The Glycemic Index and Other Alternatives

Graph showing the differences in glucose spikes between high GI and low GI Foods
First off, I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Hope Mr. Claus treated you well this year and I hope you had a good sleep after your turkey hangover. I want to talk about the Glycemic Index (GI), Glycemic Load (GL), and Insulin Index (II). These three indices are used to calculate the rise in blood sugar or rise in insulin after eating different kinds of food.

The GI compares the blood sugar spike in a food compared to the spike in blood sugar of 50 grams of glucose. Since glucose is the form of sugar our body uses after carbohydrates are broken down, it digests incredibly fast. The GI of, say, dried oats is 103. Meaning it digests slightly quicker than glucose and causes a rapid rise in blood glucose. The GI of apples is 30, meaning it will digest slower and cause a more gradual spike in blood glucose.

There are many issues with the GI. First, if you take the GI of carrots it comes out to 47 (according to the site given). Now, remember that we must compare the amount of carbohydrates of carrots compared to 50 grams of glucose. In order to eat 50 grams of carbohydrates contained in carrots you would need to eat about 5 servings or 5 cups of carrots! That’s a completely bogus amount of carrots for anyone to eat in one sitting. So there is one downfall of GI.

Second, according to this link the GI of carrot juice is 90! How can the GI of a food have a differential of 43? This number was apparently found in one study and was never replicated again. Pretty accurate eh?

Third, the GI of food is measured when ONLY that food ALONE is consumed. For instance, you don’t sit down to eat a meal and only eat a potato with nothing else. You probably have some meat, maybe some butter on there, sour cream, chives and bacon bits. I’ll stop myself there because I’m getting hungry just thinking about that. When you mix the potato with foods with lower GI’s, the GI of that food will also change. In the case above, the GI of the potatoes will decrease. The new GI is unknown though, and even if it were found, would most likely have a high variance.

According to Berardi (2010) the GI of a food has a few influences, such as: food preparation; the age of the food, the meals fat, protein, and/or other fiber content; the time of the day the meal is s consumed; and the time of the last exercise session. So as you can see the GI has a few big flaws.

Next up is the GL. Since the GI index is measured in 50 gram of carbohydrate increments, it isn’t very real world applicable. Most people don’t eat exactly 50 grams of carbs from their meals. So the GL was invented. The glycemic load equals the GI of a food multiplied by the serving size of a food, divided by 100. Or:
GL = (GI X Mass of food in grams)/100. The GL not only accounts for the type of carbohydrate but also the amount. So if you used the GI of carrots (47) then multiplied it by it’s standard serving size, (120 g of carrots is ~12 g of carrots) then divide that by 100, you get a GL of 9.6.

The GL has another issue. It does a good job of showing the rises in blood glucose levels. It does not predict increases of blood insulin levels though.

Thus the Insulin Index (II) was invented. The II measures the amount of insulin the body produces in response to set amount of carbohydrate load for a particular food.

The II has some interesting relationships with GI. There are some foods that have a high GI and low II and vice versa. There are also high-protein and high-fat foods that can produce large insulin responses. For instance Milk causes large insulin spikes. Interestingly, whey protein causes large insulin spikes. The amino acid Leucine especially causes large spikes in insulin. This is one of the properties of Leucine that has the supplement industry pushing it. It is one of the few supplements that I endorse. Increases in blood insulin, can increase protein synthesis, if the proper amounts of protein are available for use.

The main problem with the II is that testing for a food will produce different numbers in different individuals. A perfectly healthy person will produce a lower insulin response compared to an individual who is insulin resistant. Many diabetics and pre-diabetics are insulin resistant so they will have inflated responses.

Then there is the whole debate about having high levels of insulin. As well as how it can be unhealthy. However, most people agree that a high protein diet is healthy, yet protein causes insulin spikes. So if we wanted to constantly have low levels of insulin we would have to eat low-carbs, low-protein and high-fat. You would starve on a diet such as this. Another little known fact about insulin is that is actually decreases appetite, so having chronically low levels of insulin would not be very comfortable. This is part of the reason that protein is so satiating.

I hope this gives you a decent understanding of the GI, GL and II. I’m not trying to trash any of these indices, I’m just giving the pros and cons. You really can’t go wrong with eating the typical healthy foods: fruits, veggies, lean meats, eggs, whole-wheat, oatmeal. All these foods will have a low GI, they are all-high in nutrient density and reasonably low in calorie density. The indices above are used to further refine our understanding of food.

