Nutrient timing for energy during training falls into three windows: pre, intra, and post. The pre and post windows are easily fulfilled with whole food options, but intra-workout requires a different approach. During this time frame, eating a meal isn’t practical. Not only is it hard on your digestive system, but it interrupts your training session. Drinkable nutrients, namely carbohydrates, are your best bet as they are easily digestible and a quick source of energy.
During training, blood flow is diverted to the working muscles to provide them the nutrients and oxygen they need to perform. The body does this by deprioritizing blood flow to other systems, including the digestive system. Therefore, the body has less ability to process nutrients during training. While digestion is a key factor in your intra-workout nutrient selection, consideration also needs to be given to the speed at which they can be assimilated by the body. Assimilation refers to the ability of the body to absorb the nutrients into the bloodstream and deliver them where they’re needed.
When it comes to fuel sources, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body and brain. They are able to be broken down into glycogen quickly, which the body then uses as fuel. Peri-workout nutrition has primarily focused on the intake of carbs pre- and post-workout for energy and recovery support. With advances in nutrition supplementation, many are expanding to include products that deliver carbohydrates in the intra-workout time frame. This supports the body through training, sustaining the energy derived from pre-workout, and enabling the athlete to train not only harder, but for longer.
Dextrins are a group of carbohydrates that are produced from starch, and are regarded for their low molecular weight. The process of creating dextrins uses enzymes, similar to the body’s digestive system. The outcome is a powder that is partially or fully water-soluble. There are a number of different forms of dextrin, including maltodextrin, cyclodextrin, or highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD). While each form can be found in various intra-workout products, HBCD offers numerous advantages for athletes.
HBCDs are a newer addition to the sport supplement field, formulated by processing waxy maize with an enzyme. The result is a structure that has strong properties for use in food products, such as intra-workouts. Glico Nutrition Co. Ltd., a manufacturing company, has created Cluster Dextrin—a patented version of HBCD. Through regular testing and advanced product development, patented ingredients are regarded as being the gold standard version. When a patented ingredient is used, the athlete is assured they’re getting the best ingredient at its optimal dose.
From a formulation standpoint, Cluster Dextrin is regarded for its high solubility, which means it completely dissolves in water, leaving very little (if any) grit in the bottom of your shaker bottle. Not only does this make it more enjoyable to use, it also means the athlete gets the most product out of each scoop. As an ingredient in sports supplement products, Cluster Dextrin yields low levels of sweetness and a mild taste. This allows the desired flavor of the product to come through with no aftertaste.
In terms of athlete impact and performance enhancement, Cluster Dextrin digests very quickly. In a study focused on the rate of gastric emptying of sports drinks, it was found that HBCD was able to maintain a low osmotic pressure in the drink (approximately 59 to 160 m0sm), yielding a high rate of gastric emptying. An ingredient with a high gastric emptying rate is favorable as it is absorbed and able to benefit the athlete’s performance efficiently. Additionally, the less time an ingredient sits in the athlete’s stomach, the more likely it can cause negative effects such as cramping.
Another interesting benefit found in the study was that even with the addition of other ingredients such as amino acids and electrolytes, HBCD was able to maintain a low osmotic pressure. Many intra-workout products will contain these other ingredients to further support performance. If mixed with an HBCD such as Cluster Dextrin, the body was able to digest and assimilate the ingredients rapidly.
As an intra-workout ingredient, Cluster Dextrin provides athletes with a source of energy, which translates to improved performance. A study of male volunteers reported a lower rate of perceived exertion at 30 and 60 minutes following the ingestion of a drink containing 15 g of HBCD. A low rate of perceived exertion demonstrates an athlete’s endurance, indicating they have more energy to sustain their output. The researchers believe this was due to the quick uptake of HBCD to supply glucose energy to the body.
Additionally, a study utilizing elite swimmers found their endurance was enhanced following the use of HBCD. The time to fatigue among the group who received the HBCD solution was about 70% longer than the other groups—a significant difference. It was also found that the HBCD group’s glucose levels remained higher than the other groups across the study.
Overall, highly branched cyclic dextrin has many advantages as a peri-workout ingredient. Specifically, the use of a patented ingredient such as Cluster Dextrin provides the additional benefits of optimal dosing, high purity levels, and performance claims based on scientific evidence. For athletes looking to improve their training performance, incorporating an intra-workout drink that supplies the body with energy, such as Intra[R3] by Hosstile, is a solid first step. This product contains 15 g of Cluster Dextrin along with EAAs, BCAAs, PeakO2, and electrolytes to further support training and enhance recovery. Adding Cluster Dextrin to your pre- and post-workout supplement regimen can further enhance your results. CDX™ Cluster Dextrin by Hosstile gives you 25 g of Cluster Dextrin per serving and is offered in unflavored and Mixed Berry versions. As a standalone product, bodybuilders, lifters, and athletes can easily customize a supplement stack that works best for their goals.
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Takii, H., Nagao, Y. T., Kometani, T., Nishimura, T., Nakae, T., Kuriki, T., & Fushiki, T. Fluids containing a highly branched cyclic dextrin influence the gastric emptying rate. Int J Sports Med. 26, 4 (2005) doi: 10.1055/s-2004-820999.
Shiraki, T., Kometani, T., Yoshitani, K., Takata, H., & Nomura, T. Evaluation of exercise performance with the intake of highly branched cyclic dextrin in athletes. Food Science and Technology Research, 21, 3 (2015) https://doi.org/10.3136/fstr.21.499