When it comes time to getting lean and trim, most of us fitness ladies give up one macronutrient first – carbohydrates. Now, while it is true that we can get great fat loss results and function quite well on fewer carbohydrates, we still need some!

Carbohydrates can help boost your endurance during workouts and kickstart the recovery process post-workout. (The result? Faster muscle growth!) In fact, if you are serious about adding some sexy muscle to your body, then you should seriously take a look at how many carbohydrates your current nutrition program offers and also when you are consuming them! The key is to strategically consume your carbohydrates at times when your body needs them most. One excellent way to get those carbohydrates in is from a supplement. In this post, I will be reviewing everything you need to know about carbohydrate supplements and how you can start using them as part of your nutritional program.

Why Do We Need Carbohydrates For Training?

When we workout, the muscles tap into glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrates. An average individual can store about 380 grams of glycogen. Unless glycogen stores are replenished during exercise, glycogen stores will be depleted after approximately 2 hours of continuous high intensity exercise. Becoming carbohydrate or glycogen depleted during a workout is not uncommon, especially if you are following a low carbohydrate diet and investing considerable time and effort into your training.

Restocking carbohydrates is important if we are trying to hold on to or build muscle. When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose. Once broken down, this results in a rise in blood sugar levels, which causes the release of the anabolic shuttling hormone insulin into the blood. Insulin has one job—to bring back balance to glucose levels by binding and shuttling glucose and other important nutrients to the muscle or fat tissue for uptake and storage. Once taken up by the cells, glucose is used to generate ATP (or energy), is stored as glycogen in muscle or is converted to triglycerides and stored in fat for later use. Every cell in the body stores and uses energy through ATP synthesis and production, which fuels protein synthesis (or muscle building), muscle contraction, metabolism and transport of nutrients.

What Are The Benefits Of Carbohydrate Powders?

While protein helps us build and maintain muscles, carbohydrates provide the body with a source of energy to fuel muscles during workouts and help to replenish muscle energy stores after a workout. Getting in carbohydrates before, during or post-workout can deliver a steady supply of glucose to working muscles, while sparking the release of insulin and turning on anabolic processes that drive the recovery process and protein synthesis. Carbs also play a role in cell volumization and can help preserve lean muscle tissue by acting as a preferential source of fuel over muscle.

While you can get your carbohydrates from whole foods like rice or potato during or immediately after your workout, this is not always the most convenient time to pull out your Tupperware! What’s more, you need to make sure that your carbohydrates come from simple, fast digesting sources rather than high fiber, slower digesting ones like oatmeal or sweet potato. During and after a workout, the key to quickly replenishing fuel and speeding recovery is getting fast absorbing simple carbohydrates such as those found in a carbohydrate powder to the depleted muscles. The quick absorption can spike blood glucose levels, release insulin and direct essential nutrient uptake to the muscles that are needed for recovery and repair!

What’s In A Carbohydrate Powder?

Carbohydrate powders can be made up of simple sugars such as dextrose or maltodextrin, waxy starches or amylopectin, or they can be composed of a more complex (and fast absorbing) carbohydrate such as highly branched cyclic dextrins or HBCDs.

Dextrose is a simple sugar and was once the main ingredient used in carbohydrate supplements. Waxy Starches are made from rice, barley or maize and are made up of linked glucose molecules forming a linear chain. This carb source is digested quickly once it has been broken down into simple glucose molecules.

However, the fastest digesting of all the carbohydrates are the HBCDs, thanks to its unique cyclic structure. The cyclic structure is created by enzymatic processing of amylopectin, which is formed through the branching and cross-linking chains of cyclic units. As a result, digestive enzymes have greater access to break apart the bonds enabling HBCDs to pass through the digestive system more quickly than other carbohydrate sources.

Why Is Fast Digestion Of Carbs Good? What About Glycemic Response?

Fast digestion of carbohydrates ensures a fast and steady delivery to depleted muscles, so a high glycemic response from your food is what you are looking for post workout! The glycemic response is a measure of how quickly a particular carbohydrate is digested and forms glucose. Now, although simple sugars like dextrose or glucose do have high glycemic indices, these sugars can delay gastric emptying into the small intestine, since they have high osmolarity and low molecular weights. This action delays insulin release and the delivery of glucose and other essential nutrients to muscles. If you want to ensure a continued supply of glucose to muscles, it is best to use a quick digesting HBCD!

How Do You Use Carbohydrate Powders?

Carbohydrate powders can be used as a source of energy during longer, more intense workouts, but they can also be used as part of your post workout nutrition plan to restock lost glycogen and get you ready for your next workout. Following a workout, one of the best options for maximizing muscle glycogen reuptake is to use a carbohydrate powder, which will spike blood glucose and stimulate the release of insulin. Simple carbohydrates when consumed in a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein have been shown to help stimulate muscle building and increase muscle glycogen uptake faster. Combine with either BCAA or with Whey Isolate or Whey Hydrolysate.

What Makes A Carbohydrate Powder Good?

If you are looking to try a carbohydrate powder, I recommend looking for one that is formulated with HBCDs, such as Gaspari Nutrition’s GlycoFuse. This product has been 3rd party tested and validated to show an osmolarity (or a faster rate of digestion) that stood above many of the other carbohydrate products available today. GlycoFuse is also formulated with something else your body needs to replenish during and after a long workout – electrolytes. When you sweat, your body loses potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride and calcium. These electrolytes are used to fuel muscle contraction and nerve function. Without replacing them, your performance can suffer. GlycoFuse uses patented electrolytes that are bound to specific compounds that allow for easy assimilation by the body! One serving of GlycoFuse delivers 25 g of HBCDs and essential electrolytes to help re-fuel muscles and kickstart recovery.