The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Berardi J., Andrews R. Precision Nutrition, Inc. 2010

Insulin… An Undeserved Bad Reputation. Krieger, J. Weightology Weekly (Retrieved December 2010)

5 Cool Things

1. Training the transverse abdominus (TVA) isn’t as important as learning how to brace your abdominals. The TVA’s main functions are abdominal hollowing and forced expiration. Abdominal hollowing should not be used while exercising. When you hollow your abdomen you are only activating your TVA. When you brace your core you are contracting not only your TVA, but your internal and external obliques as well. Contraction of your external obliques will increase spinal stability, which is very important while lifting weights. It’s also important to brace your core while doing core stability work.

2. The old ‘breakfast is a must’ myth. To be honest, I believed this one until recently too. The studies out there are pretty interesting. This study showed that children who eat breakfast generally have better body composition. Yet the reason for this is because they have a more balanced caloric intake. Results of some studies are taken way out of context and are used to back claims that really have no business being backed. I would say that people who eat breakfast probably aren’t going around snacking on chocolate bars and coke all day, so their diets are probably going to be healthier over all, which in turn leads to better body composition. This still does not mean that eating breakfast will lead to lower bodyfat levels. All the studies that I’ve seen show a correlation between obesity and breakfast. A correlation isn’t causation.

It’s not really possible to pin obesity on one thing, such as breakfast. In intermittent fasting, you may not feed until you are awake for maybe 4 hours. It doesn’t mean that when you eat, you go off the deep end and eat everything in site. If you don’t like eating when you wake up, that’s fine, but make sure you have an actual meal when you start your feeding instead of the Timmy Hoe’s that your boss brought in.

3. Ever heard the bullshit claim that you can only digest 30 grams of protein per serving? This claim is just plain dumb. It’s stemmed from this study I never believed this information because I’d been consuming 50+ grams of protein per meal for quite a while and it simply worked for me. I think people came to the conclusion that you can only digest 30 grams of protein per serving because that was the serving size they used in the study. Yet subjects were in a fasted state when whey and casein were digested. This means that the digestion rate would be increased compared to if they consumed the protein in a fed state. Add some actual food to the equation and it will digest much slower.

If you have 50 grams of protein, where the hell is the other 20 grams going to go? Is the Protein Fairy going to visit you and steal them? No, it’ll digest slowly. Here is a study they did on 11 dudes. They all ate pizza, containing 600 kcal, 75 grams from carbohydrates, and 37 grams from protein and 17 grams from fat. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) were ALL being digested 5 hours after the meal was complete. Seems like a hell of a long time, considering pizza is generally thought of as a quick digesting food. If you ate something like salmon, roasted potatoes, and veggies, don’t you think it would take even longer for your food to digest?

4. Stabilizing your lumbar spine is important! I rarely ever do any core work, but I’m going to start. A gentleman I met my seminar two weeks ago, helped me set up for a bridge. I wasn’t as good as I thought… To say the LEAST. It turns out he’s a chiropractor. He then assessed my core torsion. I failed that too. It looks like it’s bird-dogs for me for a while.

From what I have seen in the gym, people rarely do bird dogs. When they perform them they don’t do them properly. Here is a good clip on bird dogs.
There are easier progressions, but I like how the demonstrator places on object on the trainees back. This really ensures that the prime movers for the exercise are the glutei maximi and not the lumbar erectors.

5. Here is something I want to share with you about holiday eating. The holidays are a time to enjoy yourself. Part of enjoying yourself is enjoying the excellent options of holiday food out there. I don’t know about you, but come Christmas, I will be destroying turkey, cranberries, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies and a crap load of dessert. How can you deal with eating feasts while trying to lose fat?

It’s so simple, yet I doubt many people do this. Say you eat breakfast and lunch before your dinner feast. You simply make your breakfast and lunch have a crap load of protein to make you satiated. Meat would be the best choice in these meals. Carbohydrates and fats should be kept minimal. So a salad with a steak or chicken would be a good choice. This will keep your appetite low until dinner. Then when dinner comes, feel free to kill it. If I do this, I will consume somewhere around 200-240g’s of protein and maybe a little fat from the meat. This comes out to somewhere around 1000 kcals. Dinner will probably set me back another 2000 calories or so. My total daily intake then is 3000. 3000 calories is low for me. For someone smaller than I, they could easily take in half as much protein as I am and that would drop their total kcals down to around 2500.

So if you are trying to shed fat, don’t fear the season to be jolly!

My Training For the Week

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. My body weight it down 14 pounds from my original weight. I’m still dropping weight too fast. I plan on letting it keep going down until I plateau. At that point I’ll see if I’m happy with my lean-ness and re-assess. If I do decide to drop more, I’ll reduce calories by a smaller amount than I did initially.

