Whether you are training for fat loss, strength or hypertrophy, we can all agree that a sound nutritional program is king for achieving optimal health and improving performance in the gym. In terms of body composition, what you eat, how much and how you combine foods has huge chemical reactions and hormonal implications. This is especially critical in terms of carbohydrate consumption.


I anticipate by now that as a result of the recent rise in popularity of low carbohydrate diets, you are most likely already familiar with the terms ‘glycemic index’ or ‘GI.’ A glycemic index, is a score given to a food that helps us gauge said foods effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin is the fat storing hormone that regulates our blood sugar by removing glucose from the bloodstream by replenishing our energy cells primarily, then sending remaining glucose to the liver to be stored as fat.

Glycemic Load (GL) measures both the GI value and quantity of a carbohydrate in a meal. This is calculated by multiplying a foods glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate in a serve then dividing it by 100.

To prevent unwanted fat gain, pay more attention to the glycemic load of the foods that you are including in your meals, as well as your meal timing. For stabilised slow release energy, you want foods with a low GI AND low GL. However, post workout, you are particularly insulin sensitive as your muscles have been depleted of glycogen and are literally starving for carbohydrates to replenesh their energy stores. Therefore carbs eaten at this time are less likely to spill over as fat storage since they will be utilised as fuel. So as a general rule, always remember that in order to prioritise the uptake of carbohydrates in the body to be used to replenish energy stores and promote muscle protein synthesis, ONLY eat foods with a high glycemic lindex/load post workout. 

Have a look over the values below to see examples of high and low Gi foods and their corresponding Gi load. Use the GI Index code to help decipher suitable low GI meal options:

Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56 - 69
High GI = 70 or more


Food                                                      Glycemic index              Serving size (grams)          Glycemic load


Oatmeal, average                                              55                                            250                                       13
Instant oatmeal, average                                  83                                            250                            30
Quinoa                                                               53                                             150                            13
White rice, average                                           89                                             150                            43
Brown rice, average                                          50                                             150                            16
Rice cakes, average                                          82                                              25                             17


Apple, average                                      39    120    6
Banana, ripe                                          62    120    16
Dates, dried                                          42    60    18
Grapefruit                                             25    120    3
Grapes, average                                    59    120    11
Orange, average                                    40    120    4
Peach, average                                      42    120    5
Pear, average                                        38    120    4
Prunes, pitted                                       29    60    10
Raisins                                                   64    60    28
Watermelon                                           72    120    4


Green peas, average                              51    80    4
Carrots, average                                      35    80    2
Parsnips                                                  52    80    4
Boiled white potato, average               82    150    21
Sweet potato, average                         70    150    22


Although elevated insulin levels will increase fat storage, glycemic load helps to paint a more accurate picture of exactly how food affects your blood sugar. What this means, is that just because a food has a high glycemic index, it doesn't mean you should need rule it out of your diet..

Compare the difference between the following two foods:

MARS BAR: Glycemic Index: 65     Glycemic Load: 24

Now, compare the Mars Bar to the following:

CARROT: Glycemic Index: 71   Glycemic Load: 7.2

In conclusion, you can see above that although a Mars bar has a lower glycemic index, it's glycemic load is much high therefore it will result in a dramatically higher insulin response then the carrot. This is why it is more important that you take in to account the glycemic load of the foods that you are eating, as opposed to the glycemic index in order to more effectively control your blood sugar levels and stay lean with less effort.


  • International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Kaye Foster-Powell, Susanna HA Holt, & Janette C Brand-Miller. Retrieved from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/76/1/5.full.pdf

DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY MEDICAL ADVICE. Information contained within this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare practitioner or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information within this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement or adopting any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


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