Carbohydrates play several important functions in exercise performance and recovery. Providing a steady stable carbohydrate source for fuel during workouts has been shown clinically to greatly improve performance in both short, high-intensity workouts as well as prolonged exercise. Improved workout performance equals improved muscle development and increased cardio capacity. Carbohydrates also prevent the body from looking elsewhere for energy (like muscle tissue). In addition to this, carbohydrates play an essential role in recovery and rebuilding muscles. All carbohydrate sources though, are not created equal. Selecting the optimum amount and type of carbohydrates you consume before, during and after your workout has a large impact on both your performance and recovery.
Different carbohydrate sources behave very different in the body. Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, absorb in the system and are burned very rapidly. Other more complex carbs, such as yams, brown rice, etc. absorb much slower. In the fitness and bodybuilding community, slower acting carbs are much more sought after than their quick acting counterparts, however, both have their benefits. Quicker acting carbs are great for providing quick energy bursts as well as speedily entering the muscle post-workout to replenish depleted stores. The downside is that they can be easily converted to fat if they are not quickly burned and also, the energy stores are quickly depleted or stored as fat. Slower acting carbs enter the system more gradually and provide a sustained energy source for the body. The upside of this is that they are much harder for your body to convert to fat and provide more long-term energy; but the downside is that since they process slowly, they are often inadequate when energy demands exceed their rate of release in the system. All carbohydrate sources have a different absorption rate somewhere on the spectrum between super slow and super fast. The rate of absorption of carbohydrates is gauged by its molar mass, measured in grams to mole (g/mol). The higher the g/mol, the slower that carbohydrate source absorbs. On one end of the spectrum is glucose, at 180 g/mol. On the other end of the spectrum is AMW2300 Waxy Maize, an engineer corn derivative that comes in at 200,000 g/mol
So what is the best carbohydrate source to take? In years prior, the answer would have been to simply take a slow acting carb source at all times. In recent years however, significant advances have been made in our understanding of the effects of carbohydrate utilization. Information from the Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop and related studies has shown that taking multiple transportable carbohydrates as opposed to a single source of carbs increases maximum carbohydrate utilization up to 75%. (From 60-70 grams per hour for a single slow-acting source to 105 g/h for multiple sources) In other words, taking multiple carb sources before and during your workout can increase muscle energy usage by 75%!
A number of carbohydrate supplements are on the market geared towards athletic performance. Most use only a single source of slow-acting carbohydrate or a couple closely related sources that are essentially the same. Allmax Nutrition has introduced a new product, CarbION that uses a broad range of extremely complex and increasingly less complex engineered carbohydrates; six different sources to be exact. CarbION also uses an advanced carb utilization complex that further increases the muscles ability to use the carbs. The energy and intensity levels reported by CarbION users support the findings in recent clinical studies in that their workouts are longer, harder and better. Post workout ingestion of CarbION also supports maximum recovery and muscle replenishment over single-source carbs for the same reasons.
Overall, carbohydrates serve several functions for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. While all carbohydrates have their place, to optimize performance, the choice is to use a blend of several high quality carbs to both fuel your workout and recovery.