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is low gi eating peformance enhancing?
August 03, 2007

With athletics becoming more and more competitive, many hours of research have gone into determining the best way to foster increased endurance and higher quality performance.

Over the decades, athletes have tried many different approaches to enhancing their abilities, from sports drinks to steroids. But with the theory surrounding the glycemic index and athletic endurance, athletes are now given a new way to enhance their performance.

Since the early 1980ís, researchers have been working to determine the glycemic index, or rate of increase in blood sugar levels, for many foods. This is important information to consider when we consider the two major hormones at play: insulin and glucagon.

Insulin comes into play when we need to lower our blood sugar levels. It latches onto the sugar and either utilizes it or stores it in the form of fat. Conversely, glucagon breaks down fat and turns it into sugar so that it can be used by the body as fuel.

The glycemic index is usually established by considering how quickly blood sugar rises after eating a carbohydrate.

So how does the glycemic index relate to athletes?

At Loughborough University in England, a study gave evidence to support that athletes participating in endurance sports (activities lasting at least two hours) could see some profit in eating a low glycemic meal before their event (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2006).

Most scientists and coaches agree that eating low glycemic meals for a few days before one of these endurance-based events aids in filling your muscles with sugar. This is important because the presence of sugar in your muscles is a key factor in determining how long you can exercise pain-free (e.g. endurance).

Of course, it takes longer than a few minutes to fill your muscles completely with sugar (it takes at least 24 hours), so that is not why the pre-competition low glycemic index carbohydrates are needed.

When an athlete eats a low glycemic meal around two or three hours before a test of endurance, the new study shows that the body allows the muscles to perform longer because it first utilizes stored fat rather than the sugar stored in the muscles.

Because of this, the sugar is not depleted as rapidly which gives the athlete increased time before muscle pain occurs. As of this time, there has been no evidence to show that low glycemic index meals provide any added benefit to athletes not requiring significant endurance.

Although eating low glycemic index is most beneficial to endurance athletes, the studies being conducted are very promising in other arenas as well. With the popularity of sports steadily rising, it is important that we find ways for our athletes to excel while still protecting their health and well-being. By utilizing the low glycemic index as a method of enhancement, athletes can safely and efficiently enhance their endurance to give themselves the edge they need in such a competitive arena.

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Yours in good health,

John & Connie Somerton

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