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Glycemic Load, Glycemic Index, and Insulin Index Explained

Glycemic Load, Glycemic Index, and Insulin Index Explained

Glycemic load and glycemic index are variables that measure the actual impact of foods that contain carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. The insulin index of a food demonstrates how much it elevates the concentration of insulin in the blood.

These terms are often used by people who are suffering from diabetes to control their blood sugar levels.

Many diabetic patients actually monitor and control their blood sugar levels by avoiding high-carb foods altogether and choosing to adopt a low carb diet.

In a related study that compared this type of diet to a diet with an average carb intake, over 90% of the individuals in the low-carbohydrate group reduced or totally eliminated their need for diabetes medications.

The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is simply a measurement of how quickly a carbohydrate food raises blood sugar compared to the same amount of glucose.

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The amount measured is the area under the “two hour curve” when blood glucose is measured for two hours after a meal. The bigger the area, the faster that particular carbohydrate raises blood sugar.

If a food has a high glycemic index (GI), it means that the food is digested and turned into blood sugar quickly. If it has a low GI, it happens slowly.

The way the scale works is that 50 grams of glucose is assigned a GI score of 100. Then other foods are measured and compared to glucose. For example, a food that raises blood sugar 40% as much as glucose is assigned a score of 40.

Many things can affect the glycemic index of a food. For example, it will be lower if consumed with fat or fiber. It will also depend on the individual and the ripeness and cooking method of the food.

Foods with a lower glycemic index (fruit, whole grains) tend to be healthier than foods with a higher glycemic index (candy, white bread), and eating foods with a low GI is correlated with improved health. This has a lot of exceptions, however.

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The Glycemic Index Scale:

  • Low: 55 or less
  • Medium: 56-69
  • High: 70 or higher

Check out this database if you want to find the glycemic index or glycemic load of particular foods.

The Glycemic Load

Another system known as the Glycemic Load (GL) is much better for predicting blood glucose levels after meals because it also incorporates serving sizes.

It is simple to figure out the Glycemic Load if you already know the GI of a food and its carbohydrate content. You simply multiply the Glycemic Index with the amount of carbohydrates in grams and divide by 100.

Glycemic Load (GL) = Glycemic Index (GI) * Carbs in grams / 100

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For example, apples with a GI of 40 and a carb count of 16 grams: GL = (40 * 16) / 100 = 6.4

Therefore foods with a high GI and/or high carb content have a higher glycemic load, while foods with a low GI and/or low carb content have a lower glycemic load.

The Glycemic Load Scale:

  • Low: 10 or less
  • Medium: 11-19
  • High: 20 or higher

The Insulin Index

The Insulin Index measures blood levels of insulin after meals.

These levels are usually correlated with glucose levels, with some exceptions. Some protein-containing foods such as beef can cause a higher insulin response than certain carbohydrate-containing foods.

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The Insulin Index measures the insulin response to various foods, relative to the insulin response to white bread, which is assigned a score of 100.

A food that raises insulin more than white bread has a score over 100, while a food that raises insulin less than white bread has a score of less than a hundred.

Some examples: porridge with an insulin index of 40 is much less than white bread, potatoes with 121 are higher than white bread, and beef with a score of 51 is less than white bread but higher than porridge.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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Jae Berman

Health Writer

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

How to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time (And the Real Causes Explained)

How to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time (And the Real Causes Explained)

It seems that more and more of us are facing tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis. In fact, a lot of people assume that being tired all the time is just part of being a busy person living and working in the 21st century.

Sometimes, the cause is clear – perhaps you’ve been putting in too many hours at the office, or maybe you have just moved to a new home. However, the reason isn’t always so obvious. If you often catch yourself thinking, “Why am I so tired all the time?” this is the article for you.

I’m going to outline some of the most common causes of tiredness, and tell you how to boost your energy levels.

Why are you so tired all the time?

There’re different reasons why you maybe feeling tired all the time, it could be related to your daily habits or even some health issues.

Lack of sleep

We all know that a lack of sleep causes tiredness, but did you know that many people don’t even realize that they aren’t getting enough rest every night?

The average adult aged between 18 and 60 needs at least 7 hours of sleep every night if they want to enjoy optimal health.[1] Unfortunately, 1 in 3 of us aren’t meeting this target.

