Carbohydrates are an ideal source of energy for the body. This is because they can be converted more readily into glucose, the form of sugar that's transported and used by the body, than protein or fats can.
Even so, a diet too high in carbohydrates can upset the delicate balance of your body's blood sugar level, resulting in fluctuations in energy and mood which leave you feeling irritated and tired.
It is better to balance your intake of carbohydrates with protein, a little fat and fibre. It is important athletes understand the different types of Carbohydrates available and the best times to use them to achieve optimum performance, recovery whilst maintaining a lean fit body.
Types of carbohydrate
Monosaccharide: The simplest form of carbohydrate, i.e. one sugar molecule. Examples are glucose and fructose.
Disaccharide: A carbohydrate compound made up of two sugars. Examples are sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and maltose.
Oligosaccharide: Carbohydrate chain of a few simple sugars in length.
Polysaccharides: Carbohydrates containing a large number of sugars. Starch, glycogen, multi dextrose and cellulose are examples.
The following terms are relevant when evaluating the response to foods:
Glycaemic Index (GI) - This measures the reaction of the blood glucose levels to consuming a food when compared with glucose, which has a GI of 100. Low GI foods, below about 55 cause glucose levels in the blood to rise slowly and over a long time period, compared with high GI foods of over 70, which lead to a rapid but short lived rise in blood glucose.
Insulin Index (II) - This describes the response of blood insulin (the hormone which regulates blood glucose levels) to consuming all foods; it is not just relevant to carbohydrate containing foods. Some meats and other low carbohydrate foods evoke an insulin response without a glycaemic response.
Glycaemic Load (GL) - This is a simple calculation based on the GI, but it also takes into account the amount of carbs contained in an average food portion. This gives us a relevant reference directly related to the actual amount of food we eat. For example, the GI of watermelon is 72 so it is classed as a high GI food, but the GL of a 'portion' of watermelon, i.e. a large slice (120g) contains very few carbs and so when you calculate the GL it has a very low score of 4 (a GL score of 10 or less is low).
Glycaemic Response (GR) – This is the speed and level of blood sugar increase after eating food or a meal.
Carbohydrates in Supplements
Dextrose is simply glucose, the simplest carbohydrate. Dextrose is a monosaccharide which is 70-80% as sweet as table sugar. It is highly soluble in water and mixes easily with a fork or in a shaker. Dextrose has been used for decades in sports supplementation, and its use continues today. It has a GI of 100 and is used for energy or refuelling after a workout. It is available as a flavoured or unflavoured powder to be added to drinks.
It is also increases the mixability of other substrates when combined in solution. Dextrose (Glucose) can be found in recovery Supplements such as ISO Splash RecoverEX and RecoverEX Extra where it is ideal for helping to refuel Glycogen stores, halting catabolism and thus aiding recovery.
Maltodextrin, is a synthetic polysaccharide, i.e. a complex carbohydrate. It is usually produced from corn starch and the glucose polymers vary in length. It is a fine white powder which is not sweet, and is actually relatively bland.
Maltodextrin is used by a range of sports people to help meet the high-energy demands of intense exercise.
Although structurally it is a 'complex' carbohydrate the chemical structure is such that it is open to rapid breakdown, so it is digested and absorbed very quickly. It is in fact digested faster than sugar and has a GI of 105. Its main uses are for additional energy, to help bodybuilders gain quality weight and for refuelling after exercise. It is commonly a primary ingredient in weight gain formulas as it's a cheap way of bumping up the calories.
However, on its own it is not ideal in this role due to its very high GI. Whole ground grains such as those found in Mass Attack Juggernaut and Mass Attack Heavyweight are a much superior way of slowly releasing the energy required to grow muscle and not gain excess fat.
There is considerable evidence indicating benefits to refuelling more efficiently by consuming high GI carbs post workout (Seiple, et al 1983; Gisolfi, et al 1992), and some texts advocate a mixture of both maltodextrin and dextrose post workout. Maltodextrin and dextrose each have a different osmolality so the rate they are emptied from the stomach differs, as does the rate they are absorbed in the intestine into blood following this.
Furthermore, there are two separate mechanisms for carbohydrate absorption in the intestine, one which absorbs carbohydrate as monosaccharides, and one which absorbs them as di- and oligosaccharides. Using both maltodextrin and dextrose post workout will maximise uptake by utilising both mechanisms independently. Shi et al (1995) demonstrated this by showing that a solution containing both of the substrates gave more carbohydrate uptake and better hydration following exercise.
Both Dextrose and Maltodextrin in a research proven 50:50 split are included in ISO Splash RecoverEX, RecoverEX Extra and Express Carbs which can be added to other protein drinks to make your own recovery formula.
Oats are a traditional food and a great source of slow released, low GI carbohydrate. You can, of course, buy your own oats and blend them to grind them but they aren't soluble and produce a very gritty, not-so-pleasant shake. Ultra-fine ground oats are available as a supplement, which retains the nutrition but makes oats soluble and more practical in a shake.
All the nutrient benefits are retained, when the oats are ultra-fine ground; this includes Beta-Glucan, the soluble fibre which is particularly good at helping to lower cholesterol levels, B vitamins and protein. However, the GI does increase; oats are low GI food around 55.
Whole ground oats, Barley, Durum Wheat and Maize are included in Boditronics Proprietary Ultracarb blend featured in our Mass Attack Juggernaut while Mass Attack Heavyweight features Whole ground oats.