Weight Control Infocenter
The Glycemic Index
Key To Weight Loss Or Just Another Diet Gimmick?
by Tom Venuto
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that
measures how quickly carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose.
The original purpose for the glycemic index was to help diabetics keep
their blood sugar under control.
The glycemic index has recently
attracted a lot of attention in the bodybuilding, fitness and weight
loss world and has even become the central theme in numerous
best-selling diet books as a method to choose the foods that are best
for losing weight.
According to advocates of the glycemic index system, foods that are high
on the GI scale such as rice cakes, carrots, potatoes, or grape juice
are "unfavorable" and should be avoided because high GI foods are
absorbed quickly, raise blood sugar rapidly and are therefore more
likely to convert to fat or cause health problems.
Instead, we are urged to consume carbohydrates that are low on the GI
scale such as black eye peas, old fashioned oatmeal, peanuts, apples and
beans because they do not raise blood sugar as rapidly.
While the GI does have some useful applications, such as the use of high
GI foods or drinks for post workout nutrition and the strong emphasis on
low GI foods for those with blood sugar regulation problems, there are
flaws in strictly using the glycemic index as your only criteria to
choose carbs on a weight loss program.
For example, the glycemic index is based on eating carbohydrates by
themselves in a fasted state. If you are following effective principles
of fat-burning and muscle building nutrition, you should be eating
small, frequent meals to increase your energy, maintain lean body mass
and optimize metabolism for fat loss. However, since the glycemic index
of various foods was developed based on eating each food in the fasted
state, the glycemic index loses some of its significance.
In addition, when you are on a diet program aimed at improving body
composition (losing fat or gaining muscle), you will usually be
combining carbs and protein together with each meal for the purposes of
improving your fat to muscle ratio. When carbs are eaten in mixed meals
that contain protein and some fat, the glycemic index loses even more of
its significance because the protein and fat slows the absorption of the
carbohydrates (as does fiber).
Mashed potatoes have a glycemic index near that of pure glucose, but
combine the potatoes with a chicken breast and broccoli and the glycemic
index of the entire meal is lower than the potatoes by itself.
Rice cakes have a very high glycemic index, but if you were to put a
couple tablespoons of peanut butter on them, the fat would slow the
absorption of the carbs, thereby lowering the glycemic index of the
A far more important and relevant criteria for selecting carbs - as well
as all your other foods, proteins and fats included - is whether they
are natural or processed. To say that a healthy person with no metabolic
disorders should completely avoid natural, unprocessed foods like
carrots or potatoes simply because they are high on the glycemic index
I know many bodybuilders who eat high glycemic index
foods such as white potatoes every day right up until the day of a
competition and they reach single digit body fat. How do they do it if
high GI foods “make you fat?” It’s simple – high GI foods DON’T
necessarily make you fat – choosing natural foods and burning more
calories than you consume are far more important factors. Although it’s
not correct to say that all calories are created equal, a calorie
deficit is the most important factor of all when fat loss is your goal.
The glycemic index is clearly not a "gimmick" and should not be
completely disregarded, as it is a definitely a legitimate nutritional
tool. Is it a good idea to eat low GI foods in general? Sure. Is eating
high GI foods after your workouts a good idea? Absolutely. But diet
programs which hang their hats on glycemic index alone as the “miracle
solution” are just another example of how one single aspect of nutrition
can be used as a "hook" in marketing and said to be the "end all be all"
of fat loss, when it's really only one small piece of the puzzle.
Eating Low glycemic index foods alone does NOT guarantee you will lose
fat. You have to take in the bigger picture, which includes
calories/energy balance, meal timing and frequency, macronutrient
composition, choice of processed versus refined foods as well as how all
these nutritional factors interact with your exercise program.
Glycemic Index Diets
Low-Glycemic Index Foods
(GI less than 55)
Intermediate-Glycemic Index Foods
High-Glycemic Index Foods
(GI over 70)
Glycemic Index, now Meet the Satiety Index
If you had to choose just one food for snacking, based on how long
it would keep you from getting hungry again, what would you choose to
Weight and Slow
Metabolism: Myth or Reality?
Doctors and other health professionals often hear
their patients complain of a slow metabolism, certain
that they're just not burning calories as efficiently as
other people who eat the same amount.
Copyright 2005 Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a certified
personal trainer, natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling
diet e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle. You can get info on Tom's
e-book at http://www.burnthefat.com . To get Tom's free monthly e-zine,