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The highs and lows of food

The glycemic index of foods is a measurement of how quickly that food causes your blood sugar to rise

Marius Wilken | February, 2004

Everybody knows you don't have an espresso before getting into bed, but that a cuppa would really help you through a work out. Most people also know that some foods make you 'hyper'. We also know to be near a bad or a couch after the Sunday dinner.

The glycemic index of food is a measurement of how 'high' or 'low' food can make you. Or more accurately, the degree to which food raises the plasma glucose concentration relative to glucose, which has been assigned the arbitrary value of 100. The glycemic index measures how quickly a particular food causes your blood sugar to rise or fall.

A high glycemic rating
This means that the body turns the food into sugar very quickly. Boosting blood sugar enables your muscles too more quickly covert glucose into glycogen.

Glucose (blood sugar) levels are measured from 0 - 10, so the ideal is to keep your blood sugar level between 5 and 6 throughout the day.

When you starve yourself your blood sugar will drop below 5 and you will start running on adrenaline. If you suddenly have food of the higher value your blood sugar will rise causing your insulin to spike.

Sweets and candy (highly refined 'white' sugar) for example has a very high glycemic index causing insulin to quickly peak and then fall. The result is a sugar rush ('high'), but an accompanying fast fall ('low'), often called 'crashing'.

The blood sugar level, or glycaemic index, affects your energy and hence also your mood.

What to eat before a workout
Just before a workout (20 minutes before workout), especially after a day's work, you need to boost your energy. It is a good idea to eat carbs-rich foods (high index foods). Make sure you do the same within 20 minutes after the workout.

Immediately after a workout your blood sugar will plummet, so getting your body into recovery mode you need to kick-start it with a high indexed foods.

The glycemic index
 High  Medium  Low
 Bread (white,  brown)  Instant  noodles  Rye and 'heavy'  breads
 Bread rolls  Basmati rice  Oat bran
 Rice: brown &  white  Sweet corn  Sweet Potatoes
 Potatoes  Couscous  Pastas
 Pumpkins  Malta Bella  porridge  Wheat rice /  samp
 Carrots  Instant oatmeal  Peaches, pears,
 Rice Crispies  Meusli  Plums, apricots,  oranges
 Wheatbix  Taco Shells  Brussels sprouts
 Cornflakes  Popcorn  Salad Vegetables
 Crumpets  Beet root  Dry beans
 Bagels  Tropical fruits  Lentils
 Sports Drinks  Raisins/Sultanas  Milk Products

Timing is everything
Just as you need to eat carbs a few hours before a work out so that it is available as energy (glycogen), you need to make sure that your stomach is never really empty. So try and eat at least every 2.5 to 3 hours. This will mean that your metabolism is active all the time and you don't get those highs and lows.

 Example of meal schedule*
   Morning workouts  Evening workouts
 5:00  Pre workout snack  -
 6:00  Workout  -
 7:00  Post workout snack
 or breakfast
 8:00  -  -
 9:30  Snack  Snack
 10:00  -  -
 11:00  -  -
 12:00  Lunch  Lunch
 13:00  -  -
 14:00  -  -
 15:00  Snack  Snack
 16:00  -  -
 17:00  -  -
 18:00  Dinner  Dinner
 19:45  -  Pre workout snack
 20:30  -  Hour workout
 21:00  Snack  Post workout snack
 Make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water (8 glasses) during the day * This schedule is to maintain energy levels at a constant regardless
 whether you want gain or lose bulk

Tips to help the lean look

  • Brush your teeth when you are hungry (Toothpaste may curb the sugar cravings).
  • Chew gum (sugar free if you can)
  • Order extra of veggies
  • When dining out, order first so you don't get tempted by unhealthy choices
  • Sip green tea before you exercise (The caffeine in green tea frees fatty acids
  • Ask for a baked potato instead of French fries
  • Don't use coffee creamer
  • Spice up your food
  • Have a cup of veggie soup before a major meal

    Don't mix sweets with fats
    Sweets and fats are a deadly combination. Each by itself heightens appetite, and the two together boost it doubly.

    Eating sweets can lead to a big increase in the amount of sugar in the blood, which causes the insulin levels to soar. It stimulates the metabolism of sugars, and in some people, the result is a lower blood sugar level than they started with and a bigger appetite.

    Related story
    Carbohydrates are essential for performance




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