December 2, 2023

But honestly, get the rest of your nutrition sorted first before worrying about what powder is next

MANY gym-goers love an intra-shake. You only have to look around to notice all the different coloured drinks bottles to know that.

Some belief this powder and that powder is the route to gains, to looking ‘swole’.

In fact, an intra-shake probably makes roughly a three per cent difference to whatever it is you are trying to achieve.

Now if that is winning a show, that three per cent could be quite significant.

Generally speaking, however, a gym-goer would be better placed concentrating on the remaining 97 per cent of their nutrition – outside of the gym where discipline is somehow that much harder.

But if you are using an intra-shake, perhaps the standout so-called magic powder is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD).

Unlike most carbohydrate powders, HBCD does not sit in the stomach. A blog written on the website of American supplement company Hostile reported: “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.”

In short, this means it moves very quickly from the stomach into the intestine to be absorbed.

Referencing another American website, Muscle Mentor, which was created by coach Justin Harris, who said in a previous article: “The stomach has osmo-receptors that sense osmolality of the incoming solutions.

“The higher the osmolality, the slower the gastric emptying rate. So the high sugar solution is actually held up longer in the stomach while the HBCD’s travel like a bowling ball through your stomach into the intestine to be absorbed.”



Again, in short, using simple sugars in your intra is just not optimal. In fact, because of the quick spike in insulin using these will ignite, you will see your energy crash pretty quickly.

This does not happen with HBCD.

As Harris explained in that Muscle Mentor article: “The beauty is that these molecules are so interlinked and complex, it takes a long time to hydrolyse (break down) the glucose bonds, therefore resulting in a rapid but sustainable release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps avoid insulin spikes and resultant blood-sugar crashes.”

People also use maltodextrin, perhaps a cheaper carbohydrate powder than HBCD.

The issue is one of osmolality, as we explained above.

A study by Furuyashiki et al. (2014) compared Cyclic Dextrin to maltodextrin using 24 participants, who cycled for 90 minutes, 30 minutes at 40 per cent of their V02 max (refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can absorb and use during exercise) and another hour at 60 per cent of their V02 max. One hour into cycling, one group was given a drink containing 15g of Cyclic Dextrin, while the other was given a drink containing 15g of maltodextrin.  

“The study found that those given the Cyclic Dextrin had significantly lower RPE’s (Rating of Perceived Exertion) than the maltodextrin group. 

In short, the exercise felt easier.

In conclusion, if you are using an intra – and whether or not you are on top of the remaining 97 per cent of you nutrition – the most optimal choice is HBCD.

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