Advanced Theory of Hydration and Glycogen Replenishment

TAGS: osmolality, Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin's, high molecular weight starches, HBCDs, David Reid, BCAAs, amylopectin molecules, peri-workout nutrition, supplement

It seems like there is a new miracle supplement discovered every day that will revolutionize the world as we know it. It will do everything...fat loss, muscle gain, fight cancer, alleviate arthritis, prevent heart disease, and even make a man's "junk" bigger or a woman's breasts grow to the size of watermelons! This industry can be the Wild West - not much in terms of law or regulation to keep snake oil salesmen at bay. So, how do you find what works?

First of all,we must define what a supplement's role is. A supplement, by definition, is, "Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole." The whole is a sound nutrition program. Without rock solid base nutrition, supplements can do little. There is no miracle pill that will allow you to stuff your face full of garbage and still let you maintain a top-level physique or, for that matter, be in good health. Put as a simple equation, proper diet should make up 95 percent of your regimen and supplements should account for five percent. Essentially, supplements are the icing on the cake. I can't tell you how many people approach me with a Jack-in-the-Box diet, and yet they have a gym bag full of the latest and greatest supplements.

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Now that we understand what a supplement's true role is, what is something (that is fairly cutting edge) that is used to help those who train hard and value recovery? Well, in the past decade, high molecular weight starches have become more prominent. The first one I encountered was Vitargo way back in 2003.

I tried it, and I could tell a profound difference in my recovery from even the toughest sessions. I also used to swallow 40 grams of BCAA tablets per hour session. So, what does these have to do with supplements? After Vitargo came out, many cheaper versions of waxy maize starch hit the market. True Nutrition, always a leader, brought out an affordable version that benefited many. I had all of my athletes on it. Now, in 2014, the new kid on the block is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrins, or HBCDs for short. What is this mystery molecule and how may it benefit me, you may ask? That is what I will try to answer in terms most can understand.

HBCDs are made from amylopectin (starch) molecules which are enzymatically altered so that they cross bridge and link up. This changes the shape, denaturing the original molecule, much like cooking egg whites. Egg whites are still egg whites and contain the same amount of protein - they just change structurally. Imagine taking a tree branch and making it into a circle. All the leaves, branches, and stems would still be on it, but it's now a circular tree branch. However, circular or not, it's still a tree branch. How does this help? We will see shortly.

Now that we have defined what HBCDs are, we need to know how they benefit a body. When we work out, we create a deficit of energy, nutrients, and some hormones. How do we climb out of this self-created hole? The body needs the proper building blocks (i.e., amino acids and glucose) to repair damaged muscles. The idea is to use HBCDs pre- and inter-workout so that the body has a constant supply of energy throughout intense training sessions. You also need a protein source (BCAAs, whey hydrolysate, or a combination of the two) to fight off catabolism. A simple carbohydrate source that doesn't cause a blood sugar spike and insulin response would be best. So, what gets one there optimally? Why not just high glycemic simple sugars? The issue with fast sugars is two-fold: with a rapid rise in blood glucose comes a rapid insulin response that almost always leads to hypoglycemia. This would be a poor choice during a workout but a great choice post-workout. With simple sugars, you would probably see your energy nose dive before you finished your lift. Simple sugars also have a very high osmolality, which we will see is problematic. So just what the hell does this osmolality word mean?!

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Let's first define osmolality. Osmolality is the number of molecules of a given substance (solute) in a kilogram of liquid (solvent). To be high in osmolality means to have many molecules in a solution. Imagine a bucket of water with 100,000 sugar (sucrose) grains in it. After these molecules dissociate, you would have 100,000 glucose and 100,000 fructose molecules floating in a solution. It makes sense that this solution has a high osmolality since it has 200,000 molecules in a solution. The following example should provide a simple understanding: you could have 200,000 fructose and glucose molecules in a solution vs. 2,000 one-hundred long glucose chains. Of course these numbers don't represent the reality - they were just an off the cuff comparison.

