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Low-GI vs Carb Loading for Endurance Exercise

February 6, 2018

Many athletes swear by the practice of carb loading before exercising, especially those who are doing long endurance activities like marathon running, triathalons, swimming and cycling. Endurance athletes who practice carb loading typically eat foods like pasta and potatoes before events and long training sessions. The high carbohydrates in these foods are stored in your muscles as glycogen – sugar that your body can easily access. However, research published in NSCA’s Performance Training Journal has also shown that eating a low-GI meal prior to exercise resulted in improved endurance capacity. Like high carb foods, low-GI foods are also a good source of energy but enter the blood stream much slower.

Carbs that are high on the Glycemic Index (GI) "gush" into your blood stream and spike your blood sugar which can cause you to crash and loose energy. Instead of a quick rush of glucose from high-GI foods (carbs with a GI higher 70 or higher), low-GI foods (carbs in the 0 to 55 range) ‘trickle’ into your body and provide a slow, steady supply of muscle fuel. Over 2,500 foods have been clinically analyzed and ranked as low, moderate, or high. A subset of the GI values of food can be found in the Fifty50 Foods Guide to a Low Glycemic Diet.

Training and eating properly can increase the glycogen stored and, ultimately, your athletic performance. It’s important to understand the different types of carbohydrates whether you’re competing or hitting the gym or playing a sport.

Prerace and Workout Low-GI Menu

For maximum endurance during your next race or workout, try the low-GI menu suggestions below.

Breakfast: Whole grain oatmeal along with a banana. Try the hearty oatmeal from Fifty50 Foods that cooks in ten minutes and fills you up for hours.  

Lunch: Turkey sandwich on 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, avocado along with a cup of tomato basil soup (see the recipe below.) 

Dinner: Chicken and veggie stir-fry with basmati or brown rice. 

Snack: Apple topped with peanut butter. A great choice is this all natural, sodium free, creamy peanut butter from Fifty50 Foods that has no added sugar.

Tomato Basil Soup (Serves 2)


  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cherry tomatoes or 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 14 oz. can plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or 5 leaves of fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. 1. Chop the onion and fresh tomatoes. Finely slice or mince the garlic and cook it in the olive oil together with the onion, tomatoes and basil.
  2. 2. When the onion has softened, add the canned tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. 
  3. 3. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes and puree until smooth in a blender or food processor.
  4. 4. Top with fresh basil. 
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