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Glycemic Index – Useful or Useless?

By June 20, 2023 No Comments

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates based on how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI value (55 or less) are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood glucose levels. High-GI foods are rapidly absorbed and deliver carbohydrates quickly to the muscles. However, the usefulness of the glycemic index is limited due to several factors:

Variability: The GI can vary between individuals, making it less reliable when applied to everyone. Tables provide average values, but individual responses may differ significantly.

Combination of Foods: The GI is based on isolated carbohydrate sources, but in reality, we consume a combination of different foods. It is unpredictable how the GI will be affected when different foods with varying GIs are combined. For example, adding fat to a high-GI carbohydrate can lower its overall GI.

Serving Size: Determining the GI requires standardized amounts of carbohydrates. However, the serving sizes used for certain foods, such as watermelon or carrots, can be impractical or unrealistic for normal consumption. This led to the development of the glycemic load, which takes serving size into account.

Lack of Consistency: GI values in the literature are not consistent. Foods classified as low GI in one source may be classified as high GI in another. Individual differences and variations in testing methods contribute to this inconsistency.

The glycemic index can be used in specific situations, but it should not be the sole determinant of food choices for athletes. Factors such as performance goals, tolerance, taste, and overall health should also be considered. While the GI can be a useful educational tool, it must be interpreted and used with caution, understanding its limitations and pitfalls.


Credit: MySportScience

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