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What is Waxy Maize Starch?

Waxy maize (American word for corn) starch is made up of amylopectin, which is a form of carbohydrate that is much more quickly digested compared to ordinary starch, though not necessarily as fast digesting as glucose. This provides more sustained energy for bodybuilders and athletes, which can help to boost endurance.

Where Does Waxy Maize Starch Come From?

Waxy maize starch is from a special variety of corn called “waxy corn”, or “waxy maize”, which originated from China. These corn are different from regular corn because normal corn have starch made up of both amylose and amylopectin. However waxy maize starch contains only amylopectin. Other forms of waxy starch can be obtained from other cereals such as rice and barley.

Waxy Maize Starch Benefits

All the benefits of waxy maize starch come from its slow digestibility. Waxy maize starch has an average molecular weight 100 times greater than carbohydrates used in sport and energy drinks, and contains no simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides. It may help improve exercise performance and also improves diabetes management (Sands et al, 2009).

Waxy Maize Starch Benefits for Endurance

A major source of energy for muscles is glycogen. This is essentially carbohydrate stored in your muscle to be used when you need it. Studies have shown that low GI (ie. slower digesting) carbohydrates are better able to sustain athletes towards the end of exercise compared to high GI foods (Thomas et al, 1994). This same effect has been observed with maxy maize, where it prevents an initial blood glucose and insulin spike and provides a more sustainable source of energy (Sands et al, 2009). The use of waxy maize starch also increases fat break down (Roberts et al, 2010), to be used as an additional energy source, which is especially important for endurance athletes.

Waxy Maize Starch Negatives and Side Effects

Although waxy maize is able to supply a steady release of carbohydrates, this quality is also its weakness. That is, it is unable to provide you with a sugar hit if you need it really quickly. So basically, whey protein is to sugar, while casein is to waxy maize starch. Some bodybuilding retail sites boast about how rapidly waxy maize starch can replace glycogen, but these claims should really be taken with a grain of salt. These claims are derived from an article by Stephens et al (2008). However, the information from this study is hard to validate as it uses a very specific type of patented carbohydrate, of which the exact constituents are unknown, and may not apply to waxy maize at all. Therefore, if you are after huge insulin spike (eg. immediately post workout), you’re better off using a simple sugar, while complex carbs such as waxy maize are better for sustained energy. On the upside, waxy maize is a very safe product, commonly used in food manufacturing. There are no known side effects from its use.

Waxy Maize Recommended Dose and Ingredient Timing

Around 50 to 60% of your daily energy intake should be from carbohydrates. You can use waxy maize to make up part of this figure. Studies looking at exercise performance have supplemented people with 1 g carbohyrate/kg body weight before exercise (Thomas et al 1994; Roberts et al 2010). For more information on carbohydrates, please refer to the links at the bottom of the page.

Waxy maize can be used as a way to “carbo load” before training or competition. It is a good idea to finish eating complex carbohydrates around 90 minutes before exercise to maximise the effect of your carbs and to prevent discomfort. Waxy maize can also be consumed in between meals to meet high calorie demands of elite athletes and body builders. Being a complex carbohydrate, it will provide a steady energy source without a sugar crash.

Waxy Maize Supplements

Waxy maize can be found as a stand-alone supplement or as a blended carbohydrate supplement. It can also be found as a steady energy source in some weight gainers, pre workout supplements.

Stacking Waxy Maize

Waxy maize is the slow carbohydrate of choice, but it can’t do it everything by itself. It should be stacked with faster sugars such as dextrose (glucose) and maltodextrin. Additionally, it can be stacked with pretty much anything else including protein powders and creatine.

Roberts et al (2010), Ingestion of a high-molecular-weight hydrothermally modified waxy maize starch alters metabolic responses to prolonged exercise in trained cyclists. Nutrition, 27: 659-665
Sands et al (2009), Consumption of the slow-digesting waxy maize starch leads to blunted plasma glucose and insulin response but does not influence energy expenditure or appetite in humans. Nutr Res, 29: 383-390
Stephens et al (2008), Post-exercise ingestion of a unique, high molecular weight glucose polymer solution improves performance during a subsequent bout of cycling exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 26: 149-154
Thomas et al (1994), Plasma glucose levels after prolonged strenuous exercise correlate inversely with glycemic response to food consumed before exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 4: 361-373

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