Nutrition Carbohydrates

The major carbohydrate-based dietary supplements

The major carbohydrate-based dietary supplements

by in Nutrition - Carbohydrates

last updated: July 18, 2017

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There are five main carbohydrate supplements commonly found on the market: cyclic cyclodextrins, maltodextrin, vitargo, ribose and glucosamine. Let's clarify their characteristics, recommended dosages and any adverse effects.

Cyclic cyclodextrin

The current state-of-the-art in carbohydrate-based supplementation beverages presented amylopectin found in waxy maize as the latest generation. It features a highly branched molecule with an elevated molecular weight, which, as previously mentioned, led to a very low osmolarity and the additional characteristic of being able to support performance longer-term.

Let's call it the ad hoc "carbohydrate"!
These advantages were used to develop highly-branched cyclodextrins (HBCD).

HBCDs are a new type of glucose polymers that are formulated by the reaction between waxy maize with a particular enzyme, forming a cyclic structure.
The result was a glucose polymer with ideal properties of use, for instance an average molecular weight of 160,000 Da with very low osmolarity and therefore very fast gastric emptying.

One "small" detail is that glucose weighs about 180 Da...and that's not all, because HBCDs are not only absorbed very quickly, they are released into the bloodstream gradually (1.2).

  1. Takii H, Ishihara K, Kometani T, Okada S, Fushiki T. Enhancement of swimming endurance in mice by highly branched cyclic dextrin. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1999;63:2045-52
  2. Takii H, Takii NY, Kometani T, Nishimura T, Nakae T, Kuriki T, et al. Fluids containing a highly branched cyclic dextrin influence the gastric emptying rate. Int J Sports Med 2005;26:314-9

These studies are not only interesting on paper.

Preliminary research on animals shows a significant improvement in performance as can be seen from the chart published in the study by Takii et al. 1999, where HBCDs were compared with glucose and just water.

When should they be taken?

Able to be sipped as a support during the performance - intra-workout or in the immediate post-workout phase, which can be coupled with any amino acid/protein portion.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrins are compounds obtained by the hydrolysis of starches (both enzychemical and physiochemical). Based on the extent of the hydrolysis, different types of maltodextrin may develop with different characteristics such as molecular weight, sweetness, chemical characters (such as fermentability, glycemic index and dextrose equivalence).
These compounds allow a better maintenance of blood glucose levels during the performance, positively influencing it, due to their fast digestibility in comparison to other types of starches such as pasta, rice and cereals.
The fundamental feature of maltodextrins is the low glycemic index, thus allowing you to avoid sharp glycemic oscillations during your workout. To speed up absorption, these molecules are usually accompanied by fructose (no more than 20-30%).

When should they be taken?

Their intake seems to be more effective if taken in the peri-workout phase:

  • pre-workout phase: it allows us to have an easy-absorbable glucose source which is ready to be used
  • intra-workout phase: to maintain focus and energy in the case of mainly glycolytic workouts (also in others) and also allows for increased vascularisation (combined with the right water, sodium and potassium intake)
  • post-workout phase: to speed up the synthesis of glycogen

There is no specific dosage for this supplement (and the following) since it is made from 100% glucides, they may be replaced with a glucidic equivalent from other foods in your diet plan. However, I recommend that you maintain a daily intake of up to, and no more than 30g, and I would remind you that it is much better to consume all of the nutrients we need through food.

Vitargo®

Vitargo® is the registered name of an exclusive polysaccharide, researched and patented at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (Sweden).

It is a molecule created for use by endurance athletes; it is obtained from the combination of potato and corn starch, again through a process of (acidic) hydrolysis, fractionation, spray drying and granulation.

Vitargo® is, therefore, a high molecular weight polysaccharide, generally comprised between 500,000 and 600,000 Da, obtained through an industrial process of controlled hydrolysis.

The chemical structure of Vitargo® presents itself as a series of glucose chains arranged in a dense network, consisting of linear and branched sequences, which give the molecule in question a low dextrose equivalence.

Dextrose equivalence (abbreviation DE) is self-explanatory, it indicates the equivalence level of a given carbohydrate in relation to glucose (value 100).

When should it be used?

During an endurance activity, sipped on during an intra-workout competition, so that you have a constant supply of glucose (thus energy) without the usual bowel discomfort or glycemic spikes.

Its integration into the post-workout phase has been shown to significantly help the synthesis of glycogen.

Ribose

Ribose is a simple sugar at the base of RNA and DNA nucleic acids belonging to the family of pentose, indispensable in ATP production and to maintain elevated levels of cardiac energy (used in the treatment of myocardial ischemia) and muscle energy.
Through anaerobic training, depletion of adenine nucleotides (ATP, ADP and AMP) occurs, consequently slowing down the resynthesis due to the (apparent) lack of a specific G6PDH enzyme.
By integrating ribose into the post-workout phase, the catalysed reaction from this enzyme seems to be bypassed, allowing an easier and quicker ATP recovery. The suggested dosages range from 2 to 10g mainly during the peri-workout phase.

Glucosamine

An extremely simple molecule made up of glucose and amia (nitrogen and 2 hydrogen molecules). It is also produced endogenously as a basis for the formation of glycosaminoglycans (GAG structural components of cartilage), which is at the root of the formation of proteoglycans which together with collagen are the main proteins that make up the connective tissue structure.
Glucosamine is greatly important since it has been shown that its deficiency is associated with the onset of types of arthritis in which the cartilage becomes increasingly fragile gives rise to a thickened surrounding, leading to pain and constrained movement.
A glucosamine supplement, taken for long periods of time may, in fact, lead to a reduction in painful symptoms (in some cases with more pronounced results than pharmacological therapy). Finally, thanks to its simplicity (chemically speaking) its assimilation is very fast as well as elevated (up to 98% if taken orally).
The only side effects currently reported concern gastrointestinal health, so a dosage ranging between 400 and 600 mg per day is recommended, to be divided among the main meals.

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