In order to build the body’s strength and our athletic capacity, we must push ourselves. Giving a 100% during training and in the process pushing our limits and forcing our bodies adapt and improve is the only way to improve our athletic ability over time. Intense training makes us stronger and causes our bodies to function at a higher level. In order to function at that higher level, our bodies need fuel from glycogen. We store glycogen like a finely tuned race car stores gas, but much like a race car, the quality of fuel we put in it will determine the performance we get out of it. That is why understanding the different types of carbohydrates available on the market today is a must if you’re looking for top performance and are trying to get the most out of your body during intense training and competitions.
Carbohydrates are the easiest source of energy for our bodies to break down and convert into glycogen; or as I like to call it muscle fuel. Although there are several forms of carbohydrates, not all carbohydrates break down into glycogen at the same rate and/or provide the same quality of energy. This is why understanding carbohydrates and picking the right one is so important for your performance.
In this article we’ll look at and break down some of the most common forms of carbohydrates being used in sports supplements today. We’ll also cover the pros and cons of each type of carbohydrate to help you pick one that is right for you.Below are some of the different types of carbohydrates used in sports supplements today:
Below are some of the different types of carbohydrates used in sports supplements today:
Dextrose is a simple sugars and the most simple carbohydrate available being glucose. It has a glycemic index of 100, which means it enters the bloodstream rapidly and spikes blood sugar levels very quickly. Dextrose refuels your body with a quick and short-lived source of glycogen. With blood sugar levels raised quickly, the body releases larger amounts of insulin to clear blood sugar from the bloods stream. This may have negative effects if too much dextrose is taken at once, by causing a spike and crash in energy. Dextrose is very affordable, being one of the lowest costing carbohydrates on the market, but is also one of the lowest quality carbohydrates in terms of performance. Dextrose is readily available and commonly used in low cost and low grade carbohydrate supplements.
Maltodextrin (also known as glycopolymers) is an easily digestible carbohydrate made from rice, corn or potato starch. It’s made by cooking down the starch and then adding acid and/or enzymes to break down the starch even further. Maltodextrin is a white powder often used in processed foods as a thickener or filler since it’s fairly inexpensive. It is digested faster than glucose, having a glycemic index of 105 and raises blood sugar levels within the blood quickly. This provides a simple energy source to the working muscles during physical activity. However, much like dextrose, maltodextrin can negatively affect insulin levels in the bloodstream and cause a sharp spike then crash in energy. Maltodextrin is a commonly used source of carbohydrates in many carbohydrate supplements today because it is very inexpensive. However much like Dextrose, it is a low-quality carbohydrate.
Waxy Maize (starch) is a slow digesting carbohydrate, where Dextrose and Maltodextrin are fast digesting carbohydrates. With a glycemic index of 63, Waxy Maize absorbs slower, raising blood sugar levels more slowly and in the process reducing the chances of a spike then crash in energy versus Dextrose and Maltodextrin. Generally considered to be a step up in performance carbohydrates from Dextrose and Maltodextrin. Waxy Maize is derived from natural cornstarch and is a food grade modified starch. Waxy Maize has a higher molecular weight (100) and lower osmolarity rate when compared many other carbohydrates while containing no simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides. Waxy Maize will provide longer lasting energy when compared to Dextrose and Maltodextrin, which is beneficial in controlling spikes in insulin and providing sustained energy for endurance athletes, who need steady energy over longer periods. Waxy Maize will run a little higher in price compared to Dextrose and Maltodextrin, but is a higher quality of carbohydrate.
Karbolyn is a homopolysaccharide made from potato, rice, and corn. It is considered the highest quality sports carbohydrate supplement of the group for performance. Karbolyn is a complex carbohydrate, which provides up to two hours of sustained energy. But, unlike Waxy Maize, Karbolyn is processed to attain rapid absorption into the bloodstream and muscles. Its glycemic index is 80–100, which means Karbolyn passes through the stomach very quickly. Studies have show Karbolyn also pulling water and nutrients with it as it passes through the digestive tract. It enters muscles more quickly than other carbohydrate supplement sources like Maltodextrin and Dextrose. This makes Karbolyn ideal for athletes who need to load their bodies with glycogen quickly, sustain energy levels over a long period or replenish glycogen after physical activity. Because Karbolyn is derived from complex carbohydrate sources, it doesn’t cause the common spike then crash in energy and provides a steady flow of sustained energy. Although this is the highest performing carbohydrate, it is the most costly option when it comes to carbohydrate supplements.
Why Take Carbohydrate Supplements?
As touched on earlier, carbohydrates are the fuel for the body. For those individuals who are very active and consistently burning calories, food is not enough. The body will burn the food and leave your glycogen stores empty. These carbohydrate supplements are a viable sources of energy to keep your body fueled during intense training sessions or competitions and help your body recover by loading your liver and muscles with glycogen after intense physical activity. Further, a proper carbohydrate will spike your insulin levels, which is responsible for driving carbohydrates and nutrients into muscle cells from the bloodstream. This will further enhance your recovery and help you get the results you want sooner.
Choosing Your Carbohydrate.
Once you’ve decided which type carbohydrate is right for you, keep in mind many carbohydrate supplements will add additional ingredients, which can be beneficial as well. Some common ingredients to look for are electrolytes to help prevent cramps and improve muscle function, B vitamins, L-Carnosine, L-Carnitine, L-Citruline for improved energy production. A few companies offer a glycogen or carbohydrate loading matrix or complex, which helps your body absorb and utilize more of the carbohydrates you consume.
There you have it, a quick guide to choosing the right carbohydrate supplement you. With all the advertising and promotion it can be hard to know, what the major differences are between carbohydrate supplements. If you can break down the type of carbohydrate that is used within a supplement, you can pretty quickly distinguish its quality and effectiveness in producing short-term energy, long term energy or both.
Good luck in choosing your next carbohydrate supplement. If you have any comments or questions, be sure to leave them in the comments below.