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Cluster Dextrin Vs Other Carbs

Cluster Dextrin Vs Other Carbs

Cluster Dextrin, also known as Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD), is a specialized carbohydrate source gaining popularity among athletes and fitness enthusiasts for its unique properties and benefits over traditional carbohydrate sources. 

What is Cluster Dextrin?

Cluster Dextrin is a form of carbohydrate that is produced from amylopectin, a type of starch, through a process called cyclization. This process results in a carbohydrate with a unique molecular structure that is highly soluble and provides a slow and steady release of energy.

Benefits of Cluster Dextrin

1. Improved Gastric Emptying One of the standout benefits of Cluster Dextrin is its rapid gastric emptying time. Unlike other carbohydrate sources that can linger in the stomach and cause discomfort during exercise, Cluster Dextrin moves quickly through the stomach. This means athletes can consume it before or during workouts without worrying about gastrointestinal issues such as bloating or cramps. Studies have shown that beverages containing HBCD are emptied more rapidly from the stomach, leading to quicker absorption and utilization of the carbohydrate.

2. Sustained Energy Release Thanks to its unique structure, Cluster Dextrin provides a sustained release of energy. This is in contrast to high-glycemic carbs that lead to spikes in blood sugar levels followed by rapid drops, which can result in energy crashes. The slow and steady energy release from Cluster Dextrin can help athletes maintain performance over longer periods and has even been shown to lower the rate of perceived exertion.

3. Enhanced Hydration Cluster Dextrin’s high solubility not only aids in quick gastric emptying but also enhances hydration. When mixed in water, it can help facilitate better fluid uptake by the body, making it an excellent choice for endurance athletes who need to maintain hydration over long events.

4. Lower Risk of Gastrointestinal Distress Because of its rapid absorption and minimal residence time in the stomach, Cluster Dextrin is less likely to cause gastrointestinal distress compared to other carb sources like fructose or maltodextrin. This makes it a preferable choice for athletes who are prone to stomach issues during intense training or competition.

Studies & Results For Cluster Dextrin

  • Increases VO2 max time to exhaustion by 70% in elite swimmers - Source

  • Makes intense exercise actually feel easier - Source

  • Decreases stress hormone levels following exhaustive exercise - Source

  • Provides rapid hydration and nutrient loading without increasing gastric emptying time - Source

  • Increases endurance to fatigue by 27% over glucose supplementation and doesn't spike insulin in comparison - Source

Comparisons with Other Carb Sources


Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is widely used as a food additive and carbohydrate source in sports supplements due to its quick energy release. However, its high glycemic index means it can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, potentially leading to energy crashes in sensitive individuals. While Maltodextrin provides immediate energy, it lacks the sustained energy release profile of Cluster Dextrin, which can be more beneficial during prolonged exercise. Additionally, Maltodextrin's osmolality can draw water into the gut, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal distress under intense exercise conditions.


Fructose, a monosaccharide found in fruits and honey, offers a lower glycemic index compared to glucose or dextrose, potentially providing a more moderated energy release. However, when consumed in large amounts, especially in the form of added sugars or sweeteners, fructose is metabolized by the liver, leading to potential issues like gastrointestinal distress and, over time, contributing to insulin resistance and fatty liver disease in susceptible individuals. Unlike Cluster Dextrin, which is efficiently absorbed and utilized for energy, excessive fructose consumption can lead to metabolic complications.


Dextrose, another simple sugar, is chemically identical to glucose, the body's primary energy source. It is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, offering an immediate energy boost. This rapid absorption can be advantageous for short, intense bursts of activity but may not be ideal for endurance activities where a steady energy supply is preferable. Dextrose's quick digestion can also lead to blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes, a concern not associated with the more stable energy release from Cluster Dextrin.


Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, is a disaccharide consisting of glucose and fructose. While it's a ubiquitous source of energy in many diets, its high glycemic index can lead to quick spikes in blood sugar levels, similar to dextrose. The fructose component of sucrose must be metabolized by the liver, which can be problematic in high quantities. In contrast, Cluster Dextrin’s structure allows for a gradual increase in blood glucose, providing a more consistent energy level without the sharp peaks and troughs associated with sucrose consumption.


Isomaltulose is a lesser-known carbohydrate found naturally in honey and sugarcane. It is a disaccharide similar to sucrose but is digested more slowly, leading to a lower glycemic response and providing a more sustained energy release. While isomaltulose presents an alternative to high-glycemic carbs for sustained energy, it still does not match the rapid gastric emptying and hydration benefits offered by Cluster Dextrin. This makes Cluster Dextrin particularly suited for athletes needing quick, efficient energy delivery and minimal gastrointestinal distress.


Inulin is a type of soluble fiber found in various plants. It has a very low glycemic index and can contribute to the feeling of fullness, supporting weight management. However, inulin is not used directly by muscles for energy and can ferment in the gut, potentially causing bloating and discomfort in some people. While inulin has benefits for gut health and glucose regulation, it lacks the direct, performance-enhancing energy provision of Cluster Dextrin, highlighting the unique suitability of Cluster Dextrin for athletic performance.


Cluster Dextrin stands out among carbohydrate sources for its unique properties that promote rapid gastric emptying, sustained energy release, enhanced hydration, and reduced risk of gastrointestinal distress. These benefits make it particularly suitable for athletes looking for an efficient and comfortable way to fuel their performance. As with any supplement, it's essential to consider personal nutritional needs and consult with a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet.

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