Best Carbohydrate Supplements Ranked for 2018 – Top 10 Brands

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Jump Ahead to the Best Carb Products

You’ve surely heard of carbohydrates, or at least heard the word. It is often shortened to “carbs” and discussed in relation to diet. Carbohydrates have been blamed for weight gain, type II diabetes, and obesity. Health enthusiasts push the idea of a low-carb diet in order to stay healthy… but is that really the path to health?

These enthusiasts also contradict themselves when they chant the low-carb diet and promote eating lots of fruits and vegetables at the same time. Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates too!

Carbs are extremely important to your overall health, and especially to your brain. Your brain operates solely on glucose derived from carbohydrates, taking 20% of your daily caloric intake to provide itself with energy. Low carb diets can impair your cognitive functions and slow down your frontal cortex.

They also provide the rest of your body with energy and fuel your muscles. If you are an athlete, carbohydrates are one of the most important macronutrients for your muscles. Healthy carbohydrate consumption paired with exercise can actually help you maintain weight, lose weight or gain weight, if that is your goal. Carbohydrates are necessary for your body, and can be used as a health tool, especially for intense athletes. Would you like to learn how?

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the basic food groups, and are essential to a healthy lifestyle. They include sugars, fibers, and starches. Most people think of carbohydrates as bread products and rice, but this basic food group actually includes fruits, vegetables, and some milk products as well.

These compounds are termed carbohydrates because at a molecular level, they are molecules of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are one of the three different macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Called “carbs” for short, they are the body’s primary source of energy.

Carbohydrates can be broken up into two sub-categories: simple carbs, and complex carbs. Simple carbs are fast carbs that are quickly digested and turned into energy. They are also called simple sugars.

Simple carbs have given carbohydrates a bad name, because many of the less healthy carbohydrates are simple sugars, such as refined sugar. Some simple carbs are better than others, however. Simple carbs can be found in milk and fruit, and these sources are better for your body due to their nutrients and fiber.

Complex carbs are also known as starches. These can be found in grains, potatoes, corn, peas, and some legumes and beans. Some complex carbohydrates are better for your health than others. Generally, refined carbs are less healthy because they have less nutrients and fiber, so the body quickly breaks them down into sugar. Refined complex carbs include things such as white flour and white rice.

Benefits of Carbohydrates

As we have touched on, different types of carbohydrate supplements provide different benefits. These benefits are specific to the different types of supplements, but a general list of benefits includes:

  • Better absorption of essential nutrients
  • Endurance
  • Glycogen replenishment
  • Improved energy levels
  • Optimized gains for athletes

Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient and will better your overall health when used correctly, because they are absolutely essential to your body’s production of ATP, or energy. What would you do without energy?

Who May Benefit from Carbohydratets?

  • Athletes – Athletes are some of the top beneficiaries of carbs, because carbohydrate supplements offer their muscles much-needed energy. Carb supplements made with HBCD, maltodextrin or dextrose can drastically improve their athletic ability by refueling their glycogen stores which in turn increases their endurance levels.
  • Bodybuilders – Carbohydrates are essential macronutrients for packing on body mass. Carb supplements provide bodybuilders with energy to build the muscle they need. It can help them to workout longer and harder and help them avoid losing body mass.
  • Those who are underweight – People who are underweight can use higher doses of carbohydrate supplements to bulk up their diets with energy and nutritionally dense calories. This is when carbohydrates can be used for their ability to help gain a healthy amount of body fat and muscle at the same time, instead of overloading the body with empty calories and bloating it with fat. High glycemic carbs are the best choice for this purpose.
  • Those looking to improve their energy levels – Carbohydrates are energy laden foods. Taking carb supplements can increase your energy levels in a healthy, stimulant-free way. It will replenish your muscles energy stores and feed your brain. Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Waxy Maize and HBCD are all great choices to boost energy without using stimulants.

What Are Carbohydrate Supplements?

Carbohydrate supplements are carbs that have been formulated as a tool. They help you to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles, which are depleted after intense workouts. The benefits of carbohydrate supplements are best achieved when paired with working out, and different formulas can be taken before, during, or after your workout to achieve different benefits.

