Understanding the glycemic index for sustained energy

Whether you’re doing yoga, running that 10k on a treadmill, climbing a mountain, or just trying to get through a typical Monday, understanding the glycemic index for sustained energy can help you get through these long winter days.  The glycemic index indicates just how quickly the carbohydrates in our food are absorbed into our blood. The index rates foods by how quickly they make our blood glucose fall or rise, ultimately affecting our energy levels. While it may sound a bit complicated, it’s actually pretty easy to understand once you know what types of carbs on the high side and which ones are low.

Foods are scored from 0-100
The average range is about 50-100 with higher glycemic foods (think donuts and cookies and other foods high in simple sugars) causing a spike in blood glucose. Understanding which foods are high and which are low, can help understand fluctuations in your energy levels at any given part of the day or during your workouts. Foods that measure high on the glycemic index cause a greater Insulin release, which means higher glucose levels in the blood.

A large proportion of glucose is stored in muscles, fat cells, and the liver, so when high amounts of insulin are in the blood, the blood glucose can dramatically fall. This leaves you feeling hungry, tired,  and some people may even feel sick from the rapid absorption of glucose.

The Glycemic Score and it’s relation to energy
Just as foods with a high glycemic score cause blood sugar to spike, those foods with a lower glycemic score offer a slow or steady state insulin response. Low glycemic foods cause insulin to be released slowly allocating glucose to cells at a slower more even rate. This helps to stabilize blood glucose levels and causes them to slowly decline, enabling stable appetite and sustained energy.

Just because a food has a higher glycemic score, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the glucose is stored as fat. It means the blood glucose will be cleared quicker, and the energy level will drop faster.  For that reason, when you are trying to have the healthiest diet for sustained energy, you want to consider food that will keep you satisfied longer and ones that won’t cause blood glucose fluctuations.

As a runner, athlete, or just someone who wants to have sustained energy throughout the day, using the glycemic index as a supplementary tool to help you choose foods according to their energy efficiency can help you feel good throughout the good. Overall, your goal should be to choose foods that promote optimal steady falls and rises in blood glucose. Common sense plays a big role, too. You know that a donut at 10am, might not be the best idea to hold you over until your 1pm lunch meeting, or a cookie at 3pm won’t sustain you during your evening workout, so opt for a guilt-free and deliciously satisfying SoLo bar every time.

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