The Best Intra Workout Carbs To Enhance Performance, Maximize Muscle Growth, and Speed Up Recovery

An Intro To Intra Workout Carbs and Why You Should Be Using Them

Intra workout carbs are a special type of carbohydrate that are best utilized during your workouts. There are two main reasons why you would want to consume these types of carbohydrates during your workouts.

When you are training intensely, your body is using stored energy in the muscles called glycogen as well as any glucose that is currently present in your bloodstream. You only have a limited supply of glycogen and glucose and by using intra workout carbs you are helping to replenish glycogen and provide your body with a continuous supply of new energy to help continue to fuel your workouts. By using these carbohydrates you will be able to train harder for longer periods of time.

Another benefit to using intra workout carbs is that when you consume simple carbohydrates you will create an insulin spike. Why would you want to create an insulin spike during your workouts? When you are training intensely your muscles are begging for nutrients. When insulin is present in your bloodstream it shuttles nutrients to different areas of your body. Since your muscles are under stress they will receive priority and nutrients will flood your muscles helping to promote faster recovery and muscle repair. The faster you can recover from your workouts the more muscle you can build in a shorter period of time.

Using Intra Workout Carbs Speeds Up Recovery

We briefly touched on this concept in the previous section. When you consume simple carbohydrates during your workouts your body will release insulin into the bloodstream. When insulin is present in the bloodstream it will shuttle nutrients to different areas of the body. Since you’re in the middle of an intense training session your muscles are primed to receive nutrients and will be given priority. By using intra workout carbs you can shuttle nutrients directly into the muscles during your workouts. This helps the recovery process to start immediately.

Another huge benefit to using intra workout carbs is that they will help to blunt the cortisol response. Cortisol is a catabolic stress hormone that is released when your body is under stress including while you’re training. Cortisol will break down muscle tissue so by  limiting the amount of cortisol that is released you are going to recover faster leading to faster gains.[1]

The Top 4 Best Intra Workout Carbs

1. Highly Branched Cluster Dextrin

intra workout carbs - cyclic dextrin


Highly Branched Cluster Dextrin (HBCD), also known as Cyclic Dextrin, is a carbohydrate that is made up of designer glucose polymers.

Highly Branched Cluster Dextrin is formed through the breakdown of amylopectin using enzymatic treatments into clusters, which are then formed into larger chains using additional branching enzymes.

By increasing the molecular weight, osmolality is reduced which means that this carbohydrate source will be rapidly digested while providing your body with a sustained release of energy.

This makes the use of Cluster Dextrin an excellent choice to be used around the time of your workouts.

Cluster Dextrin would definitely be my first choice to use in an intra workout shake. For a more detailed write up on the benefits of Cluster Dextrin checkout this article.

Nutrition Info

Brand: True Nutrition
Serving Size: About 1 Scoop (32g)
Calories: 110
Protein: 0g
Carbs: 29g
Fat: 0g

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2. Karbolyn®

intra workout carbs - karbolyn


Karbolyn® is a homopolysaccharide. (relatively complex carbohydrate). Karbolyn® is made up of many monosaccharides joined together by glycosidic bonds. These are very large bonds that are branched macromolecules. The “Molecular Mass” has been precisely manipulated to create absorption through the stomach at a rate much greater than maltodextrin, dextrose, bread, pasta, rice or any other carb product on the market.

Karbolyn® is a patent-pending carbohydrate that contains very unique properties. Because Karbolyn® passes through the stomach very quickly, it acts like a pump, pulling water and nutrients along with it. This high tech carbohydrates actually moves through the stomach 18.21% faster than dextrose or sugar. Karbolyn® also has a Higher Solution Osmolarity than Dextrose, Sucrose or other carb powder mixes on the market. This is due to the unique properties found in the patent pending process. Karbolyn® is completely sugar free.

Karbolyn®’s other main feature is its ability to sustain energy levels.

Karbolyn® is produced using a newly developed “Enzymatic Milling Process”. The food source to produce the Karbolyn® is corn, potato & rice. The finished product is a modified molecular mass polysaccharide that is absorbed very quickly without any side effects, stomach bloating or discomfort plus it mixes instantly.[2]

There are a lot of different supplement companies that sell Karbolyn based products. Below is the nutrition info for EFX Sports Kaybolyn Fuel but other brands would have very similar nutrition profiles.