Types of Carb Supplements

In this section, we are going to get technical. These are some terms that you should understand to really digest this material:

  • Dextrin – a natural carbohydrate fiber that supports your body’s ability to remove waste, and lowers the glycemic load of carbs.
  • Starch – A white organic chemical that is produced by all green plants, and is considered a polysaccharide. It is made up of glucose.
  • Amylose and amylopectin – These are the components of starch, typically at 20% to 25% amylose and 80% to 85% amylopectin. Amylose is harder to digest, and considered a resistant starch. Amylopectin is made of highly-branched dissolvable glycosidic bonds that digest rapidly.
  • Osmosis – This is a process observed in biology when a solution crosses a membrane into a solution with a greater amount of solute, in response to the differing concentrations.
  • Hypotonic – This term is used in biology to describe when a cell becomes swollen because the solution around it crosses the cellular membrane due to the process of osmosis; meaning that the solution inside the cell has a greater amount of solute than the solution the cell is in.
  • Glycogenglycogen is glucose that was not immediately used by your cells, and so was stored within the liver and muscles. When your body needs a quick boost of energy (such as during a workout) glycogen is burned as fuel for your cells.
  • Glycemic index – The glycemic index is a measurement of blood-glucose level spikes, based on how quickly and how long it raises blood sugar. Refined white sugar is 100 on the glycemic index, which is the reference point.

Now that we have vocabulary in our arsenal, we can go over the four most commonly used carbohydrate supplements and what they are.

Dextrose – Dextrose is a form of glucose derived from starches. It is digested similarly to sugar because it is a simple carb, is high on the glycemic index, and provides a quick burst of energy for your muscles. This carbohydrate supplement is best for athletes that need to replenish glycogen stores in their muscles.

This form of supplement is taken directly after an intense workout, often stacked with protein, when your muscles have a higher energy requirement than anything else in your body. This means the dextrose is used to immediately replenish muscles instead of being turned into fat.

Highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD)Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD) is produced by the formation of large cyclic carbohydrate chains into tightly-packed clusters through the enzymatic breakdown and restoration of amylopectin.

Through this process, HBCD has a higher weight profile and lower osmology than other dextrins. The idea is that HBCD produces lower osmotic pressure than blood and other bodily fluids, creating a hypotonic environment which allows the material to bypass the stomach and enter the small intestine at a higher rate as compared to other carbohydrate sources.

This means it is more quickly absorbed and utilized in the body for replenishing glycogen stores in the muscles, but without spiking insulin and blood sugar levels.

Waxy Maize – Like HBCD, waxy maize has a higher molecular weight and bypasses the stomach much more quickly until it is absorbed in the intestines. Waxy maize is a complex carbohydrate that takes longer to break down once it reaches the intestines, so it provides steady energy flow to the muscles and brain. Its glycemic index is low compared to sugar, maltodextrin, and dextrose.

Maltodextrin – Maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate starch that comes from corn, rice, and potatoes. It is a polysaccharide, meaning it is composed of multiple sugars.

Maltodextrin has to be broken down by the body, and provides a steady stream of energy in the form of glucose. It is still high on the glycemic index and is used quickly by the body, so it still provides the desired insulin-spike for post-workout supplementation.

There are other, less common carbohydrate supplements such as karbolyn and trehalose, but those listed above are the most common.

How to Take Carb Supplements

  • Dextrose – Dextrose is the best carbohydrate supplement for post-workout benefits. It is used for maximizing gains from workouts, and works best when stacked with high quality protein, such as 100% whey protein. With the combination of protein and dextrose, muscle boosting nutrients are encouraged to be stored and aid in recovery and performance gains.
  • Waxy Maize – This carbohydrate supplement provides steady energy to the muscles and brain because it takes longer to break down. It is a great intra-workout supplement that can provide energy to aid in endurance for a more productive workout. This is a supplement that does not provide an insulin and blood-glucose spike, which is more desireable for post workout recovery and muscle growth.
  • HBCD – HBCD supplements are great intra-workout carbohydrate supplements, or pre-workout carbohydrate supplements. Make sure to dilute it with a lot of water if it is a pure HBCD supplement, because it can be diuretic if consumed at high concentrations.
  • Maltodextrin – This is another fabulous post-workout carbohydrates supplement. It provides your muscles with a slightly steadier stream of glucose than dextrose for better digestive absorption and still provides blood-sugar spikes for muscle growth.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Carbohydrate supplements do not usually have many adverse side effects when taken correctly for your goal. If used incorrectly, they can cause:

  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Unstable blood-glucose levels
  • Inflammation

HBCD can cause diarrhea if it is consumed at high concentrations. HBCD, Waxy Maize, and other high molecular weight carbohydrates can cause bloating or cramping.

What to Look for in a Good Carbohydrate Supplement

In a good carbohydrate supplement, the most important thing is identifying your goals for the supplement. If you want muscle growth, you should be looking for high-glycemic carbohydrate supplements that will provide a post-workout insulin spike, which includes things like dextrose and maltodextrin.

If you are looking for sustained energy without an insulin spike that can be taken between or during your workouts, you should be looking for low glycemic complex carbs, such as HBCD and Waxy Maize.

