Carbohydrate feeding before exercise: effect of glycemic index

Int J Sports Med. 1991 Apr;12(2):180-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1024664.


Low glycemic index (GI) foods may confer an advantage when eaten before prolonged strenuous exercise by providing a slow-release source of glucose to the blood without an accompanying insulin surge. To test this hypothesis, eight trained cyclists pedalled to exhaustion one hour after ingestion of equal carbohydrate portions of four test meals: lentils, a low GI food (LGI); potato, a high GI food (HGI), and glucose and water. Plasma glucose and insulin levels were lower after LGI than after HGI from 30 to 60 min after ingestion (p less than 0.05). Plasma free fatty acid (FFA) levels were highest after water (p less than 0.05) followed by LGI and then glucose and HGI. From 45 to 60 min after ingestion, plasma lactate was higher in the HGI trial than in the LGI trial (p less than 0.05) and remained higher throughout the period of exercise. The rank order from lowest to highest for total carbohydrate oxidation during exercise was water, lentils, glucose and potato. Endurance time was 20 min longer after LGI than after HGI (p less than 0.05). These findings suggest that a low GI pre-game meal may prolong endurance during strenuous exercise by inducing less post-prandial hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, lower levels of plasma lactate before and during exercise, and by maintaining plasma glucose and FFA at higher levels during critical periods of exercise.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate
  • Hematocrit
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Insulin