Carbohydrate supplements are a topic that I would like to cover as there is a bit of a debate about which carbs to use, at what times, and which ones are superior for gains in muscle size. There are a number of different forms of carbohydrate supplements, all varying in a number of ways, whether it is glycemic index rating, molecular weight, taste or price. I will look at the main few forms of carbohydrate supplements and help you to pick the right ones at the right times for the right purpose.
So let’s take a look at the different forms of carbohydrate supplements you can buy:
- Dextrose / Maltodextrin
Dextrose is a simple sugar (monosaccharide). It is an isomer of glucose. Dextrose has a GI of around 100 and quickly elevates blood sugar. This is very useful post-workout for replenishing muscle glycogen and causing an insulin response to help with nutrient delivery. Dextrose is very sweet tasting and mixes instantly in water when stirred. It is also very cheap and readily available.
Maltodextrin however is not a simple sugar. Maltodextrins are polymers of dextrose. Maltodextrin is made up of many chains of dextrose. This classifies it as a complex carb. However even though it is a complex carbohydrate, maltodextrin has a GI rating only slightly below dextrose (still at around 100). This is because the hydrogen bonds that link the dextrose molecules together are very weak so are quickly broken down. Maltodextrin may be slightly lower GI than Dextrose but it actually has a greater effect on insulin. Insulin is not just affected by a carbs GI rating, so maltodextrin actually causes a greater insulin response, which for post-workout is very important when protein, amino acids and creatine want to be pushed into the muscle. Maltodextrin is much less sweet than dextrose and doesn’t mix as easily. It tastes fine when mixed in with some fruit juice though. Maltodextrin is also relatively cheap.
- Waxy Maize Starch
Waxy starches are carbohydrates derived from sources such as rice, barley and corn (i.e. maize). They contain many highly branched starches called amylopectin. WMS has an incredibly high molecular weight and is therefore again classified as a complex carbohydrate with a supposed high GI. Many people report great muscle pumps from WMS. Also it has been said to bypass the stomach so people don’t feel bloated or get stomach cramps from taking WMS. With it bypassing the stomach (due to a lower osmolality) it means that it is sent straight to the intestines so can enter the system much faster than other forms of carbohydrates.
Now the problem with WMS is that there have been a number of studies disproving many of the claims that this carbohydrate is superior to dextrose and maltodextrin for insulin response, glycogen replenishment and raising blood sugar levels. These studies have shown a number of things. One study showed that after ingesting WMS blood sugar levels and insulin levels were raised only similar to that of slow acting starches and only one third as much as dextrose! It also showed that glycogen replenishment over 24 hours was no different to maltodextrin or dextrose so certainly wasn’t superior. Another study actually found the blood sugar and insulin response from WMS to be similar to that of white bread.
WMS is not as cheap as maltodextrin or dextrose and as studies have shown is not a superior carbohydrate for use at any point in a training or nutrition plan. While some people will swear by the effects of WMS, this is my opinion and I feel that results from maltodextrin and dextrose are great enough to make the price of WMS unjustifiable as an alternative.
Vitargo is an incredibly high molecular weight carbohydrate derived from starches like potato starch, barley starch or even waxy maize starch. However that is where the similarities with WMS end as Vitargo is special as it is the manufacturing process taking it from WMS to the final product that makes it unique and effective. Vitargo works well because it has a very low osmolality. This basically means that it doesn’t draw much water around it and therefore there is very little water in the stomach. This means there is no bloating and the vitargo can pass through to the intestines very quickly. Once it’s in the small intestine the high level of branching that vitargo has means that it can be broken down to glucose and get into the blood stream twice as fast as maltodextrin or dextrose. This means that it gets to the intestines faster and then gets into the blood faster. When we are talking post-workout this is exactly what we want. Once it’s in the blood the last point is the insulin response. Vitargo has been shown in studies to raise insulin 1.8 times more than dextrose and many times more than WMS. This means it is the perfect carbohydrate to take with protein or creatine post-workout.
Vitargo is not cheap but is tasteless and mixes easily. It can be found sometimes in post workout drinks containing whey isolate.
- Waxy barley starch
On the other end of the spectrum we have waxy barley starch. This carbohydrate is not for use post-workout as it is a low GI carbohydrate designed to supplement in place of foods like oats or whole grains. It is extremely useful for adding to your daily diet if you are trying to gain size and need more low GI carbs that won’t affect blood sugar too greatly. It is also very useful when carb loading before a training session, match or cardiovascular event. It has a GI rating of around 50 so is very low and has little effect on insulin. It has a powdery, almost floury texture and palatable taste.
So there you have a bit of info in regards to the different forms of carbohydrates you can find in supplement powder form. If you are looking for something to take post-workout with your protein or amino acids then I recommend vitargo as the best option but with maltodextrin being perfectly suitable as a much cheaper alternative. The difference in results between the 2 will barely be noticeable so unless you are at a high level of training I feel that maltodextrin or dextrose will be suitable for anyone.
The products I would recommend are as follows:
Maltodextrin – garnell complex carbs
All of these products can be bought on www.monstersupplements.com
Thanks for reading.