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Cyclic Dextrins & Cluster Dextrin: A Carb Guide for Athletes

Quick Cyclic Dextrin Summary Points

  • Cyclic Dextrin Basics: Defined as a group of carbohydrates formed by 6-8 glucose molecules in a ring shape, offering unique benefits over linear structured carbs.
  • Source: Can be naturally occurring or synthetically produced from starch using enzymes.
  • Benefits for Athletes: Provides sustained energy release, rapid gastric transit, and is less likely to cause digestive discomfort.
  • Research-Backed Performance Enhancement: Studies indicate its effectiveness in increasing endurance and causing smaller spikes in blood glucose for sustained energy (Takii et al, 1999; 2004; 2005).
  • Comparatively Low Insulin Spike: Does not cause sharp insulin spikes post-consumption, making it different from other carbs like maltodextrin and dextrose.
  • Cyclic Dextrin vs Maltodextrin: Offers slower, more sustained energy release and less gastrointestinal distress compared to maltodextrin.
  • Cyclic Dextrin vs Dextrose: Unlike dextrose, cyclic dextrin provides moderated energy release without rapid spikes and crashes.
  • Cyclic Dextrin vs Cluster Dextrin: Cluster Dextrin, or HBCD, is a more advanced form with even faster gastric emptying and enhanced benefits.
  • Supplement Synergy: This can be combined effectively with protein powders, electrolytes, BCAAs, and pre-workout formulas for enhanced performance.

What is Cyclic Dextrin?

Cyclic dextrins, also known as cyclodextrins, are a unique group of carbohydrates. Comprising six to eight glucose molecules bonded in a ring shape, they share similarities in chemical components with maltodextrin. However, unlike the linear arrangement of maltodextrin, cyclic dextrin's ring structure imparts distinct benefits not found in maltodextrin or other common carbohydrates.

Where Does Cyclic Dextrin Come From?

Cyclic dextrins can be found in nature as a result of bacterial degradation of carbohydrates. Alternatively, they are synthetically produced from starch using enzymatic processes. The final product is then purified for various applications, including dietary supplements.

Cyclic Dextrin Benefits

Carbohydrates are fundamental for athletes, providing essential energy, replenishing muscle glycogen, and supporting peak performance. Cyclic dextrin, due to its structure, offers unique benefits in this context.

Research indicates that when consumed, cyclic dextrin can pass through the stomach more quickly than other carbs, leading to increased endurance with a smaller spike in blood glucose, thus suggesting a more sustained energy release (Takii et al, 1999; Takii et al, 2004; Takii et al, 2005).

This rapid gastric transit, combined with low osmolarity, means it is less likely to cause digestive discomfort, such as bloating or flatulence, compared to other carbohydrate sources.

Cyclic Dextrin Negatives & Side Effects

Cyclic Dextrin doesn’t cause a significant insulin spike post-consumption, which could be a drawback for those seeking quick energy bursts or anabolic benefits from insulin spikes (Takii et al, 1999). Its safety profile is strong, with minimal side effects reported, often displaying better tolerance than simple glucose solutions.

Cyclic Dextrin Recommended Dose and Ingredient Timing

For cyclic dextrin, the dosage is similar to other carbohydrates. Research typically utilizes solutions with a 10% concentration of cyclic dextrin (Takii et al, 2004; Takii et al, 2005). It’s recommended that carbohydrates constitute about half to 60% of daily energy intake, and cyclic dextrin can contribute to this.

The optimal timing for consumption is before workouts, combined with a pre-workout shake, to provide sustained energy. However, due to its slow-release properties, it might not be ideal for moments requiring rapid insulin spikes.

Cyclic Dextrin vs Maltodextrin

While both cyclic dextrin and maltodextrin are derived from starch, their structural differences lead to distinct behaviours in the body. Maltodextrin, with its linear structure, is digested and absorbed rapidly, often causing a sharp insulin spike.

In contrast, cyclic dextrin's ring structure allows for a slower, more sustained release of energy without significant spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels.

This makes cyclic dextrin a more favourable option for athletes seeking steady energy without the gastrointestinal distress often associated with maltodextrin.

Cyclic Dextrin vs Dextrose

Dextrose, a simple sugar, is known for its rapid absorption and immediate energy boost. This makes it a popular choice for quick energy replenishment.

Cyclic dextrin, on the other hand, offers a more moderated energy release. While dextrose can be ideal for post-workout recovery when quick glucose replenishment is needed, cyclic dextrin is more suitable for sustained energy during longer periods of physical activity, helping to avoid the rapid spikes and crashes often associated with simpler sugars like dextrose.

Cyclic Dextrin vs Cluster Dextrin

Cluster Dextrin, another name for highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD), is essentially a variant form of cyclic dextrin. This form of cyclic dextrin has a higher molecular weight and possibly even more rapid gastric emptying than standard cyclic dextrin.

This means Cluster Dextrin can provide the same benefits as cyclic dextrin — sustained energy release and minimal digestive discomfort — but perhaps at an enhanced level, making it also particularly suitable for high-intensity and endurance athletes.

Combining Cyclic Dextrin with Other Supplements

Cyclic dextrin’s ability to provide sustained energy without gastrointestinal distress makes it an excellent carbohydrate to combine with other supplements. It pairs well with protein powders for post-workout recovery, helping to deliver amino acids to muscles steadily. When mixed with electrolytes and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), it can create an effective intra-workout drink that supports endurance and hydration.

Additionally, its compatibility with pre-workout formulas can enhance energy levels without overloading the system with rapid sugar spikes.


In the landscape of sports nutrition, cyclic dextrin stands out as a versatile and effective carbohydrate source. Its unique structure and digestion properties offer athletes and fitness enthusiasts a reliable source of sustained energy, minimizing the common digestive issues associated with other fast-digesting carbs.

Comparisons with maltodextrin, dextrose, and even its advanced form, Cluster Dextrin, highlight its suitability for prolonged physical activities and those seeking stable blood sugar levels.

Additionally, its compatibility with a range of supplements, from protein powders to electrolytes, makes it an invaluable addition to any athlete’s nutritional arsenal. Whether used in pre-workout preparations or for recovery, cyclic dextrin offers a balanced and efficient energy source, catering to the diverse needs of the fitness community.

  • Takii et al (1999), Enhancement of Swimming Endurance in Mice by Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 63:2045-2052
  • Takii et al (2004), A Sports Drink Based on Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin Generates Few Gastrointestinal Disorders in Untrained Men during Bicycle Exercise. Food Sci Technol Res, 10: 428-431
  • Takii et al (2005), Fluids containing a highly branched cyclic dextrin influence the gastric emptying rate. Int J Sports Med, 26:314-319
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