A lack of sleep doesn’t just result in fatigue – it also places you at elevated risk of a range of diseases, including diabetes.[2]

Unhealthy diet

Your diet has a huge impact on the way you feel. A poor diet lacking in nutrients will leave you drained and fatigued, as will too many processed foods and added sugar.

Your body requires a variety of vitamins and minerals in order to synthesise the neurotransmitters that regulate sleep, so be sure to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit.[3]

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Eating candy and other junk food can give you a brief energy hit, but you will soon become tired again when your blood sugar levels crash.[4] It’s best to eat healthy meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day as this promotes steady energy levels.

Alcohol and caffeine are best avoided or enjoyed in small quantities because both disrupt your natural sleep patterns.[5] Do not drink them in the evening shortly before going to bed.

Finally, if you don’t drink enough water, you may become dehydrated. This quickly results in fatigue and a diminished attention span.

Sitting too much and not moving

You might think that sitting down would conserve energy but you’d be wrong. Movement is a great way to beat fatigue.

You don’t have to work out for hours either. Research has shown that just a single 20-minute bout of moderate exercise has an energy-boosting effect.[6] People who spend more time sitting around during the day tend to report getting less sleep at night.[7]

Regular exercise promotes high-quality sleep because it increases the time we spend in the “deep sleep” part of the sleep cycle, which is known for its restorative properties. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Ideally, you should exercise every day. Avoid exercising in the late evening as this can stimulate your body and make it harder to drift off when you go to bed.

Stressful life

We all come up against stressful situations from time to time. You might be under a lot of pressure at work, be facing relationship issues, or be worrying about your finances.

Stress can wreck havoc with your sleep patterns and not only because your worries can keep you up at night.More than 40% of adults reporting that they only experience “fair” or poor sleep during periods of stress.[8]

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Our bodies produce adrenalin, cortisol, and other “fight or flight” chemicals when under stress.[9] This process is an excellent way of preparing the body for an emergency but it makes getting a good night’s sleep difficult.

Medical conditions

What if you have tried to make positive daily life changes yet still feel exhausted? You may have an undiagnosed medical condition.

The following illnesses can cause ongoing fatigue. Make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect you might have an underlying health problem:

  • Anemia: Anemic patients have a low red blood cell count which impairs the normal circulation of oxygen throughout the body, resulting in tiredness, weakness, and other symptoms including chest pain.[10]
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): CFS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, is characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts at least 4 months. Sufferers often report other symptoms such as joint pain, aching muscles, and gastrointestinal difficulties.[11]
  • Depression: A lack of energy and decrease in general motivation are among the most common symptoms of depression, along with difficulty concentrating and a pervasive feeling of emptiness or sadness.[12]
  • Diabetes: A person with diabetes will frequently feel tired during the day because their body is unable to utilize glucose, one of the body’s primary sources of energy. Aside from tiredness, the symptoms include excessive thirst, blurred vision, and weight loss.
  • Sleep apnea: This condition causes the airway to narrow during sleep, which interrupts a person’s breathing and oxygen supply. The classic sign of sleep apnea is disrupted sleep that causes tiredness the next day. Snoring is a common indicator of this condition.
  • Thyroid disease: Low levels of thyroid hormone (“hypothyroidism”) result in fatigue, weakness, weight gain, a low body temperature and constipation. This is because the thyroid hormone is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. An imbalance triggers a cascade of physical and psychological symptoms.

How to stop feeling constantly tired and feel energetic

Here are 7 proven ways to tackle the cause of your tiredness and help you sleep better and wake up more energectic every day.

1. Unwind & de-stress

Everyone deals with stress in their lives but it’s how you react to it that matters. If you find that you’re getting stressed consistently, it’s time to make the effort to do something about it.

There are many ways you can do this but if stress is consistent, your de-stressing habits must be consistent too.

