When it comes to optimising your training, actually getting in the gym and exercising is only half the battle.
And the other half?
In short, you want to be sure that you are providing your body with everything it needs to perform maximally in the gym, while also recovering optimally after. This is key when it comes to maximizing the results of your training.
Now, a common suggestion around this is to make sure you consume an abundance of easily digested carbohydrates (such as dextrose) after you train -- but is this really required?
What is Dextrose?
As I alluded to above, dextrose is a type of carbohydrate.
It is what many would consider a “simple sugar” because it is very easily digested. It is generally made from corn, and is chemically identical to glucose (which is the same type of sugar that is found in your blood).
While dextrose is commonly used in medical scenarios to increase blood sugar rapidly, it has become increasingly popular in body building circles as an addition to the all-important post workout shake -- but why is this the case?
Taking Dextrose Post-Workout
During a weight training session, you are working at a high intensity the whole time. This means that you are using carbohydrates for energy.
Most of the carbohydrates in your body are stored in your muscle tissue in the form of glycogen. During exercise, this is broken down into glucose, which is then used to produce the energy required to support muscle contractions.
All of which leads to a reduction in muscle glycogen after training.
As a result, after exercise your muscle tissue is primed to receive carbohydrates to replenish these glycogen stores . From this perspective, the benefits of taking an easily digested carbohydrate like dextrose after training is apparent.
See, as dextrose is digested and absorbed so rapidly, it makes its way into your muscle tissue immediately after training. This quickly increases your glycogen stores, and better facilitates recovery.
Dextrose and Muscle Growth?
OK, so dextrose can speed up recovery after training -- but how does it impact the results of your training.
Well, it all comes down to insulin.
Because dextrose is so rapidly absorbed, it causes a rise in blood sugar immediately after consumption. This causes a subsequent increase in the secretion of the hormone “insulin” which drives the glucose from your blood into your muscle cells.
It is this hormone that is almost entirely responsible for replacing your muscle glycogen stores -- but that's not all it does.
Insulin also promotes the movement of amino acids (i.e. protein molecules) from your blood into your muscle tissue. Because these compounds are used to repair and grow muscle, this could conceivably promote additional muscle growth.
And research would indicate that there is some truth behind this.
Does Dextrose Increase Muscle Growth?
The growth of new muscle tissue comes down to maximising the accumulation of muscle protein -- which is driven by a process known as “muscle protein synthesis” which simply describes the production of new muscle tissue.
Interestingly, simply consuming a simple carbohydrate like dextrose after training has been shown to cause a substantial increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to not taking any carbohydrates at all .
Now, it is important to note that this effect is further magnified when dextrose is combined with a fast absorbing protein powder like whey .
So, while dextrose itself is not used to develop muscle tissue, it can facilitate the movement of protein into your muscle cells after exercise. This leads to an increase in muscle protein synthesis, which can lead to improved muscle growth.
As a side effect of this, it can also lead to enhanced recovery after training. This could enhance the quality of your next training session, leading to further improvements in muscle strength and size over the course of a training block.
When Should I Take Dextrose?
Now, a lot of people will suggest that you need to smash down your post-workout shake of whey and dextrose within 30 minutes of finishing your session, or it will all go to waste.
But this is not entirely accurate.
When it comes to maximizing muscle growth, you first want to ensure that you are consuming enough protein on a daily basis (around 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight is a good place to start).
Then the next most important thing is to try and spread your protein intake evenly throughout the day across 4-5 meals.
Which means that if you are ticking these town major boxes, you don't actually need to consume your post-workout dextrose straight after training. In fact, as long as you consume it somewhere within the first 2-3 hours after your workout, you will be maximizing all of its benefits .
Dextrose is one of the fastest absorbing carbohydrates on the market. As a result, it has the potential to promote recovery and improve muscle protein synthesis after training -- especially when combined with a fast absorbing protein like whey.
While it is not the most important part of your nutrition, when added to a solid diet that contains adequate protein, it should offer a little boost in muscle growth -- which over time, will result in some serious gains.
- Roy, B. D., et al. "Effect of glucose supplement timing on protein metabolism after resistance training." Journal of applied physiology (1997).
- Tang, Jason E., et al. "Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men." Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism 32.6 (2007): 1132-1138.
- Aragon, Alan Albert, and Brad Jon Schoenfeld. "Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?." Journal of the international society of sports nutrition 10.1 (2013): 5.