Now that we have learned the basics of carbs and how our body can use them we can move forward to see how athletes can use the knowledge of carbs and their glycemic effect to gain the best performance. You may be asking what is glycemic index, and it’s how fast or how high the carbohydrate filled food we eat will be used to raise glucose in the blood. So, in other terms, how fast will we feel the food through energy. We all have felt the effects of eating a high sugary food - like donut - and then we crash, compared to oatmeal, which can sustain energy for a longer amount of time because it contains long chain starches and fiber. Now the donut creates a fast and high glycemic reaction, but will not stay at that level and that's when we have a drop. While the oatmeal is absorbed slower through more process due to the long chain fibers and starches. For athletes this is important because to fuel the body for a long term activity like a soccer match or a big mileage run requires a lower glycemic index food that will sustain the energy and not create the fall in energy. You would think the food with higher glycemic index would be better, but the index is made through the amount of simple sugars (monosaccharides), which learn about in the previous post; simple sugars are digested fast. We see a slow release of glucose from the low glycemic index foods and a fast release of glucose in the high glycemic foods.
Food with HIGH glycemic index:
- sports drinks
- white bread
- watermelon (fruits with high water and sugar content)
- plain yogurt
- whole grains
Now it may sound like that low glycemic foods would be the better option, but a quick absorption of the high glycemic index foods are also needed during activity or competition. Sports drinks and fruit especially are important during half time break, they give a quick burst of energy when the athletes need it the most and to keep going. A balance of everything is important, and timing with our foods especially for athletes is important to find. I know for myself that before long run, the day before I hunker down with the sustaining carbs and so the morning of I can simple drink some gatorade and graham crackers. Yes, I know it seems like a weird combination, but it's something and doesn’t upset my stomach. The morning fast glycemic food give me a “wake-up” energy but the food from the day before give the bulk of my energy I need for the whole time. Athletes need to find their niche and understand the a low and high glycemic index, when it comes to their performance level.
Wein, D. (n.d.). Glycemic Index For Athletes. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal,6(3), 14-15. Retrieved September 17, 2015, from http://athletics.macalester.edu/custompages/Deno_Videos/nutrition/glycemic_index.pdf
Clark, N. (2014). Carbohydrate: Simplifying a Complex Topic. In Nancy Clarks' Sports Nutrition Guidebook (5th ed., pp. 111 - 135). Newton, MA: Sports Nutrition Services.