Nutrition Info

Brand:  EFX Sports Karbolyn Fuel
Serving Size: About 1 Scoop (53.5g)
Calories: 200
Protein: 0g
Carbs: 50g
Fat: 0g

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3. Dextrose

intra workout carbs - dextrose


Dextrose is a type of simple sugar made from corn. It is similar to fructose and chemically identical to glucose, which is blood sugar.

Simple sugars, including dextrose, fructose, and glucose, appear in foods such as table sugar, honey, and bread.

Dextrose often appears in foods as an artificial sweetener and ingredients such as fructose corn syrup.

Doctors may use this simple sugar to raise a person’s blood sugar when it is too low.[3]

Dextrose is not as technologically advanced as Cluster Dextrin or Karbolyn® but will achieve a similar effect at a cheaper cost. It’s not the most efficient intra workout carb but it is a lot more cost effective.

Nutrition Info

Brand:  NOW Sports Nutrition, Dextrose Powder
Serving Size: 2 Level Tablespoons (20g)
Calories: 80
Protein: 0g
Carbs: 20g
Fat: 0g

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4. Maltodextrin

intra workout carbs - maltodextrin


Maltodextrin is a white powder that is relatively tasteless and dissolves in water. It is an additive in a wide range of foods, as it can improve their texture, flavor, and shelf life.

It is possible to make maltodextrin from any starchy food, including corn, potato, wheat, tapioca, or rice. Although the powder comes from these natural products, it then undergoes processing.

To make maltodextrin, manufacturers put starch through a process called hydrolysis. Hydrolysis uses water, enzymes, and acids to break the starch into smaller pieces, resulting in a white powder consisting of sugar molecules.[4]

Maltodextrin, like dextrose, is not as technologically advanced as Cluster Dextrin or Karbolyn® but will achieve a similar effect at a cheaper cost. It’s not the most efficient intra workout carb but it is a lot more cost effective.

Nutrition Info

Brand:  NOW Sports Nutrition, Carbo Gain Powder (Maltodextrin)
Serving Size:  2/3 cup (67g)
Calories: 240
Protein: 0g
Carbs: 63g
Fat: 0g

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Mixing Intra Workout Carbs With Essential Amino Acids

intra workout carbs - eaa


Essential Amino Acids (EAA) cannot be made by the body and as a result, they must come from food or other supplement sources. When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left.

The human body uses amino acids to make proteins to help the body:

  • Break down food
  • Grow
  • Repair body tissue
  • Perform many other body functions
  • Amino acids can also be used as a source of energy by the body.

The 9 Essential Amino Acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Since proteins are the building blocks for muscle and EAA’s are the building blocks for protein it makes sense that this would be a good choice to include in your intra workout shake. By combining intra workout carbs with EAA’s you create the insulin spike that will then shuttle the amino acids into the muscles. Since EAAs are already broken down they can be rapidly absorbed and used by the body to promote rapid muscle growth and repair.

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The Perfect Intra Workout Shake

Now that we know why we would want to use intra workout carbs along with EAA’s let’s put this knowledge to use and come up with the perfect intra workout shake.

The benefits of consuming a quality intra workout shake are:

  1. To provide a continuous source of energy
  2. To promote muscle repair and growth
  3. To blunt the cortisol response
  4. To be fast digesting and be able to be rapidly absorbed by the body

You may need to tweak some of these amounts depending on what your goals are (cutting, bulking, etc.) but this should be a good starting point for muscle growth and repair.

Ingredient Amount
Water 20 – 40oz
Cluster Dextrin 50g
EAAs 10-15g


Combining intra workout carbs with EAAs is a powerful combination to help fuel your most intense workouts and promote faster muscle recovery and growth. If you are serious about taking your training and results to the next level it would be a good idea to consider including an intra workout shake to your daily regiment. Within a few days you should notice that you are less sore from your workouts. This is not a bad thing. This means that you are recovering faster which is exactly what you want. Best of luck on your fitness journey!


  1. Mountain Dog Training and Nutrition by John Meadows CSCS, IFFB Pro

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By | 2020-09-02T18:57:28+00:00 September 2nd, 2020|Articles, Nutrition, Supplements|

About the Author:

Hi, my name is Patrick and I am the founder of Always On Nutrition. I am an avid fitness enthusiast and have over 10 years of experience with nutrition and training to maximize fat loss and build muscle. I really hope that you find this content useful. Best of luck on your fitness journey and if you ever want to discuss your fitness further feel free to contact me through my contact page. Cheers!

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