I’ve been reading a lot of studies lately talking about exercise and weight loss. It’s been quite eye-opening. It appears that exercising with NO dietary intervention produces incredibly mediocre results. According to John Berardi fat loss without an exercise only prescription yields an average fat loss of 3-6lbs in 6 months! That’s atrocious. During my fat loss, I have not changed my exercise regimen at all, I walk an hour a day. I haven’t been doing any interval type training or circuit training. This goes to show how powerful your metabolism is as well as how important nutrition is!

My training for the week:
Day One – incline bench, trx-inverted rows, dips.
Day Two – rack deadlifts, weighted chins, floor bench, hammer curls, back extension
Day Three – squats, american thrusts, bridges, drag curls

I do mobility stuff before hand and static stretching afterwards. I won’t bore you with that though. I got a few mobility issues that I found out at Mike Robertson’s seminar. My hip internal rotation sucks, I move far too much at the lumbar spine (need more core stability), my deadlifts need more glutes and hamstrings and less lumbar spine. Mike says I will be able to put up stupid amounts of weight if I recruit more glutes and hamstrings. I’m happy to start working on my issues and making my body more bulletproof and stronger.

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend

Let’s Talk Glutes

Some of you may feel this article is only for the ladies. I’m here to tell you it most certainly is NOT! Ask any female how she feels about a guy with flat-ass syndrome. I’d bet money she’d probably laugh at a man whose ass bares a remarkable resemblance to a ruler, especially if he has any upper body development. This blog will benefit both men and women.

Let’s start by discussing the role of glutes in various sports. Since the glutes are a powerful hip extensor, they are vital for pretty much any sport which requires movement of the lower body. For example in sprinting, glutes become incredibly important as they are used to push the body off the ground and forward.

In other running sports such as: football, basketball, rugby, soccer, and tennis the glutei maximi are important for injury prevention. The glutei maximi function as hip extensors, hip abductors, and hip external rotation. During an ACL injury, the femur will adduct and internally rotate. Since the glutes resist this movement, they are important for injury prevention. It’s also important to remember that ACL injuries don’t only occur during playing sports. Accidents happen. According to Rick Kaselj, there are over 200,000 ACL related injuries per year in the US. That’s a fair amount.

I would assume for most ladies that having a rounder, more robust ass, is usually one of the main goals. I’ve seen females doing all sorts of stuff: clam shells, endless lunges, endless squats etc. There are no problems with the above exercises. Except when you do them with bodyweight only, for months on end, and expect new results. Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So if you want to make your ass more muscular and defined you will need to add muscle to your glutei maximi. In order to add muscle you need to have progressive overload in your programming. If your program consists of 3 sets of 20 reps of squats and leg curls, you need to find a better program or a better coach/trainer. You need to add resistance in your program so that your body will adapt to the new stresses placed upon it. I have posted video’s and links to other videos of ladies lifting pretty heavy weight and not looking disgusting.

I have discussed hip thrusts before. Bret Contreras was talking about a new glute exercise he has named the American Thrust. If that made you laugh, you are not alone. Check out the video at the end of this post. I will give this variation a shot at some point this week. If it’s anything like the hip thrust it’s going to be an absolutely awesome glute exercise.

I just spent my weekend at Mike Robertson’s Bulletproofing Your Client’s Low Back and Knee seminar. He really hammered home the point about how important glutes are. Most people don’t use their glutes and hamstrings in exercises where they ought to be used. Exercises such as pull-throughs, plate squats and goblet squats are great beginner exercises for the glutes. I unfortunately can’t find any decent clips of either plate squats or goblet squats.

Mike also spoke about energy leaks. This is when you have muscles that aren’t firing while you perform a lift, you are leaving strength and muscle gain on the table. For instance in the deadlift, if you aren’t recruiting your glutes and hams, you will place a lot of the stress on the spinal erectors. So if your deadlift was 500lbs, you might be able to add 50+ pounds to your deads if you brought your glutes and hamstrings into the equation. Big strong glutes will also help you build strength and bring your pelvis into proper alignment.

For people who want a strong core, the glutes are also important. Although the glutes aren’t technically a part of the core, they still play a huge part in developing core strength. Contracting your glutes during exercises like bridges will help keep your pelvis more in a neutral position, and place more stress on your external obliques rather than lumbar spine.

If you are wondering how to contract your glutes I have a quick tip. Pretend you are trying to clench a pencil in between your butt cheeks. That’s contracting your glutes…