It is also better to have a nutrient dense carbohydrate supplement than a calorie dense carbohydrate supplement. You want to be taking in most of your daily caloric intake from food rather than your supplement; supplements are made to aid in nutrient absorption. In the case of strong carbohydrate supplements, they are made to feed your brain and muscles energy.

Top 10 Carbohydrate Products Compared

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10. NOW Foods Dextrose

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NOW Foods Dextrose is ten pounds of 100% dextrose powder that is a great addition to a post workout smoothie. It is sourced from premium grain-based complex carbohydrates and is best stacked with protein. The powder is tasteless, so it’s an easy addition to any food!

Highlights:

  • Replenish glycogen stores
  • Derived from corn
  • No fructose
  • Low cost
  • Neutral taste
  • Vegetarian/vegan
  • All natural

What’s in it:

  • 20 g 100% dextrose sourced from corn

Who makes it: NOW Foods’ founder was a chemist, named Elwood Richard, and he makes sure their products are manufactured and produced using world-class labs and GMP certified facilities. NOW Foods has been in business since 1968 and produces quality, all-natural nutritional supplements with the goal of improving their customer’s health naturally.

Bottom line: This product is a great basic carbohydrate supplement for athletes. You can add it to a post workout shake and stack it with quality protein. The only drawback is that the use of dextrose, a simple carb, has the potential risk of fat gain if not used properly.

9. All American EFX Karbolyn

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Karbolyn is a bioengineered carbohydrate with a high molecular weight (like waxy maize and HBCD) and quickly bypasses the stomach to be absorbed in the small intestine.

Highlights:

  • Replenishes glycogen stores
  • Karbolyn is a unique carbohydrate
  • Great for crossfitters, runners, and other endurance athletes

What’s in it:

  • 50 g karbolyn from potato, rice, and corn

Who makes it: All American EFX is a sports nutrition company that is comprised of an elite team of experts in sports nutrition, kinesiology, business and product management. Their products are put to rigorous tests, including toxicology reports which are not required but prove their safety. Their ingredients are tested before, during, and after manufacturing for quality and consistency. They hold high standards for their product and want to help you achieve the best of your abilities.

Bottom line: This product is great for endurance athletes looking to increase energy by consuming carbohydrates.

8. CytoSport CytoCarb II

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CytoCarb II is made from a unique combination of long, short, and branching maltodextrins that absorb quickly in the intestines. This supplement is in the form of a powder and has to be mixed with liquid. Mix it with water, milk, or juice after a workout to amp up your muscles!

Highlights:

  • For serious athletes
  • Inexpensive
  • Maltodextrin
  • All natural
  • Low sodium

What’s in it:

  • 56 g CytoCarb II (maltodextrin)

Who makes it: Founded by a father and son in 1998, Cytosport’s breakout product was Cytomax. They also started Muscle Milk which came out in 2000 and was extremely well received by consumers, and very well known. Their mission is “to provide the highest quality dietary supplements to professional and amateur athletes striving to reach their potential.”

Bottom line: This product is produced by a reputable company at a great price. It utilizes maltodextrin which provides an insulin spike. It is a great carbohydrate supplement for athletes, but it does not have the best taste.

7. MuscleTech MASS-TECH

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Perfect for bodybuilders, MuscleTech’s MASS-TECH comes packed with calories. It is not only a carbohydrate supplement, it also has protein and amino acids. This is a calorie-rich supplement and is not meant for everyone, but is great for bodybuilders that are serious about packing on mass.

Highlights:

  • Extra five grams of fiber per serving
  • High calorie content

What’s in it:

  • 50mg Papain
  • 50mg Amylase
  • Creatine Monohydrate, L-Leucine, L-Alanine, L-Glycine, Taurine, Enzyme Digestion Complex, and more.

Who makes it: MuscleTech is celebrating 20 years of their cutting edge research and development into quality and effective products. MuscleTech has formed a multimillion dollar partnership with a top university called the University of Toronto, to conduct research for new and current products. This ensures that they are on the cutting edge; producing only the best, highest quality supplements. They put intense scientific research into new ideas to produce new and innovative products.

Bottom line: This is a great product for bodybuilders and those looking to gain weight, but not for anyone else. It is calorie dense to promote mass gain. With 1000 calories a serving, this product is no joke. While not a supplement that is made for everyone, it is definitely a good choice for bodybuilders.

6. Optimum Nutrition Glyco-Maize

optimum-nutrition-glyco-maize

Optimum Nutrition Glyco-Maize utilizes waxy maize and trehalose as its carbohydrates. