If you are an athlete, the importance of carbohydrates cannot be understated and without carbohydrates, your performance suffers. With so many workout and sports supplements available in the market, one of the relatively new entrants in the sports nutrition universe is cluster dextrin or highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD), which is a new form of carbohydrate that is extremely beneficial for fitness and sports enthusiasts.
Cluster dextrin or HBCD is a new advanced type of maltodextrin that is synthesized when sugar molecule clusters are formed when starch (amylopectin) is broken down by using a specialist enzyme. Cluster dextrin is more soluble and is absorbed more easily by the body than any other carb source. HBCD is considered a far superior source of carbs compared to other types of GI carbs like maltodextrin and dextrose as it provides a sustained increase in energy levels without causing spikes in the blood glucose and/or insulin levels.
HBCD has a high molecular weight and low osmolarity, which helps to increase gastric emptying. This essentially means that the HCBD will remain for a much lesser time in your stomach as compared to regular carbohydrates and is absorbed by your intestines and sent to the muscles more quickly.
HBCD became a rage in the supplement world in 1999 after a study in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry Journal revealed that when administered HBCD, mice showed greater swimming endurance compared to when they were given glucose. It was seen that HBCD produced energy levels that were more stable, enhanced endurance and lesser insulin spikes. More recent studies in humans have shown HBCD to decrease perceived exertion and significantly increase time to exhaustion.
Where Does Cyclic Dextrin Come From?
In nature, cyclic dextrins are produced by the bacteria which break down carbohydrates. However, it can also be synthesized from starches by making use of certain enzymes and the by-products can be refined further for several uses.
HBCD is a specialized type of cyclic dextrin which is formed when enzymes are used to break down amylopectin. The enzymes convert the starches into clusters that are then converted into longer chains by using additional branching enzymes.
How Does HCBD Work?
Simple carbs such as waxy maize, dextrose, etc. are typically used as workout supplements, they are not really ideal choices when it comes to being a carb source for intra workouts. These carbs usually have a high osmolarity that triggers the osmoreceptors (receptors present in the small intestine which assess the contents in the stomach or the nutrition density and control the rate of gastric emptying) in the small intestine in order to delay gastric emptying.
Carbohydrates such as simple sugars are usually absorbed in the small intestine and anything which causes a delay of their entry into the small intestine causes a delay in the insulin spike and carrying of the nutrients to the muscles. As in the case of pre and intra-workout nutrition, apart from the carbohydrates getting delayed in getting to the muscles, the various other compounds like creatine, beta-alanine, betaine, etc. and the amino acids are also delayed.
This is where HBCD is beneficial and its increased molecular weight and decreased osmolarity due to its unique branched structure causes it to be an extremely quickly digesting carb which is absorbed rapidly and sent to the muscles equally fast. And the faster the carbs and the essential amino acids reach your muscles, the better the workout and quicker the recovery.
HBCD is essentially a supplement that is designed for gradual and sustained release of energy that will let you work out for longer time periods before you experience fatigue. While other forms of carbs provide energy, because of its unique molecular structure, HCBD is different and lets it release energy gradually into your bloodstream that aids in keeping the levels of blood sugar and insulin in control. Maintaining a stable glucose level is not only important for athletes but is extremely important for health too. Having a stable and constant energy supply not only enables your body to perform efficiently but also to be healthier and enable you to be more active and productive.
What Does HBCD Do?
HBCD has several unique properties that help to enhance your training and workout. Firstly, cyclic dextrin is an excellent source of energy which is essential during the workout. More energy lets you workout for a longer period of time and more intensively, which promotes lean muscle growth. HBCD provides energy while exercising without making you feel nauseous or bloated. The low osmolarity of cyclic dextrin enables it to pass through the stomach quickly, thus preventing the bloated feeling. Also, being highly soluble and requiring lesser time for gastric emptying, cyclic dextrin enables the body to maintain the blood sugar levels. HBCD is designed to enhance your athletic performance.
How Is HBCD Different from Other Forms of Carbohydrates?
Typically, when you have carb supplements, they usually attract and retain plenty of water and if you consume plenty of carbs in a short time, it may be passed into the large intestine from the small intestine quickly without absorbing the glucose. When it goes into the large intestine, the sugars retain the water in the colon which is flushed out of the body quickly. This is known as osmotic diarrhea, a condition you do not want, especially when you are in the midst of a workout session.
Even though it is digested quickly and absorbed rapidly, because of its distinct structure, HBCD is highly soluble and so can manage with a smaller amount of water and does not cause the problems as fast-digesting carbs and also prevents various digestive problems.
Benefits of HCBD
Helps to Increase Energy Levels
There are many days when you feel tired constantly and despite how much you try, you don’t really feel motivated to do anything at all. When you hit the gym in this state, it can be quite difficult. However, consuming HBCD can be advantageous and it provides a steady and slow stream of carbs to the body that ensure that your energy levels are high.
Helps to Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
Consuming plenty of simple carbs can cause the blood sugar and insulin levels to fluctuate and over time, this can increase the risk for incidence of type-2 diabetes or it could cause the insulin sensitivity of your body to be reduced. HBCD provides a slow and steady supply of carbs to your body, which helps to keep both the blood sugar, as well as insulin levels stable and under control.
Prevents Discomfort While Exercising
A study published in the Food Science and Technology Research revealed that during a bicycle exercise, when the participants drank a HBCD-based sports drink, they did not experience gastrointestinal disorders like belching or flatulence and they were able to exercise without any discomfort or fatigue.
Some of the other benefits of HBCD include:
- It is an excellent energy source and helps to boost athletic performance.
- Helps in faster recovery after a workout.
- It can help to increase strength and improve muscle while helping you to lose fat.
- It is highly soluble and provides increased absorption and improved transportation of nutrients.
- Helps to increase stamina and endurance and reduced DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness).
- Aids in the sustained increase of blood sugar levels during workouts.
How Does HBCD Help Endurance & CrossFit Athletes?
Carbs are essential for proper recovery.
One benefit that HBCD offers endurance and CrossFit athletes is the rate at which the cyclic dextrin passes through the stomach. This is advantageous for those trying to consume enough carbs in order to perform. The cyclic dextrin allows you to increase carbohydrate consumption without eating starchy carbs that may lead to a bloated and sluggish feeling.
This allows endurance and CrossFit athletes to be adequately fueled and glycogen stores replenished without feeling bloated. This is vital in the case of highly demanding sports that have several events on a particular day or many days of competition where the athletes cannot resort to eating “real food” for a quick recovery.
HBCD is digested quickly but absorbs at a more gradual rate compared to the other quickly digesting and absorbing carb sources, which means that the athletes get a steady and sustained glucose supply to the blood. Although HBCD may not provide the higher levels of insulin and glucose that other forms of carbs provide, the sustained release provided by the cyclic dextrin offers improved endurance performance and also regulates the amount of insulin released, preventing the release of an excessive amount of insulin and at the same time allows efficient refueling and recovery.
Is HBCD Suitable for Everyone?
HBCD is suitable for athletes who want to improve their endurance performance or recovery post an intensive workout. It is meant for those who put their body through a lot of performance stress. When HBCD is consumed intra-workout, it helps to increase the endurance performance and reduce your perception of exertion. As a post-workout supplement, it quickly replenishes glycogen so you are recovered for your next workout. It can also be combined with a protein supplement in order to increase the uptake of amino acids to the muscles, which helps to boost recovery.
We recommend consuming 25g of HBCD for every hour of training/physical activity - Mix with water and consume during and after.
Going through intensive workout sessions and athletic competitions can be quite challenging and carbohydrates can give you the power needed to get through these sessions. In the past, carbs such as maltodextrin, dextrose and waxy maize were quite popular; however, these do not provide the quick absorption that is required during an intensive workout to effectively make use of the benefits of an intra-workout carbohydrate source. This is where highly branched cyclic dextrin has emerged as the best option which allows you to top up your energy reserves mid-workout and fully recover afterwards.