Carbohydrate supplements are created for two reasons – fuel and recovery. Nearly all carbohydrate supplements are made with a fast-acting carbohydrate source you may have heard of, called maltodextrin, while others provide real whole food complex carbohydrates with additional vitamins and nutrients from sources like sweet potatoes, oats, and peas. We’ve researched the best and most effective carbohydrate supplements to enhance your athletic performance and hep you reach your goals.
What Are Carbohydrate Supplements
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body. Carbohydrates provide glucose to feed your muscles with prolonged endurance capacity, better athletic performance as well as improving cognitive performance and processing. When it comes to training, carbohydrates are needed to help build more muscle mass, improve recovery times, and replenish glycogen for optimal energy output.
Carbohydrate supplements are often created for the purpose of muscle recovery and providing more energy, intra-workout. Carbohydrate supplements are specifically made for endurance athletes, triathletes, crossfitters, or those participating in high-intensity functional training protocols.
Carbohydrates can be taken pre, intra, and or post workout. However, for optimal muscle recovery carbohydrates do need to be consumed after training.
An important aspect of any athlete, or any individual looking to improve muscle hypertrophy, strength, or body composition, is what you eat after your workout, aka post workout nutrition. Post workout nutrition is important to replenish depleted nutrients while training.
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As your body performs strenuous exercise your breathing gets faster and your body starts to shuttle more oxygen into your muscles. The body prefers to use aerobic methods (with oxygen) to generate most of its energy. However, when your body cannot keep up with required oxygen demand to create energy to lift heavy weights, your muscle generate energy anaerobically.
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This energy comes from a process known as glycolysis, in which glucose is broken down into pyruvate and releases energy for ATP resynthesis. In the absence of oxygen, the enzyme pyruvate converts into a substance called lactate, which allows glucose to breakdown for more energy.
Without oxygen, the body relies upon adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glucose or glycogen in the muscle cells for energy, comprising what’s called the phosphagen (immediate) energy system and glycolytic pathway to produce energy in limited quantities
Lactate or lactic acid, produces a burning sensation in your muscles, resulting in a loss of power and muscle fatigue.
The ingredients ingested immediately post workout are crucial for several biological processes that enable muscle recovery and muscle growth process.
Several studies have identified that muscle glycogen is a major determinant of endurance exercise capacity [R]. Optimal nutrition strategies, prioritizing carbohydrates to manipulate and store muscle glycogen, will result in better athletic performance and recovery. Carb loading is often used as a training strategy for endurance athletes to replenish glycogen stores for prolonged endurance capacity and training.
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Optimal post workout carbohydrate supplementation is critical to assist your body in
- Glycogen resynthesis, replenishing energy reserves
- Initiates muscle protein synthesis, which is the building of muscle mass and inhibition of muscle breakdown, with the addition of protein
- Produce energy intra or pre workout for better endurance and prolonged exercise capacity
What Type Of Carbohydrate Supplements Are Best
Nutrient dense carbohydrates, otherwise known as complex carbohydrates, replenish energy reserves as well as rapidly stimulate the muscle building process muscle protein synthesis.
This macronutrient gets a little bit tricky. Carbohydrates are the major fuel source in energy production. They support high-energy demand during pro-longed endurance activity and moderate exercise. Yet, there tends to be a major disconnect between what carbohydrates are best for post workout and for whom.
Most carbohydrate supplements and post workout drinks are made with sugar or sugar-based substrates maltodextrin, or dextrose. These types of post workout drinks can help replenish energy production and help in the muscle rebuilding process, especially amongst elite and endurance athletes. Most consumers or gym enthusiasts do not need or benefit from a maltodextrin-based carbohydrate supplement. If body composition is of any importance, I would also highly suggest staying away from these types of carbohydrates, due to the fact that they are simple sugars.
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Complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, yams, rice, oats, or patented carbohydrate ingredients like carb10 or Vitargo, have a slower glucose and insulin release, resulting in even sustained energy and better workout recovery. Simple carbohydrates like sugar sweep glycogen into your system and spike energy levels, followed by a crash, and resulting in unwanted body fat.
BEST CARBOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTS
This list was based upon several conditions. The first, was that the supplement had to be a stand-alone carbohydrate supplement, with that specific intent and purpose and not marketed as a post workout supplement. Specifically formulated post workout supplements are different.
The second condition was that the supplement could not contain any proprietary blends. Third, supplements were researched based upon formulation and effectiveness of ingredients.
Best Carbohydrate Supplement Overall: Swolverine Clean Carbs
Best Carbohydrate Supplement With Maltodextrin: NutraBio Super Carb
Best Carbohydrate Supplement For Endurance: Vitargo Carbohydrate Powder
Best Carbohydrate Supplement: Muscle Feast Oat Powder
Best Carbohydrate Supplement Overall: Swolverine
Unlike other carbohydrate supplements, Swolverine provides real fuel from real food with Clean Carbs. Clean Carbs is made with 100% complex carbohydrates from sweet potatoes, yams, oats, and blueberries.
What makes this formula great, is the simplicity and effectiveness. It avoids genetically modified simple sugars like dextrin, providing valuable micronutrients, with 153% of the daily recommend value of vitamin a, vitamin c, potassium, folate, calcium, and phosphorus.
