Smart Carbs: The Glycemic Index
All Carbs Aren’t Created Equal.
Some carbs burn fast, and some burn slowly.
Your body needs them for fuel, brain health, heart health and a balanced diet.
The reason we recommend cutting carbs for a period of time is to get and keep your body in ketosis, or fat burning mode.
Ketosis is safe for most people, but is worth looking into and asking your doctor about, since your body likely isn’t used to it.
Whether you decrease your carbs radically to under 100g per day or simply want to eat carbs that are less likely to turn into fat:
This lesson will teach you how different carbs interact with your body.
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly food raises your blood sugar.
A: Fast burning carbs boost your blood sugar quickly. When blood sugar is low, we crave simple carbs (fruit, candy) to boost it quickly.
B: Slow burning carbs, by comparison, keep your blood sugar more even over time.
Choosing slow burning carbs (low GI index) will help you control your appetite and feel more energy through the day.
Fast burning carbs can provoke more appetite and even mood swings.
Aim to consume lower GIs foods. Here are some examples:
- Baguette bread: 95 (very high)
- Corn flakes: 92 (very high)
- Baked potato: 85 (high)
- Plain bagel: 72 (high)
- Wheat bread: 53 (medium)
- Oatmeal: 55 (medium)
- Apple: 40 (low)
Here’s a list of GIs for common foods.
Pasta, soda, and chips all have GIs over 50, and will be absorbed quickly: what you don’t use up within a few hours, you store as fat.
If you absolutely need a quick boost, or are preparing for a very intense workout, higher GI foods are OK – but in small amounts, and ideally through healthier sources, like fruits.
Alternatively, low GI foods like lentils, yogurt and vegetables are metabolized more slowly.
The more low-GI foods you eat during a meal, the lower the GI of the entire meal.
Almonds don’t impact your GI at all, and have a score of 0. Chickpeas and hummus (pure) are at 10, and lentils are at 29. The more of these earthy foods you eat, the more even your blood sugar will stay, and the less you’ll experience cravings you’ll want to satisfy with a quick boost from high GI foods.
Put it in practice today
- Move to a low GI breakfast, replacing your cereal for fruits or oatmeal.
- Replace juice or cereal bar snacks for healthy choices like almonds.
- Reduce the amount of high GI foods in your meals.
The effect might not be as immediate and satisfying as going through a bag of chips. Instead, it will provide long-lasting energy and reduced cravings.
If you want to get really technical, learn how to calculate fast VS slow carbs.
For most of us, understanding that we “Use it or keep it” (as fat) is enough. Analyzing every single meal can be an enormous chore, so do your best to start tracking your diet and eliminating high GI foods as often as possible.
When you do eat them, try to mix them with very low GI foods, which you should eat throughout the day.
Eventually, your GI maintenance will become automatic.
Keep a food journal
A great, free app for this is Lose it! which lets you enter every meal.
You can also use Meal Logger, which organizes photos of what you eat.
While it may seem like work to memorize the glycemic index, just save or print the common food links for quick reference. When you’re planning a meal, this can be a great way to cut out high GI foods.
If, upon reflection, you have a very high GI diet:
Start with manageable changes.
Cut out foods that are the highest, or the easiest to eliminate. Whether you cut out one food or five, focus on making measurable, regular progress. You’ll get there!
You can aim to eliminate one food per week entirely, or cut frequency of eating that food down by 80%. The key to changing your diet is moderation in a way you can tolerate; radical changes don’t tend to last.
If you plan cheat days, enjoy your high and favorite GI foods then. You’ll enjoy them more and savor the experience, but surprisingly, you’ll start to not desire them as much once eating them becomes infrequent.
Many chocolate-addicts report being shocked that chocolate just tastes “average” to them after going off it for 1-2 weeks.
Quick 8fit project
- Look at the glycemic index of common foods again and try to find 5 dietary modifications you can make right now.
- Use a goal tracker app – or even calendar reminders – to inspire yourself to cut down on intake.
- Create whatever schedule or system you know you will be able to keep. Whether it’s cutting out all of a certain food or just reducing it, make a concrete, specific plan based on your individual habits and patterns.
Let us know what you think, how you feel, and how understanding the Glycemic Index helped you get fit!