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Health and Fitness Tips

The Pump

Everyone knows you can't build muscles mass if you fail to get enough protein in your diet, and you won't be able to blast your way through an intense workout if you don't take in enough complex carbohydrates to ensure a continuous supply of energy. Even so, the complexities of nutrition go far beyond building blocks and fuel.

Nutrition is the single most-important factor that will influence the final outcome of your workout. Food isn't just a source of energy; it alters the body's metabolism, influences your mood and ultimately affects performance.

The main reason to eat a pre-exercise meal is to optimize your blood glucose levels so you can exercise without fatigue. To improve exercise performance, I encourage my clients to build sufficient muscle-glycogen stores before exercise and maintain blood-glucose levels during exercise. Despite this broad recommendation, many are at a loss of what types of carbs to consume and when.

First understand that all carbohydrates aren't created equal. Although they're all composed of sugar molecules, the types of sugar and how they're formed can affect the rate at which they raise blood-sugar levels and alter the body's insulin response and metabolism. The ability of a carbohydrate-containing food to raise your blood-sugar level is known as its glycemic index (GI). Foods that rapidly raise blood-glucose levels have a high GI; those that give small responses over longer periods have a low GI.

Many factors can affect the GI of foods. Fiber decreases the glucose response by causing the food to form a gel, which decreases the rate of its digestion. The type of fiber may be even more important than the amount, as soluble fiber (legumes, oats, and citrus fruit) slows the rise in blood-glucose levels more than insoluble fiber (whole grains, vegetables).

Fat and protein slow the release of glucose into the blood. Protein helps to increase insulin release, which keeps blood glucose low by increasing glucose uptake by muscles. Fat slows the rate of gastric emptying into the small intestine, and this delays the absorption of glucose into the blood.

Even the way foods are prepared can change their glycemic-index rating. When you cook carbohydrates, especially starchy foods, you increase the release of glucose. Cooking causes the starch granules of food to swell and rupture, making the carbohydrate more accessible to digestion. The mechanical disruption of foods, such as mashing, grinding or pureeing, greatly increases the GI of foods as well. Mashed potatoes have a much higher GI than baked potatoes because the grinding of the potatoes increases the number of food particles and increases the surface area, which leads to a more rapid digestion of the starch. Ground foods are also able to absorb more water, and consuming water with a meal can increase GI by helping to speed absorption.

Working on a balanced diet is a key building block to your overall health! Keep striving towards balanced nutrition that fuels your body.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed