Carbs! Scary word it seems these days. Believe it or not carbs are very important to many bodily functions such as cognitive (brain) function, energy, and muscle building. Carbs also play a huge role in blood sugar levels and how the body maintains those levels. When we look at carbs and their influence on blood sugar levels, we rank them on a scale from 0-100. This scale is referred to as the glycemic index, or “GI”. There are low GI carbs (69 or lower) and high GI carbs (70 or higher). Some will even say there is a medium GI which falls between 56 and 69, but this article will focus on low and high GI carbs.
High GI carbs will spike blood sugar levels much quicker than of course low GI carbs. Low GI carbs have shown to regulate blood sugar levels which helps out with energy conservation and even appetite control. Some examples of low GI carbs would be soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, and lentils. Examples of high GI carbs would be potatoes, white bread, and short grain rice.
Now, as noted above low GI carbs seem to get all the glory when it comes to being recognized as “healthier” carbs. When it comes to fitness, both have their place. Eating a low GI carb an hour or so before working out will help out with maintaining energy levels more sufficiently than a higher GI carb. This is because if a high GI carb is consumed, the blood sugar levels could spike which in return causes them to drop more drastically. This is called a “carb crash”. But when looking at post workout nutrition, high GI carbs serve an important role.
When lifting weights, sugar levels in the muscles are depleted. This has adverse effects on protein synthesis and keeps the body in a catabolic or “breakdown” phase. When a higher GI, or faster acting carb is consumed post workout, sugar levels in the muscles are replenished quicker which helps bring the body into an anabolic or “building” phase. In this phase the body is ready to consume nutrients more readily such as protein which is of course vital to muscle maintenance and growth.
So, which does one choose. Having low and high GI carbs in your meals actually helps with the balance of both. Having a bowl of frosted flakes (high GI carb) with a bowl of milk (low GI carb) helps with the balance of blood sugar levels in the body.
When it comes to low GI carbs or high GI carbs, it truly is about timing and when they are consumed. They both have a purpose and a roll and actually compliment each other when consumed properly.