I cannot tell you how many diet programs I have evaluated over the years, just too many to keep track of. The glycemic index diet is one program that has received much attention in health and fitness magazines and is usually discussed as one tactic in a more comprehensive weight loss program. The magazines will often suggest that you eat low-glycemic foods with little discussion about what that means. To find out more about the glycemic index, see our brief discussion “What is the Glycemic Index” in our blog”.
In a nutshell, the glycemic index of a food tells us how fast a carbohydrate food absorbs into the blood as sugar. Virtually all absorbed carbohydrates are absorbed as sugar. The idea is:
Eat Low-Glycemic Food –> Sugar Released Slowly –> Smaller Peaks in Insulin —> Body Better Handles the Sugar
On the surface this makes sense, however, I do have one major problem with this philosophy. If I have two people and I feed one person a low glycemic index food containing 40 grams of carbohydrates and the other person a high glycemic index food containing 40 grams of carbbohydrates, how many grams of carbohydrate gets absorbed in each person? The answer is…40 grams each! The bottom line is this…
“People who eat low-glycemic foods still get fat, they just get fat 15 minutes later than those who eat high-glycemic foods.”
If we have a body that is already saturated with sugar, then adding carbohydrates to the body IN ANY FORM will stress the system. We MUST account for the quantity as well as the quality of carbohydrates that we eat. This is why, Glycemic Load is a far better tool to use in determining the quantity and quality of carbohydrate that you are eating. See our blog post titled “Glycemic Index Versus Glycemic Load…What is the Difference?” for more information about glycemic load.
When considering carbohydrate intake, we must take into account the body’s glucose saturation. There are four main compartments in the body where sugar resides:
The blood can hold just one teaspoon of sugar (5 grams – 20 Calories). Any amount that you eat more than this 5 grams of carbohydrate must be stored somewhere. First it goes to the liver, if the liver is saturated then it moves on to the muscles. If the muscles are full of glycogen, guess where it goes…the fat. So the approach that you must take is two fold:
- Eat fewer carbohydrates
- Decrease sugar saturation by increasing exercise and burning the sugar in the muscles and liver