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Cyclic Dextrins

Quick Cyclic Dextrin Summary Points

  • Cyclic dextrins are a type of carbohydrate which has been shown to pass through the stomach quicker and support endurance. 
  • In addition, it's been shown to have a more sustained release profile, making it an ideal carb to use during longer events and training sessions.
  • Due to its shorter transit time in the stomach, there are also less gastrointestinal issues with its use such as bloating, cramping, burping and flatulence.
  • Cyclic dextrins are best used before workouts for maximum benefit as it doesn't really result in an insulin spike required for fast energy or anabolic muscle building purposes.
  • Cyclic dextrin is best stacked with simple carbs and proteins, but can be combined with other supplements as well.

What is Cyclic Dextrin?

Cyclic dextrins (or cyclodextrins) are a specific group type of carbohydrate that are essentially six to eight molecules of dextrose (glucose) chemically bonded together in the shape of a ring. Chemically speaking, cyclic dextrin is not too different in chemical components to maltodextrin. However, maltodextrin is arranged in a linear fashion, and not a ring. This ring structure is what gives cyclic dextrin some benefits you will not find with maltodextrin or other common carbohydrates.

Where Does Cyclic Dextrin Come From?

Cyclic dextrins can occur in nature from bacterial degradation of carbohydrates. However, they can also be synthetically produced from starch using a series of enzymes. The resulting products can then be purified to be used for various purposes.

Cyclic Dextrin Benefits

All serious athletes know the importance of carbohydrates. They are a primary fuel source, are needed to replace muscle glycogen, and are essential for optimal performance. However, carbohydrates behave very differently depending on their properties. When cyclic dextrin is ingested, they behave in various ways that are beneficial to exercise performance and bodybuilding.

Earlier studies involving the benefits of cyclic dextrin in exercise was performed with mice. It was shown that when highly branched cyclic dextrin was fed to mice, it was able to pass through the stomach quicker, and increased swimming endurance compared to either water or glucose solutions. Furthermore, this was done with a smaller spike in blood glucose levels, indicating a more sustained energy release (Takii et al, 1999). The same team of Japanese scientists later confirmed their findings with human subjects, showing equally positive results (Takii et al, 2004; Takii et al, 2005). In addition to these mentioned findings, it was also suggested that the short gastric transit time was a result of the very low osmolarity of the cyclic dextrin solution. What this means is that it was less likely to cause stomach upsets such as bloating, burping, and flatulence compared to more traditional carbohydrate sources (Takii et al, 2004).

Cyclic Dextrin Negatives & Side Effects

Cyclic Dextrin does not cause a sharp insulin spike after being consumed (Takii et al, 1999). This means that if you are after rapid bursts of fast energy, or hope to benefit from insulin spikes for anabolic purposes, cyclic dextrin will not be the correct carbohydrate for this job.

There are few safety issues associated with cyclic dextrin. It is a commonly occurring agent in many pharmaceuticals as an encapsulating agent and has dozens of other uses. Even side effects are few, especially considering that it is even better tolerated than simple glucose solutions when used as a carbohydrate source.

Cyclic Dextrin Recommended Dose and Ingredient Timing

When considering the dosing for cyclic dextrin, it can just be assumed that it is like any other carbohydrate. Studies using cyclic dextrin have used drinks made up of 10% cyclic dextrin (Takii et al, 2004; Takii et al, 2005). For most people, around half to 60% of your daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates. Cyclic dextrin can be used to make up part of this figure.

As with other carbohydrates, the timing of ingestion is rather important. For best results, cyclic dextrin can be consumed before a workout together with a pre workout shake in order to provide sustained energy during the workout. Although it is a carbohydrate that clears rapidly from the stomach, its low release properties may make it not suitable for periods when you’re looking for an insulin spike.

Cyclic Dextrin Supplements

Manufacturers are starting to catch on to the benefits of cyclic dextrin. They have therefore started to use these in their carbohydrate supplements. However, it is still a relatively new ingredient onto the market, and is still not yet commonly available.

Stacking Cyclic Dextrin

Cyclic Dextrin can be stacked with other, more simple, carbohydrates such as dextrose. This of course can also be combined with protein to help with muscle building, repair, and overall recovery.

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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