Thursday, August 14, 2014

How the Glycemic Index Helps Runners

Have you struggled with energy levels during a run? Have you ever felt lightheaded or nauseous during running? Do you want to maximize your recovery after a run? To help boost your energy and improve recovery, lets look at the glycemic index.

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Carbohydrates play an important role in the diet. They serve as a key source of energy and provide the glucose that is necessary to replace the glycogen lost during training and competition.
The carbs eaten after exercise restore muscle and liver glycogen, increasing the athlete’s capacity for intense training and competition.

Each food has a glycemic effect, how high and how fast the blood glucose level rises, and how
quickly the body returns the blood glucose a normal level. Foods with  low glycemic levels release glucose slow and steady meaning no spikes or crashes. Its good to eat foods with low glycemic levels two hours prior to running. Fruit such as peaches, strawberries. or mangos, old-fashioned oatmeal, and low-fat yogurt are great to eat, but if you are like me and find yourself fueling up just minutes before a run or race, grab a higher GI energy bar or sports drink so that the carbs will get into your system faster. Bananas and raisins have a medium glycemic level and are also great to eat before hitting the road.

Fueling during a long run or race requires high glycemic foods. I ususally fuel on runs that are 9 miles or longer. During a half marathon, I typically fuel at mile 5 and 10. Listen to your body since some people need to fuel earlier or can wait longer. It is important to figure this out during your training to avoid boinking during a run.The quickly digested carbohydrates in sports drinks, gels, and energy bars (most bars have moderate to high GIs) provide an immediate source of sugar replacing the glucose in your muscles and helping you feel more alert.

After exercise, consume foods and or fluids with a high GI in order to encourage rapid glycogen repletion. Chocolate milk serves as a great recovery drink with the right carb to protein ratio.
The following is some foods and their GI, example courtesy of Runner's World.

Low GI (less than 55)Moderate (55 to 70)High GI (more than 70)
Low-fat yogurt 31Sweet potato 55Bran-flakes cereal 71
Pear 36Brown rice 55Bagel 72
Apple 36Popcorn 55Baked potato 78
Tomato juice 38Honey 55Power Bar 83
Lentil soup 44Spaghetti 60Sports drink (Gatorade) 89
Baked beans 48Corn 60Instant rice 91
Old-fashioned oatmeal 49Granola bar 61Rice cakes 91
Banana 51White and wheat bread 70Cornflakes cereal 92

You can check the glycemic index of your favorite foods and snacks through the Glycemic Index Foundation.

Have you ever had your blood sugar crash or bottom out during a race? Do you constantly feel tired? Have you heard of the GI before?


  1. Thank you Michelle for spelling this out for me. I have heard about GI and knew I should eat food low in GI, but never knew when to eat the high ones. Great info!

    1. Thanks Michele, your welcome! Its all about the timing. Sometimes I get in a hurry and don't fuel properly before a training run. I pay for it!

  2. This is really fantastic information, lady! Thanks!

    I love how many distinctions of professions and advice one must include in a disclaimer. Things are so specific these days.

    1. Thanks Tiffany! Yep, you have to love the disclaimers :)

  3. Great information!! Thanks so much for sharing :)