The Truth About Low GI Diets

There’s never been a shortage of new diets hitting the market and you’ve all probably heard of Low GI (Glycaemic Index) diets.

The low GI diet has received a lot of attention lately as the standard for determining “good” (low GI) carbohydrates versus “bad” (high GI) carbohydrates. But are low GI  diets the “ultimate” when it comes to a healthy and sustainable eating plan? In answering that question, let’s first take a deeper look into how the GI ranks foods.

The GI ranks foods based on how much the blood sugar increases after it is consumed. The higher the number on the GI scale, the greater the increase in blood sugar. When blood sugar goes up, insulin levels rise. And because high levels of insulin are associated with increased fat storage and suppressed fat burning, it is said that eating high GI foods can make you fatter than eating low GI foods.

It therefore stands to reason that you should only eat a low GI diet, right? Well, no!  The mistake in adhering to the GI for all your carbohydrate choices is this: The index is based on those carbohydrates being eaten by themselves and on an empty stomach. This is something you should never do if you want to lose fat. You always want to combine a protein source with your carbohydrates, and you want to eat frequently throughout the day.

For example, a potato has a very high GI, but if you combine it with a chicken breast, the GI of the combination is much lower than the potato by itself. Rice cakes also have a high GI, but if you spread a little peanut butter on them, the fat slows the absorption of the carbohydrates, thereby lowering the GI of the combination.

So, when you combine a protein source with your carbohydrates at every meal, and you eat frequently throughout the day (ie 5 to 6 meals spaced about 3 hours apart), like you should for fat loss, the GI becomes less significant.

However, scientific research has identified four key applications for the GI to enhance performance:

  1. A low GI pre-event meal may enhance endurance in prolonged exercise
  2. High GI foods or fluids during exercise help to maintain blood-sugar levels
  3. High GI foods in the recovery phase after exercise help to accelerate glycogen replenishment
  4. Low GI foods may help athletes to feel full and satisfied after and between meals, and this may assist them in maintaining a more optimal weight or body-fat level for their sport.

So, as you can see, just sticking to a low GI diet does not suit everyone.  Studioz recommends low GI foods as part of a sensible weight loss program so that energy levels can be maintained over longer periods, to avoid the peaks and troughs that some high GI foods can cause – which may then result in “bad”, high calorie, food choices being made.  If looking up the GI of foods is not your thing, then simply choose natural carbohydrates over those that are processed.  Natural carbs are those picked from the ground or a tree; fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice, beans, lentils, etc.  Limit carbs that are white and refined, eg. pasta, white bread, biscuits, white rice, pretzels, chips, etc.