Complex carbohydrates also slow down the digestion process, leaving you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. This can help with weight loss, or body recomposition for aesthetic goals. Additionally, complex carbohydrates provide more fiber, improving cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Swolverine easily takes the best carbohydrate supplement overall, with 24g of real carbs per serving. What makes this product even better, is how versatile it is. You can add it to your smoothies, pair it up with your protein, or even cook fried chicken with it.
Best Carbohydrate Supplement With Maltodextrin: Nutrabio Super Carb
NutraBio is a superior brand which values transparency and integrity in formulation. Created by industry legend Mark Glazier, NutraBio was founded in the 1990s and has been the front runner in creating effective products for a long time.
NutraBio’s Super Carb combines 25g of Cluster Dextrin and a robust amount of electrolytes from trademarked ingredient Calci-K, providing potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Super Carb is a premier and high quality fast acting source of carbohydrates ideal for endurance athletes, providing more glycogen replenishment.
Strength and endurance athletes demand more from their body and have different carbohydrate requirements than the average gym-goer. Aerobic endurance athletes and those who train for 60 minutes or more a day such as runners, cyclists, competitive crossfitters, need an average of 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight to adequately replenish glycogen stores.
NutraBio is perfect for the elite athlete, however this product would not be suggested to the average consumer. Dextrin supplements can potentially spike blood sugar, create more body fat, and lead to an energy crash. Dextrin supplements should only be used by endurance or serious athletes as a readily available fuel source.
Maltodextrin acts with the same mechanisms as sugar. It creates more glucose in your blood, providing a quick fast acting form of energy.
You can also check out EndureElite’s Recover which is another brand part of the Nutrabio family that delivers a potent recovery formula for athletes.
Best Carbohydrate Supplement For Endurance: Vitargo Carbohydrate Powder
Vitargo is a fast-acting carbohydrate to fuel intense training and optimize recovery through rapid glycogen replenishment. It has a high molecular weight, which lets it travel faster to the bloodstream. Vitargo is made from a variety of starch sources, such as waxy maize, potato starch, barley starch, wheat starch, or rice starch. The formula requires a proprietary extraction technique, which is the key to its effectiveness. The starting ingredietn is far less important.
Compared to maltodextrin, studies show that Vitargo produces greater endurance performance, faster gastric emptying time, and faster muscle glycogen replenishment. Absorption, especially while training, is important for better performance and recovery.
Vitargo has a very low osmolality, giving you a rapid stomach emptying, in fact, 130% faster than with ordinary sports drinks. Ingestion of Vitargo following prolonged intense endurance exercise provides superior benefits to movement velocity and power output during subsequent repeated maximal explosive resistance exercise compared to maltodextrin.
What I really like about Vitargo, is that they have they have research-based evidence to back their claims, proving that their product is in fact better and more effective than dextrin based ingredients, which are published in reputable journals, such as Plos one, Journal Of Sports And Science, Gastroenterology, and the European Journal of Applied Physiology [R].
Other advanced ingredients do not have those claims.
How does Vitargo compare against Karbolyn?
Karbolyn is a trademarked ingredient created by Jeff Golini, owner and founder of EFX Sports and All-American Pharmaceuticals.
Karbolyn is a homopolysaccharide derived from potato, rice, and corn. Karbolyn is absorbed like a simple sugar, but without the typical crash associated with other simple carbohydrate supplements, providing long-lasting sustained energy levels. Karbolyn was created for the specific purpose of carb loading. It was designed to give elite or endurance athletes a more optimized way of improving glycogen stores. Karbolyn passes through the digestive tract rapidly, acting like a pump pulling water and nutrients along with it. Although the benefits of rapid absorption and long-lasting sustained energy sound good, unfortunately, there are no clinical studies that show that Karbolyn is a superior ergogenic aid, or that it provides better performance outcomes to coincide with manufacturer claims.
Studies which have been released, were not published by any major journal, and were developed and published by the manufacturer. More evidence is needed to replicate in-house studies.
Best Carbohydrate Supplement For Simplicity: Muscle Feast Oat Powder
This product is simple, effective, and made from real food. A great alternative to maltodextrin for overall health and for those tracking macros, is Muscle Feasts Oat Powder. Made with 100% real oats, this carbohydrate supplement is made for the intended purpose of glycogen resynthesis and improving muscle recovery.
Oats are one of the best sources of vitamins and minerals for digestion and keeping your heart healthy, like zinc, magnesium, and fiber. Oats are also rich in antioxidants, and powerful plant compounds called polyphenols. The most notable however is a unique group of antioxidants called Avenanthramides which help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator, therefore increasing blood flow by widening the blood vessels. What makes this even more enticing, is that you can add it to your post workout smoothie with added superfoods, healthy fats, and protein.
Looking For The Best Post Workout Carb Supplement To Help You Add More Muscle And Recover Faster?
Your body needs carbohydrates for optimal performance and recovery during high-intensity and endurance training. But, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Swolverine’s Clean Carbs® is made with 100% real whole-superfoods from complex carbohydrates, including Sweet potatoes, Yams, Oats, and Blueberries. These four ingredients provide the long-lasting and sustained energy your body needs to fuel performance and optimize recovery. Delicious and rich you can add it to your smoothies, shakes, or mix with water, for a rich and tasty treat.
SWOLVERINE IS AN ENDURANCE ATHLETE AND ACTIVE LIFESTYLE BRAND. MADE FOR THE ELITE ATHLETE, AND THE STRONG-WILLED OUR PRODUCTS WERE DESIGNED TO FUEL YOUR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. WE PERFORM WHEN YOU PERFORM.
We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.