HIGHLY BRANCHED CYCLIC DEXTRIN: The Best Intra-Workout Carbohydrate
Continuing on from my previous article on Agmatine Sulfate (which can be found in the article section of this website), I wanted to bring the attention to another peri-workout supplement that has gotten a lot of attention over the past five to ten years. You’ve probably heard the great minds like Dr. Scott Stevenson, John Meadows, and many others talk about highly branched cyclic dextrin as being the “go-to” carbohydrate source of choice when looking at consuming carbohydrates during the workout period. They’ve all talked about it and included it within their products (as well as many other high end products) for one simple reason…BECAUSE IT WORKS! Not only does it work, but it works as a superior carbohydrate source when compared to others on the market in the same category. Highly branched cyclic dextrin is actually formed via the breakdown of amylopectin using enzymatic treatments into clusters (AKA cluster dextrin) which then go on to form larger chains via branching enzymes.
Going back to 1999 when research was first beginning to come out on highly branched cyclic dextrin, a study was conducting using mice. This study found that the mice that consumed highly branched cyclic dextrin thirty minutes into their workouts were able to swim longer than the mice that consumed normal glucose (1.) This was the point where researchers began to realize the possible advantage highly branched cyclic dextrin could give an athlete over traditional carbohydrate sources. The interesting part of what makes highly branched cyclic dextrin so superior is its ability to have:
•an extremely rapid gastric emptying effect (2, 3)
•a very low osmolality which is beneficial as osmotic pressure if an important factor that essentially determines the gastric emptying rate of a drink (4, 5)
•a very high molecular weight
Looking further into highly branched cyclic dextrin, we see yet another study showing more promising results! In this study, the researchers found that the ingestion of highly branched cyclic dextrin resulted in a significant increase in time to exhaustion. Furthermore, the higher lactate level after 90% of their VO2 Max while swimming suggested that the participants oxidized greater amounts of carbohydrates to yield energy following highly branched cyclic dextrin intake when compared to glucose or water. It was demonstrated that blood glucose levels are important during exercise, particularly at the end of a prolonged routine. With highly branched cyclic dextrin, they saw the participants had a better ability to maintain blood glucose levels and it showed in their performance times increasing (6.)
As if it wasn’t abundantly clear enough, highly branched cyclic dextrin is the “go-to” option when looking at supplementing with intra-workout carbohydrates. Now that you understand the benefits we need to discuss practical application. First and foremost, you need to remember than highly branched cyclic dextrin contains carbohydrates which contain calories. This is not a “calorie-free” supplement that you can just throw in. You will need to work highly branched cyclic dextrin into your daily carbohydrate allotment as thermodynamics will not change and if your adding in a significant amount of carbohydrates pushing you deeper into a caloric surplus, you will can weight and possibly gain more fatty tissue than you would have wanted. Second, the amount of highly branched cyclic dextrin WILL matter. You cannot simply just add one hundred grams of carbohydrates from highly branched cyclic dextrin and not expect to get an upset stomach and possible rapid gastric emptying rates that will have you running to the bathroom every five minutes. So with that in mind, begin with a very low dose of highly branched cyclic dextrin possibly around the 15 to 20 gram range and assess how well or how poorly you tolerate it. Finally, the amount of water you mix with your highly branched cyclic dextrin will make a difference. Remember when we said highly branched cyclic dextrin has a very low osmolality? Osmolality is the number of molecules of a given substance in a kilogram of liquid meaning, if you dont dilute it with enough water, you’ll get the dumping syndrome effect. The amount of water you will add will depend on how lean you are as well as how well or how poorly you digest it. I personally can utilize around 75 grams of highly branched cyclic dextrin in a half gallon or so of water and I am completely fine. This will really be person and dose dependent.
In closing, I would like to state that this article was merely to shine the light on the benefits of highly branched cyclic dextrin and not to make you turn a blind eye and just begin consuming intra-workout carbohydrates. That is a discussion for another article as there are benefits and drawbacks to consuming intra-workout carbohydrates and it will really come down to you as an individual and how you biologically response, your personal goals, your carbohydrate needs (or lack there of), your workout intensity/duration, etc. If you have done all your workout and realize that you are someone that has the potential to benefit from intra-workout carbohydrates, then you may want to begin looking a little further in highly branched cyclic dextrin as that source. But remember, more does not always equal better.
- Enhancement of swimming endurance in mice by highly branched cyclic dextrin. H. Takii, K. Ishihara, T. Kometani, S. Okada, T. Fushiki. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1999 Dec (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10664836)
2. A sports drink based on highly branched cyclic dextrin generates few gastrointestinal disorders in untrained men during bicycle exercise. Takii, H., Kometani, T., Nishimura, T., Kuriki, T., and Fushiki, T. Food Sci. Technol. Res. 2004 (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/fstr/10/4/10_4_428/_article)
3. Fluids containing a highly branched cyclic dextrin influence
the gastric emptying rate. Takii, H., Takii Nagao, Y., Kometani, T., Nishimura, T., Nakae, T., Kuriki, T., and Fushiki, T. Int. J. Sports Med. 2005 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15900642)
4. Factors limiting gastric emptying during rest and exercise. Costill, D.L. and Saltin, B. J. Appl. Physiol. 1974 (https://jap.physiology.org/content/37/5/679)
5. The pattern of emptying of the human stomach. J. N. Hunt, W. R. Spurrell. J Physiol. 1951 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14832765)
6. Evaluation of Exercise Performance with the Intake of Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin in Athletes. Shiraki, T., Kometani T., Yoshitani, K., Takata H., Nomura T. Food Science and Technology Research. 2015 (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/fstr/21/3/21_499/_html#bib3)