What if you could have your cake and eat it too? What if you could build muscle without adding fat while still enjoying your carbs?
This is the power of the glycemic index and the glycemic load. The following bodybuilding diet program will be suited to those who find it too difficult a task to drop carbs to around 30 grams a day for 5 days (as in a cyclical carbohydrate diet). For carb lovers, this is as good as it gets!
What Is The Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates based on how much they contribute to a person's blood sugar level. The higher the GI, the more rapid the spike in blood sugar levels. GI is ranked from 0-100 (0 having no impact on blood sugar, 100 having the most).
What Is The Glycemic Load?
The GI doesn't tell the whole picture though. If a food is high in carb content, it will still produce a high blood sugar level, even if it has a low GI rating. This is where the glycemic load comes in. The GL takes into account the amount and GI rating of carbohydrates to give a fuller picture of the effects on blood sugar levels. A GL rating of 10 or below is considered low.
How Does This Relate To Bodybuilding?
If you want to build muscle without getting fat you need to accomplish two things simultaneously:
- Eating enough to fuel muscle growth
- Keeping blood sugar levels stable in order to keep insulin levels low and steady (apart from the post-workout period—more on this later)
We can accomplish this by eating enough daily calories but ensuring that our carbs are of the low glycemic load variety.
How Does This Work?
I believe fat accumulation is regulated by the hormone insulin. The higher your glycemic load total for any given day, the more insulin will be secreted in response to those carbs. It works like this:
- Insulin is secreted in response to carbohydrates in the diet
- More specifically, more insulin is secreted quicker to higher-glycemic carbohydrates
- Insulin transports glucose to the fat cells to be burned as fuel
- Alpha-glycerol phosphate is produced from glucose when it's burnt for fuel
- Glycerol (from the alpha-glycerol phosphate) binds fatty acids and stores them in the fat cells as triglycerides; i.e. you get fatter
- Also, glucose that is not used up through energy expenditure will be converted by the liver and stored as triglycerides in the fat tissue (again, you get fatter).
Therefore, if we can eat carbohydrates that break down slowly and give a more gradual, less pronounced rise in insulin, we can maximize increases in muscle while minimizing fat gains.
So now we can see why a low glycemic load approach to a bodybuilding diet is desirable.
How Do I Know If I'm Eating Enough?
Unlike carb-cycling, you are consuming more carbs on this diet so you'll need to watch your calories. What you want to do is to eat around 300-500 calories a day over your maintenance calories i.e. 500 more calories than what it would take to simply maintain your current weight. The more ectomorphic your body-type, the more calories you'll need.
The 30/40/30 Ratio Of Carbs/Protein/Fat
For this diet we'll be using a macronutrient ratio of 30/40/30.
- 30% of your daily calories from protein
- 40% of your daily calories from carbohydrate
- 30% of your daily calories from fat
So let's take our subject who needs 3000 calories per day to bulk. That means he/she would be eating:
- 900 calories from protein
- 1200 calories from carbohydrate
- 900 calories from fat
Which equates to:
- 225 grams of protein
- 300 grams of carbohydrate
- 100 grams of fat
Do I Have To Count 'GL Points'?
No. Most GL dieters are regular, sedentary folk. They count their GL points for the day as a means of controlling blood sugar. As you'll be counting total calories from carbohydrate, this takes care of itself. All you need to concern yourself with is consuming foods that are considered low GL.
What Kind Of Foods Are Low In Glycemic Load?
Note—all protein and fat based foods are low GL; e.g. all meats, eggs & cheeses. Only carbohydrate-based foods have GL ratings.
- Soy Beans
- Bürgen Bread
- Buckwheat Bread
- Whole-Wheat Tortillas
- Rolled Oats
- Kidney Beans
Obviously I can't list them all. However, there is a fantastic resource where you can check the GI and GL rating of all your favorite foods here on Bodybuilding.com. I recommend you bookmark this link for future reference.
A Sample Day On This Diet
- 1 Whole-Wheat Tortilla
- 6-8 oz Chicken
- 1 tbsp Onion
- 1 cup Hummus
- 1 serving Protein Shake
- 1 large Tuna and Onion Sandwich on Burgen or Buckwheat Bread
- 6-8 oz Steak
- 1 cup Quinoa
- 1 cup Broccoli
- 1 serving Chicken Salad
- 1 tsp Olive Oil
- 1 Apple
A Note About Post-Workout Carbs On A GL Diet
Again, unlike carb cycling, you are not saving yourself for an insulin spike during the weekend. A post-workout insulin spike will therefore be beneficial at this stage to shuttle amino acids into those hungry muscles. However, most people over-consume post-workout carbs so use the following formula to avoid this:
0.8 x lean bodyweight in kilograms (Kg = pounds /2.2)
A 150lb man with 10% body fat carries 15 lbs of fat. His lean body weight is therefore 135 lbs which equals 61.36 kg.
61.36 x 0.8 = 49.09 grams of carbohydrate (let's call that 50 grams of post-workout carbs). Bear in mind that this is for workouts lasting up to 45 minutes, longer sessions will require more carbs. However if you're working out the way I advise, you won't be going over 45 minutes, right?
So your post-workout shake should look something like this:
So there you have it folks. A powerful alternative to a cyclical carbohydrate bodybuilding diet. I hope you enjoyed it!