So, how does the above mumbo jumbo affect you? The stomach has osmo-receptors that sense osmolality of the incoming solutions. The higher the osmolality, the slower the gastric emptying rate. Therefore, the high sugar solution is actually held up longer in the stomach while the HBCDs travel like a bowling ball through your stomach and into the intestine to be absorbed. The beauty is, these molecules are so interlinked and complex that it takes a long time to hydrolyze (break down) the glucose bonds, resulting in a rapid but sustainable release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps avoid insulin spikes and resultant blood sugar crashes.

Peri-workout nutrition ( nutrition taken in before, during, and after a workout) is becoming more prevalent. High glycemic carbohydrates are great post-training. They essencially force feed the muscle glucose in a hurry, usually resulting in blood sugar dips. While this is great post-workout, it would be terrible for workout performance. A great way to maximize this anabolic window, however, is to drink HBCDs before and during your workout, along with either BCAAs or whey hydrolysate to deliver nutrients to your muscles while you train. Right now, you can buy HBCDs from www.truenutrition.com or use Glycofuse from Gaspari Nutrition. They are both excellent products. There are other companies out there, but I can't personally speak for their products. HBCDs come in alpha, beta, and gamma chains. The beta chain is currently the preferred molecule in bodybuilding as it seems to favor rapid protein uptake according to the most recent research. Gaspari Nutrition and True Nutrition carry the beta chain, and they are trusted sources, so I highly recommend either. Powerhouse Gym Clinton Township carries Glycofuse, so pick it up from your gym . Go buy some today and improve your recovery and make those hard-earned gains you are seeking a reality!

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As for dosing, this inter-workout drink could contain anywhere from 10 to 50% of the daily carbohydrate intake totals. It would depend entirely on how lean the person is and how much lean muscle mass he or she has. I dilute 75 grams in half a gallon of water. You do not bloat and it seems to fill out my muscle nicely, and it doesn't interfere with fat loss. By keeping the mixture high in water content, you make the mixture lower in osmolality, which is our goal. A good rule of thumb is that if you don't dilute the solution enough, you get a rather unpleasant effect called "dumping syndrome." It is a real medical issue but literally feels like your colon is trying to turn inside out. You will pass feces like a 12-gauge shotgun blast. At that point, you know you have a hyper-osmolality solution. Simple fix: add more water. The drawback for bigger bodybuilders (240 pounds or more) is that some can utilize up to 250 grams of HBCDs. This may take three-quarters of a gallon to keep the solution with lower osmolality. Drinking high amounts of water during a workout could either force you to pee a ton or rely on Depends panties! All kidding aside, most people will have to tinker with "their" mix so they can maximize the load they are able to consume.

Why is it important to keep the mixture diluted enough? If it isn't diluted properly, then you will find the solution has an osmolality higher than your serum (blood), which has a normal reference range of 278-300 mmol/kg of water at roughly a 15% solution. So, for the HBCDs to be absorbed rapidly, the solution needs to be lower than the serum. HBCDs are roughly 160,000 Daltons in weight versus dextrose at roughly 160 Daltons, which simply means that they are 1,000 times larger and more complex. Obviously we need the solution to be lower in osmolality than serum. I believe roughly 100 grams of HBCDs mixed with a half-gallon of water would provide an osmolality of around 11. This would be a good dosing for a male middleweight bodybuilder. The larger the muscle mass, the higher the gram dosage of HBCDs; therefore, you need more water to dilute the solution enough to bring it below the serum to allow for rapid gastric emptying.

Hopefully this article makes sense to most people so that the terms Daltons, osmolality, and rapid gastric emptying are no longer a mystery. That way more athletes can take advantage of HBCDs in their quest for gains.


With 20 years experiences as a trainer and nutritionist, David Reid has helped countless athletes reach their goals—including over 150 scholarship athletes, two-time Olympic sprinter Tanko Braimah, and multiple NHL and NFL athletes.

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