It may be due to my recent bout of carbophobia, but whenever I was asked about carbohydrate use for strength athletes, I’d shrug my shoulders and say, “eat more protein.” While I still love (love) my protein, I’ve recently had a couple of experiences that have changed my mind, in spite of my skepticism, about this previously out of style nutrient. Far from your typical carb, we’ll take a look at the supercharged version—Vitargo S2. I’ll show you how your performance and physique can benefit.

Protein synthesis

Now, I’m not suggesting that simply eating fast carbs ad nauseam is going to directly boost muscle growth and recovery. However, it’s a key part of the process. That’s because the pre-workout meal is highly dependent on the resulting insulin spike for its muscle building property, which just happens to be the greatest nutritional/supplemental stimulator of protein synthesis on record (10). This landmark study was performed on fasted subjects and suggests that timing is important for optimizing this effect, which is consistent with the rapid absorption profile of the super-carb.

Why would we want to elevate insulin during training? It’s because this insulin is responsible for increasing muscle blood flow and “the pump.” Although many people simply enjoy this cosmetic effect (because, admittedly, it’s always fun), it’s a functional physiological response. The increased muscle blood flow not only clears away waste products that cause fatigue, but it also facilitates nutrient delivery to the working muscle. This means that specific pre-training meals have the potential to enhance performance and stimulate growth.

Super-carb → Insulin → Blood flow → Nutrient delivery + Waste removal

It may surprise you to learn that the theory behind “nitric oxide stimulator” supplements is sound (even if the actual products aren’t), but what’s even more surprising is that the pre-training insulin spike is also the greatest supplemental blood flow stimulator ever measured (10)!

I’m not suggesting that insulin alone is anabolic, although it is anti-catabolic. In order to achieve any potential anabolism, it must be used in conjunction with rapid increases in blood amino acid levels (as outlined above).

Bloodsugar, Sex, Magic

Aside from the insulin spike, there are a couple of reasons why Vitargo S2 really excels here, and they both relate to the complaints associated with the traditionally used carbs, glucose and maltodextrin. Many people have gastrointestinal (GI) distress when dumping large quantities of these carbs into the gut, and this is the last thing you want to feel during training. The absence of this bloating is likely due to its ridiculously quick absorption (4, 7), but for whatever reason, people just don’t have GI distress when using this product.

The other issue is blood sugar crashes. They don’t occur as often as you might expect with glucose or maltodextrin, but again, for whatever reason, they just don’t happen at all with Vitargo S2. As a guinea pig, I’ve actually been trying to induce a precipitous fall in blood sugar in order to fully characterize the conditions under which they occur. The “problem” is that I just can’t make it happen. I’ve even fasted for half a day while on a low carb diet, but I couldn’t induce hypoglycemia at all before/during training (or any other time). Granted, my experiment is hardly scientific, but it does support the positive blood sugar data following post-exercise Vitargo use (9).

The Waxy Maize Myth

If you think that the problems that occur with dextrose and maltodextrin don’t apply to you because you use waxy maize starch (WMS), I have news for you. There are actually no data showing that WMS is any faster than the other two suboptimal carbs. Interestingly, this myth is derived from a study that actually showed the rapid absorption of Vitargo (7), which everyone has erroneously applied to WMS! Hell, even I’ve mentioned this potentially slow carb for Protein Pulse Feeding. I was wrong.

Glycogen and Cell Swelling

There’s no faster way to increase muscle size than by carb loading. Some of you may argue that creatine use can be faster, but it’s important to remember that much of the volumization effect from creatine is actually due to increased glycogen storage (5, 8, 11)! Again, like the training-induced pump, this cell swelling is enjoyable, but it also has physiological consequences.

For example, one long-standing idea behind cell volumization is that it may induce an anti-catabolic effect (3). This could occur because hydration status is associated with energy provision, meaning that the better fed you are, the more water you’ll have in your cells. This “highly fed” status could be a STOP signal for muscle breakdown.

Consistent with this idea, creatine supplementation has been shown to decrease catabolism in conjunction with resistance training (6). Given the relationship between creatine and glycogen storage, one has to wonder to what extent the anti-catabolism is due to elevated muscle glycogen.

Additionally, cellular glycogen status is associated with other cell signals relating to muscle protein turnover (1, 2), but we’ll save that discussion for another time. For now, it’s enough to understand the potential anabolic and anti-catabolic (think growth and recovery) effects from enhanced glycogen storage.

The Reason for Reason

If we’re going to take advantage of maximal cellular swelling, it stands to reason that we want to optimize glycogen supercompensation. This is exactly where Vitargo S2, my skepticism, and subsequent experience met in a head-on collision.

It’s been promoted that Vitargo has unusually rapid absorption and subsequent enhanced glycogen storage after endurance exercise (7). This same product was also shown to stimulate glycogen supercompensation and subsequent exercise performance two hours after glycogen depleting exercise (9). My response to this? “Who cares? It doesn’t directly apply to us. After all, strength athletes train differently and don’t need carbs.”

It is with this skepticism that I tried the product, and the results were impressive if not a little confusing. It took me a while to admit it, but for some reason, the Vitargo S2 induced a level of glycogen supercompensation that I hadn’t experienced since my last carb load. I wasn’t even carb depleted when I used it. It was bizarre, but after a decade and a half of supplement use, this was the first product I’ve used since creatine that induced a noticeable physical change.

The scientist in me has been overdosing on research trying to explain the “how’s” and “why’s,” but to be blunt, I simply can’t. Although this bothered the hell out of me for the first couple of weeks, I’ve subsequently learned to sit back and just enjoy it. Now it’s my goal to share these positive experiences and eliminate the current carbophobia trend.

In a future article, we’ll look at potential performance-enhancing effects of glycogen supercompensation as well as its application after a weigh-in.

Without even touching the direct performance-enhancing effects of enhanced glycogen storage, we’ve already seen at least two ways in which Vitargo S2 can help with muscle growth and recovery—optimizing protein synthesis and cell swelling induced anti-catabolism. Although any potential effect was initially met with a healthy dose of skepticism, earned from years of wasted time with useless supplements, the magnitude of the experience simply can’t be ignored. With this, we end the age of carbophobia.

Until next time, raise your expectations. Raise the Barr!


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