Warning: lengthy book review ahead!
Recently I was in a discount bookstore perusing books with my family (yes, we’re all book nerds) and I found an intriguing book: The Glycemic Load Diet by Dr. Rob Thompson. Statements on the cover of the book claim that it:
- [Is] A Powerful New Program for Losing Weight and Reversing Insulin Resistance
- Goes beyond the glycemic index to:
- Correct the hormone imbalance that makes you gain weight
- Speed up your metabolism with targeted exercise
- Cut cravings while you still enjoy your favorite carbs
- Features dozens of delicious recipes
While I’m normally a fast reader, that’s not normally the case with anything besides fiction. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I actually finished a non-fiction book from start to finish. The Glycemic Load Diet held my interest and had me anxiously awaiting the end of shifts at work so I could go home and finish it. What’s so special about it? Here are a few concepts that stuck out to me:
- Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load
- When I visited a dietitian at my endocrinologist’s office last summer, she suggested a low glycemic index diet to help get my hormone imbalances and my weight under control. Yes, it did work for a little while, but after a few months I felt as though things leveled off. Plus, there were things that just did not make sense – you’re telling me it’s ok to eat Frosted Flakes or a Snickers bar, but I can’t eat watermelon or cherries?! I just couldn’t fathom the logic behind it, and I disliked having to consult a list glycemic indexes to see what I could and could not eat.
- The difference between glycemic index and glycemic load is that when scientists and laboratory technicians test for a food’s glycemic index, they are comparing fifty grams of one substance (i.e. carrots, spaghetti, etc.) to fifty grams to their “control” – white sandwich bread. The glycemic load of a food takes into account the actual portion sizes that you would consume. As Dr. Thompson details in the book, that when comparing fifty grams of carrots to fifty grams of spaghetti, spaghetti actually has a lower glycemic index (64) compared to that of carrots (68). But here’s the thing – because fifty grams of carrots contain “so much water and unavailable carbohydrate in the form of indigestible fiber, to provide fifty grams of available carbohydrate, researchers had to feed each subject seven full-size carrots. In contrast, to provide fifty grams of available carbohydrate in spaghetti, they only had to feed subjects a cupful.” When consuming actual portions of these foods, many people consume more than one cup of pasta and nowhere near seven full-size carrots. So, looking at typical serving sizes, the glycemic load of a carrot (one 8-inch carrot) is 11 whereas the glycemic load of one cup of spaghetti is 166. BIG DIFFERENCE!!! Reading this somewhat early-on in the book was definitely a “light bulb” moment, as it encapsulated everything I thought was wrong with a glycemic index diet.
- Exercise: Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers
- Dr. Thompson shows that an equal contributor to insulin resistance is lack of use of our slow twitch muscle fibers. This may sound fancy, but basically it means that the more sedentary we are, the less responsive our muscles, particularly our slow twitch muscle fibers are to insulin.
- To improve muscle’s responsiveness to insulin, one just needs to work their slow twitch muscle fibers more. It may sound fancy, but it’s actually the least “fancy” of workouts out there. The easiest way to improve muscle’s insulin sensitivity? Walk. Humans were designed to walk miles and miles a day. If your objective is to simply become more active and improve insulin sensitivity, all you need to do is walk, cycle, or something that works your muscles but doesn’t fatigue you.
- Also noted in the exercise section: weight resistance. Doing a strength training workout, even if it’s just once a week, will help your body, especially if you’re consistently losing weight week after week.
- What does Dr. Thompson suggest?
- Dr. Thompson suggests eliminating bread, rice, potatoes, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Basically – if something is very starchy, it may not be your best bet (starchy sweets, like cakes, cookies, etc. are also included in this).
- Keep your total glycemic load for the day under 500, and no one particular item over 100.
- Does this mean things like pasta, pizza, and sandwiches are out? Sandwiches/ burger buns – kind of. You can still do wraps/ tortillas, as long as they’re whole wheat and you remove any excess you don’t need. Pasta and pizza are ok, as long as the amount of actual starch you’re eating is lower in comparison to the rest of the food. Example: leave crusts off your pizza and you can have three slices for a glycemic load of 80! Use a smaller portion of pasta and add lots of vegetables (fiber), chicken (protein), and olive oil (healthy fats).
- Exercise at least forty minutes every other day. Insulin sensitivity of muscles can decrease again after more than 24-48 hours, so it’s good to not let more than 48 hours go between each forty minute session.
- If you already know you are experiencing some extent of insulin resistance, it may benefit you to exercise forty minutes every day, to further work on increasing your muscle’s response to insulin.
- Do a strength training workout once a week.
Needless to say, these are pretty doable options. Yes, having “no carbs” may be difficult, but I actually still found myself having about 50% of my calories a day coming from carbohydrates, but just those found in vegetables, dairy, and fruit instead. Bottom line: I’m trying it, because I feel that for me in my body (I can write more on the connection between insulin resistance and PCOS later), it’s worth a shot.
Should you try it? Read the book and check it out for yourself. That’s the only way you’ll no. If you’re not overweight and you feel fit and comfortable in your body, then they’re may be no need. But if you struggled with your weight your whole life, if you struggle to lose weight, or if you ever feel like you’re caught in a continual cycle of losing, plateau-ing, gaining, and repeating again, you may want to give the book a read. Dr. Thompson asserts that if you’re overweight at all, you will have insulin resistance, even if it is just on some small level, so it’s worth learning more about.
Read the book, check it out, and feel free to email me (soundeats at gmail.com) if you would like to talk about it more.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a dietitian. I am a dietetics student who bought this book and who has no affiliation with Dr. Rob Thompson. I simply wanted to share what I took out of this book with others who may, like myself, also be looking for more information.