The Glycemic Index (or GI for short) is a measure of how quickly your blood sugar rises after ingesting a carbohydrate. Basically, once you consume a carbohydrate and it gets digested it gets turned to glucose (blood sugar). Blood sugar is used by the body to manufacture ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate), which is the molecule that the body uses to power up all of its functions. You can think of ATP as your body’s fuel, as without ATP, your organism would not be able to function.
The way that GI works is that each food is assigned a value, typically from 0-100, based on how fast blood sugar increases in the next two hours after consuming a carbohydrate. A value of 100 would represent a food that increases blood sugar very rapidly, such as a straight glucose drink. A value of 59, like the one from brown rice, means that the blood sugar response is way more moderate. Therefore, for the purposes of blood sugar control and fat loss, brown rice is a much better choice than a glucose drink. Now, why is that?
How quickly a carbohydrate is turned into glucose and released in the bloodstream affects the amount of insulin that the pancreas will release to control blood sugar levels. Too quickly of a conversion and your insulin levels skyrocket, a bad situation if you are trying to lose body fat since fat loss cannot occur in the presence of high insulin levels. Such a hormonal environment triggers fat storage. Therefore, it stands to reason that if a carbohydrate is released slowly into the blood stream, then less insulin is released and thus fat loss is maximized.
So is controlling GI the main key to losing body fat? Yes and no. Understanding the effect of foods on your blood sugar is important as several studies have shown that eating low GI carbohydrates throughout the day suppresses the person’s appetite and provides more stable energy levels as blood sugar is better controlled (Note: sudden drops in blood sugar make you feel hungry and lethargic). In addition, eating low GI foods allows for more consumption of food without body fat storage and for a leaner you due to body fat loss.
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