“You must have heard of the glycaemic index (GI). The GI is a value given to food which indicates how high our blood sugar will rise after consuming that food. Flight Lieutenant Akshay Chopra, a certified personal trainer and the captain of the IAF Bodybuilding team for the last three years tells us why he thinks the GI principle has been misunderstood.
Glycaemic index or G.I. in food is one of the most exploited principles of nutrition. The term G.I was first coined in 1981. It was the reference number given to each food according to the speed at which they raise your blood sugar levels in the body after ingestion. The problem is that like many other concepts we tend to blind follow the advice that you should only eat low G.I carbohydrates and absolutely shun high G.I carbs in order to achieve weight loss. This is a half-baked picture which has actually stalled the growth of many men and women who’ve been looking to transform their body.
You need carbs – high and low GI
See the thing is if you’re a sedentary individual who has a desk job and for whom exercising is 30 minutes on the treadmill then he/she should surely shun high GI carbs. But if you’re an active individual who’s always on the go and works out hard in the gym or the sports field, then high G.I. carbs are not only going to replenish the depleted reserves of the body but also skyrocket your anabolic capacity (ability for the muscle to grow). Remember one thing that once we are eating our regular homemade traditional meal, we are mixing a range of high and low GI foods. In that scenario, the glycaemic index cannot predict the rate at which our blood sugar level rises.
Understanding blood sugar rise
How does your body know about the rate of blood sugar rise? When you consume a carbohydrate source, the brain sends a signal to the beta cells in the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin. Insulin’s job is to take these carb molecules and put them into the cells so they can be used as energy. The speed at which insulin is released depends on the G.I of the food we consume.
Now sedentary individuals don’t expend the stored glycogen in the blood and is not using the readily available carbohydrates in the blood due to lack of physical activity. When such an individual consumes carbohydrates throughout the day, the insulin is continuously secreted as the blood is always saturated with sugar. In that case, the excess carbohydrates are stored as fat in the body as they are not being burnt. For such people, even low and moderate GI good will be converted into fat. The problem this causes is that due to continuous secretion of insulin through the day, their insulin sensitivity reduces and person develops insulin resistance which will eventually lead to insulin resistance which can progress to type 2 diabetes.
High GI Carbs aren’t bad
Active individuals need high GI carbs especially after a hard workout session to instantly replenish the depleted in the glycogen stories in the liver and muscles. Two reasons you need high GI carbs:
To be at your peak physically and mentally
The primary reason our body needs carbohydrates is not for the muscles but for the brain. So if you want to be at your best during a workout, your neuromuscular coordination has to work optimally for which you need fuel in the form of high GI carbohydrates.
To minimise break muscle breakdown
Research has shown that adequate glycogen reserves minimises muscle breakdown during and after workouts.
Another common query is whether you should avoid high GI carbs in the night. I suggest that you do away with them. One important aspect of sleep and recovery is the release of the growth hormone which gets released two hours after you sleep. Your body does not release growth hormone if your blood sugar levels are high. You need to be on an empty stomach for maximum growth hormone release. Low GI food while not raising your blood sugar level immediately will do so when you’re asleep which will interfere with growth hormone release. However, if you’ve worked out late in the evening then a high GI source, a post-workout will raise your blood sugar levels, replenish the depleted stories and then normalise the blood sugar levels within an hour. (Read: 8 bad Indian food habits)
Of course sleep is very vital if you want to achieve your dream transformation. Disturbed sleep can lead to decrease in levels of hormone Leptin in the body which sends a signal to the brain to stimulate hunger even when you don’t need the food. Also another hormone which increases in quantity when you don’t sleep is ghrelin which like leptin stimulates hunger and also favours the accumulation of fat in the stomach area. Therefore, while it’s vital to have carbs in your diet.
So carbs –high or low – definitely need to be part of your diet, the only thing you need to figure out is how much, when and which kinds depending upon your lifestyle.