Take High Molecular Weight Carbs

images-19There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who want to be jacked and those I don’t associate myself with.

OK, maybe that is taking it to the extreme, but if you are reading Muscle & Strength I would bet my life savings (which I admit is meager) that you are the kind of person who wants to be jacked.

One of the things we know from decades of research is that your training volume is one of the biggest dictators of muscle hypertrophy (aka jackedness).

So if you want to get bigger and stronger then increasing your work capacity is essential.

Supplementing with carbohydrates before (or during) training is well known to improve work capacity and endurance. Additionally, post workout recovery is important for engaging in repeated bouts of exercise.

One of the rate limiting features of maintaining performance during long events (i.e. triathlons and ironman) is the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients at a high enough rate without cramping.

The mechanical composition of the meal (i.e. solid vs liquid) along with the chemical/physical properties (chemical structure and osmolality) greatly influence the gastric absorbance of nutrients taken in before, during, and after training.

When high molecular weight glucose polymers (vitargo and cyclic dextrins) are mixed in a water solution they provide a low osmolality liquid beverage. It is believed that consuming liquids with low osmolality will increase absorption, thereby providing more carbohydrates and improved performance.


Studies comparing a high molecular weight glucose polymer (Vitargo) vs short chain glucose oligomers showed that Vitargo did indeed have better gastric empty than the glucose oligomers1.

Now I know what you are thinking, better gastric emptying? Who gives a rip? Well besides it reducing the “gut bomb” feeling of drinking a huge shake before or during training, the increased gastric emptying means more nutrients available to use for energy during training.

Every once in a while theory actually translates into practice. High molecular weight carbs are a perfect example of that. Not only does Vitargo empty the gut faster, it also has been shown to improve glycogen resynthesis rates after a glycogen depleting protocol in well-trained men2.

Ok, improving glycogen synthesis is cool, but will these fancy carbs improve my performance?  Based on recent research it looks like they are superior to other glucose sources.

In a well-controlled study, Vitargo supplementation showed improved recovery and performance on repeated bouts of intense cycling3. In the study, the Vitargo group saw a 9% greater work capacity than the standard glucose group and an almost 20% increase over the placebo group!

Now I don’t know about you, but I sure would like to be able to recover faster.

Vitargo isn’t the only high molecular weight carbohydrate on the market. High branched cyclic dextrins (HBCD) are a close cousin to vitargo and report similar results. For example, HBCD has been shown to have faster gastric emptying and fewer GI issues when consumed during repeated exercise bouts than traditional sports drink4.

Additionally, it has been shown ingesting HBCD increases tie to fatigue and result in higher blood glucose levels during intense training than traditional glucose5.


Why spend fat stacks on high molecular weight carbs? I mean a banana or a sport drink should do the same right?

Not quite. In fact it turns out that when you take in something like a banana or a Powerade the fructose content of those carb sources is kind of useless in regard to providing energy for your muscle tissue while training.

A recent study by a friend of mine, Jorn Trommelen, showed that when you consume fructose in a peri-workout drink most of the fructose just gets burned by the liver and turns into lactate6.

This means less of it can go toward your training. From a performance standpoint, I would argue you are better off going with something lower in fructose or sucrose and higher in something that is just glucose.