With the popularity
of the Atkins/Low Carb diet fading rapidly,
it was only a matter of time before the next
"big thing" came along to replace
it. Enter: the Glycemic Diet.
The premise of
the Glycemic Diet is simple: carbs are not the
bad guys-it's the TYPES of carbs you eat that
are most important.
What Is The Glycemic Diet?
The Glycemic Diet
is based on a scale called the Glycemic Index.
The Glycemic Index (or G.I. for short) charts
how quickly a food is converted into sugar in
the body. Foods that have a higher G.I. number
are converted into sugar more quickly than foods
that have a low G.I. number, based on a scale
of 1 to 100.
For example, straight
glucose (which is straight sugar) has a G.I.
number of 100, whereas a whole grain like barley
has a G.I. number of 27. Proteins and fats,
which have neglible impact on blood sugar, are
generally not listed on the Glycemic Index,
only carbohydrate containing foods.
So why is the
G.I. number important? Insulin is secreted by
the pancreas in response to increases in blood
sugar in your body. Insulin is the primary storage
hormone in your body and is used to help get
nutrients into the different cells of your body.
When blood sugar goes up, insulin is released
to bring blood sugar back down by storing the
sugar until a normal baseline is reached.
The faster a food
is converted into blood sugar (e.g. with high
G.I. foods), the higher the blood sugar levels
get and the more insulin is secreted by the
pancreas to help the cells of your body absorb
the sugar. Your blood sugar decreases and your
pancreas stops sending out insulin.
It's a simple
"stimulus-response" system that works
to keep blood sugar levels in balance in the
Now, that's all
well and good but how does that affect your
First, when insulin
is present in the bloodstream, the body is in
STORAGE mode and will NOT release fat from your
fat cells to burn. So while blood sugar and
insulin levels are high, your body isn't burning
Next, while your
blood sugar is up, your body is using that blood
sugar for energy instead of fat. Sugar is the
preferred fuel for your body because it's metabolically
easier to use. This is why if you eat a carb-containing
food before training, your body is going to
be using primarily the sugar from that food
for energy rather than your bodyfat AND, since
insulin and blood sugar are present, your body
is in STORAGE mode, not fat-burning mode.
- put away the Gatorade if you want to burn
fat during your workout! Sports drinks have
a G.I. number very near 100!]
Now comes the
REAL fat loss killer...
When you eat a
high G.I. food and your blood sugar levels rise
very quickly, your body doesn't really know
how much insulin to send out so it sends out
quite a lot and keeps sending it out. The result:
soon your body has sent out TOO MUCH insulin
and your blood sugar levels drop BELOW normal
When your blood
sugar drops below normal levels, you may feel
dizzy, nauseous, and (the killer for fat loss)
immediately hungry for sugary foods. This is
a natural defense mechanism as your body wants
to get your blood sugar back up into the normal
range as quickly as possible!
But then the vicious
cycle starts. When you eat the sugary food to
get the levels back to normal, blood sugar goes
up again and BEYOND normal levels, which sends
insulin levels back up again.
How The Glycemic Diet Works:
The theory of
the Glycemic Diet is to put a stop to this vicious
blood-sugar/insulin cycle by focusing your eating
on LOW glycemic carbs. When you eat low G.I.
foods, the carbs are converted into sugar (the
usable form in the body is called glucose) more
slowly, allowing for a steadier release of that
sugar into the body. The pancreas doesn't shoot
out large quantities of insulin in emergency
response, which means your blood sugar doesn't
drop a lot soon after eating.
nutrition allows your body to more easily access
stored fat and to use that fat for energy rather
than constantly relying on blood sugar. The
bonus...you don't get nearly as hungry because
your blood sugar levels don't drop far below
Think of it this
way...fat burning is like walking blindfolded
on the deck of a ship (stay with me here :)).
When insulin and blood sugar levels fluctuate
constantly up and down, it's like walking on
a ship in a storm that's rocking all over the
place in the waves. You have to constantly react
to changes in your balance and you're not going
to get very far and definitely not in a straight
When you eat lower
glycemic foods, it's like walking in calmer
seas. Even blindfolded, you're going to be able
to walk fairly straight and cover a lot more
distance more quickly. You won't have to be
constantly reacting to changes that keeping
you from walking that straight line.
And that straight
line is fat loss!
of the Glycemic Diet is that it also focuses
on including good amounts of protein, healthy
fats and fiber in with the foods you eat. Protein,
fats and fiber, while having the advantage of
no glycemic response, also work to bring DOWN
the G.I. number of carb-containing foods when
For example, a
rice cake (a typical diet food which has a G.I.
number of 87) will spike your blood sugar quickly.
But put some peanut butter on it and the number
drops by 10 to 20 points.
There are times
when a high blood sugar response is desirable
though! The only time, quite honestly, is immediately
following a workout. At that time, your body
is primed to use all the nutrients you put in.
A G.I. carb at this time can help your body
recover by spiking insulin levels. Insulin,
in addition to helping sugars get into cells,
also helps other nutrients like amino acids
(the building blocks of protein) get into cells,
which is very desirable after a workout.
The Bottom Line About the
The concept of
the Glycemic Diet is scientifically sound (that
means it works). This is not a "fad diet"
even though it may come across like one in the
media. Eating low glycemic foods for fat loss
can have a positive impact not only your fat
loss but on your mood and well-being in general.
Think of it this
way...a diet that focuses on natural, unprocessed
foods such as whole grains, quality lean proteins,
healthy fats and lots of fiber, regardless of
the media and advertising gimmicks and hype
that are used to promote it, is going to be
a very effective diet.
For more information
on the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Diet,
please use the following links: