The Glycemic Index for Beginners
Get fit by getting to know the glycemic index with fitness expert Christine Vardaros.
Pounding protein in hopes of feeling the burn? Here’s a better idea: Get to know the glycemic index! Whether you’re gearing up for an epic bike ride or want to get into GI Joe-esque shape, the current carb-conscious trend amongst top endurance athletes is called the glycemic index, commonly referred to as GI. It works by eating the correct foods at the appropriate times for increased performance. Although this science has been around since 1981, it has only recently gained popularity with top-notch athletes.
The GI ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effect on blood-glucose (also known as blood-sugar) levels during the two hours after food is eaten. All foods are assigned a rating from one to 100, with a score of 100 indicating pure glucose. Those with a rating of 70 to 100 break down rapidly during digestion, dumping sugars into the bloodstream for short bursts of energy. Those with a rating of 55 or lower break down more slowly, releasing sugars gradually for long-lasting energy.
For athletes, the GI helps design meals more specifically around the type of workout we’ll be doing. By adding a value to every carbohydrate food, we are better able to monitor energy levels for increased endurance, more accurately timed energy peaks, and for avoidance of the dreaded “bonk” when the body shuts down during a workout. It also opens up eating options by encouraging food pairing. For instance, if we need to eat a relatively low-GI meal, we can still eat our favorite high-GI foods as long as we pair them with lower-scoring items, as in the case of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Peanut butter’s low rating offsets the impact of higher-GI bread and jelly.
A few hours before a workout, low-GI foods such as pasta, rolled oats, brown or basmati rice, low-sugar whole-grain cereals, and multigrain bread are ideal for sustained energy. World champion cyclist Niels Albert adds, “I think for every rider the pre-workout meal is the same: spaghetti.” If your workout lasts less than an hour and you’ll eat within an hour prior, choose foods with a higher-GI rating so energy is available for you during your effort. “Thirty minutes before the start [of a race] I eat an energy gel,” says Albert. Lance Armstrong’s coach, Chris Carmichael, says that one hour before the Tour de France time trial, Armstrong eats an energy bar, energy gel, and a full bottle of sports drink. During a workout, high-GI foods including baked potatoes, rice cakes, bagels, energy drinks, gels, and bars supply the body with easily accessible energy. According to Chef Lim of Team Garmin-Chipotle, his Tour de France riders consume almost all their calories taken on the bike in the form of simple sugars. During each stage, the riders receive a bag filled with two water bottles, a small can of cola, two energy bars, two energy gels, two bags of energy chews, panini, and two homemade rice cakes.
High-GI foods also come in handy immediately after exercise, as they quickly replenish glycogen stores, the body’s main source of fuel. Consuming foods such as watermelon, pretzels, baked potatoes, white rice, bagels, white bread, natural soda, energy drinks, gels, and bars is best done within two hours of finishing a hard workout. By keeping track of your food’s GI score, your performance will be way better than “government issue!”
10 Scary Halloween Costumes Only Vegans Will Understand
Be the life (or death) of any Halloween party with costume ideas that'll scare any vegan.
Read More »
10 Best Vegan Pumpkin Finds at Trader Joes
Jumpstart the holiday season with pumpkin-ized chips, cookies, and more from Trader Joes.
Read More »
How to Celebrate Oktoberfest, Vegan Style
Beers, bars, brats, and Berlin are on the menu of our perfect Oktoberfest celebration.
Read More »
The 10 Best Vegan Boots for Every Occasion
Go from ranchhand to urban cowboy with these cruelty-free boots that are comfortable, stylish, and make you look like you mean business.
Read More »
Meatless Mondays at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch
World-famous brothel says goodbye to meat on Mondays thanks to a request from The Simpsons co-creator.
Read More »
- 10 Vegan Reasons We're Dreaming of Fall
- Two Sisters and Their Vegan Weddings
- Vegan Weddings 2016 (Jac Reasor & Jae Russell)
- How to Nail Your Ultimate Summer Look By Labor Day
- Vegan Weddings 2016 (Alex Payne & Nicole Brodeur)
- Vegan Weddings 2016 (Andrea Dermos & Kyle Domer)
- Vegan Weddings 2016 (Malissa Schwartz & Chad Sarno)
- Vegan Weddings 2016
- Vegan Survival Guide to Outside Lands
- Summer Fashion Tips from Stylish Vegan Sisters
- 4 Superheroes We Wish Were Vegan
- 4 Ways to Celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day—Vegan Style!
- 5 Crazy Vegan Stereotypes—Smashed!
- Top 3 Vegan Parenting Myths, Busted
- A Vegan Moms Guide to the Kid Party Circuit
- The VegNews Bloggy Awards
- 5 Ways a Vegan Diet Can Help with Pregnancy
- 9 Vegan Foods to Beat the California Heat
- 5 Vegan Summer Date Ideas
- Vegan Swimmer to Traverse the English Channel for Charity