  • Change your perspective. Sometimes stress is all about your mindset. Try to view a stressful situation in a different way by finding an alternative positive slant. If your commute to work is full of cancellations or roadworks, decide to see this as a perfect time to read a book or listen to uplifting music. It’s all about shifting your focus to the positive.
  • Buy a plant. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relax response. One Washington State University study found that a group of stressed out people who entered a room full of plants had a four-point drop in their blood pressure. Being around nature in general has a calming and therapeutic effect on our brain. So even just taking a break to sit in a park or by a tree can decrease your stress levels.
  • Go for a short walk. A walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, helping to reduce stress hormones.[13] If you’re at work, walk up and down the stairs a couple of times or walk around the block. Try to get a longer walk in every now and then to really get a boost. You can be mindful of what you see around you, or download an audiobook to help pass the time. Again, shifting your focus away from stressful thoughts.
  • Laugh. Go on, you’ll feel better instantly. Laughter activates your body’s stress response, then quickly cools it down, leaving you feeling relaxed. Take time out to watch a funny video clip, dig out your favourite comedy or ring up that friend who always makes you laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine!

2. Eat healthier

The foods that we eat (and don’t eat) have a huge influence on our health. When it comes to our sleep patterns, food influences our circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that our body follows each day. So it’s important to watch what we put into our body.

You can easily sleep better by making a few changes to your diet:

  • Eat peanuts. If you have difficulty falling asleep, eat more peanuts or natural peanut butter. A rich source of niacin, peanuts help to increase the release of serotonin (which makes us sleepy).
  • Eat cherries. Cherries are one of the few natural foods to contain melatonin (which controls our body clock). One study found that drinking tart cherry juice resulted in improved sleep quality and duration.
  • Try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate helps to relax your body and mind. Make sure you stick to dark chocolate as milk chocolate contains tyrosine which converts into dopamine and acts as a stimulant.
  • Avoid alcohol. Any kind of alcohol is bad for your sleep. One study found that mixing a single glass of vodka with caffeine-free soda at bedtime increased the amount of time women spent awake during the night by 15 minutes.

3. Avoid caffeine

Sure, caffeine can give you a bit of a boost in the short term, but you could drink over eight cups and still feel sluggish.

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And the side effects of caffeine consumption? Headaches, irritability and dehydration. When you’re already feeling drained and crappy, the last thing you want is to feel worse! Here are some surprising ways caffeine is slowly harming your health.

Instead, try drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Your brain will feel alert and energised naturally rather than relying on a stimulant like coffee. Also consume energy-boosting foods, like almonds, oranges, salmon, spinach, or blueberries.

4. Get some sun

Just fifteen minutes in the sun increases your vitamin D levels, which, along with vitamin B is responsible for fighting fatigue. A common symptom of vitamin D deficiency is feeling tired, moody, achey and stressed. Get outside in the sunshine!

5. Work out

Too much time spent sedentary drains your fuel tank.

I know, I know—when you’re feeling tired, the last thing you want to do is be active and move about. But you’ll be amazed at how better exercises makes you feel.

According to a recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women who get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week report less fatigue and more energy that those who don’t.

On the flip side, you can have too much of a good thing. Excessive physical activity can leave you pushing your body, resulting in feelings of tiredness.

Try to find the balance between activity and rest.

If you’re wondering when is the best time to exercise, check out this article: Which Is Better: Morning Workout Or Evening Workout?

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6. Have a power nap

There are numerous benefits of napping, including improved alertness, learning, memory and performance.

The benefits of a quick power-nap at work have proved to be so good that companies such as Google and The Huffington Post have installed designated sleeping zones in their offices!

However, author of Take a Nap! Change your Life says that napping for more than 20 minutes will make you feel even worse. Make sure you set your alarm!

Check out this article if you want to maximize the effect of a nap: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

7. Switch off

Eight out of ten of us keep our mobile phones turned on overnight. According to Ofcom, around half the population use their phones as an alarm clock too.

Experts are concerned that using phones and other electronics before bed cause problems with our sleep. Research has shown that the bright light emitted from electronics and smartphones seriously mess with our sleep behaviors.

Their advice is to cut back on TV, computer and mobile phone time after 8 p.m. It’s better to read a book or just listen to some relaxing music before you go to sleep.

Summing it up

If you find stress is influencing your quality of life on a consistent basis, it is definitely time to rethink your habits. Be aware of how you react to stressors and create habits that change your negative perspectives and physically banishes stress in your body.

Exercising, switching off, and being more mindful of what you eat creates more energy and counteracts your stress mechanisms.

Decide to make changes today and give yourself the best support you can to improve your wellbeing and stop feeling tired all the time.

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

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