to binge eating. You get caught in a never ending cycle of hunger and eating. Which will kill any attempt at dieting.
Low GI foods, on the other hand, keep blood sugar levels from getting out of control. This avoids the inevitable blood sugar crash and intense hunger you get with high GI foods.
When you’re already on a low cal diet, you have enough stress and enough hunger. You don’t want to add additional stress by making yourself to feel hungry all the time. Who wants to constantly battle against a yearning desire to eat? I know I will eventually lose that battle and eat something I shouldn’t.
A better choice is to eat low GI foods and avoid making yourself crazy for food.
High GI Foods can Stop Fat Loss in It’s Tracks
Lipase is an enzyme that mobilizes fat, which is exactly what we want to happen. We want lipase to do it’s job and mobilize our fat stores so that we get thinner.
However, insulin can inhibit this process. So, by eating high GI foods we spike our insulin levels and keep lipase from mobilizing fat. Not exactly the formula to a thinner you.
Now, please don’t interpret this article to mean that you can eat all the low GI foods that you want. You still need to pay attention to your calories. However, incorporating low GI foods into your diet will help you lose weight faster and easier.
Glycemic Index Info
Below is a simple chart to show you some GI ratings for a few common foods. To get a more complete list, here is a database of GI ratings.