By Laurel-Lea Shannon
For the past thirty years, athletes of all kinds, including recreational athletes, have been encouraged to load up on starchy carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes and bagels to fuel their training. Not any more. Today it’s recognized that not all carbs are equal. Some are good, and some are bad.
What are the bad carbs? Starchy carbs like pasta for one, which quickly convert to sugar. That’s good if you’re doing a race or a four-hour cycling event the next morning and need to top up your muscle’s glycogen stores. Not so good if you’re doing an easy 1½ hour recreational ride. Because any quick energy food that isn’t used through exercise or other physical activity soon converts to fat—usually where you least want it: on your waist or hips. Plus bad carbs tend to cause a spike in your blood sugar. That not only depletes your energy but leads to weight gain.
How Can You Tell Them Apart?
You can distinguish between a good carb and a bad carb by using the glycemic index. This index rates carbs as either high, medium or low GI, depending on how they affect your blood sugar and insulin levels. To eat good carbs, simply replace high GI foods, like white bread, pasta, potatoes and sugar-laden processed foods, with more low to medium GI carbohydrates, found in real food like vegetables, fruits, oatmeal, quinoa, and beans.
Switching to a Low GI Diet
Switching to a low GI diet is easy. Instead of eating processed cereals for breakfast, choose oats, granola, or some other natural whole grain cereal. Make sure you include protein at breakfast too. Throughout the day, reduce the amount of “white” products you eat, such as bread, bagels, and potatoes. At lunch and dinner, eat lots of vegetables. They’re low GI and they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. Your dinner plate should be 55% vegetables.
Why Do It?
Eating low GI carbohydrates keeps your blood sugar levels balanced, gives you more energy, and helps you feel fuller for longer. If you have a few pounds to shed, it will help you do that. But there are even more important health benefits to eating a low GI diet: you can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, plus lower your cholesterol levels.
And it’s so easy to do. Stay lean and healthy by turning away from bad carbs and loading up on good carbs.
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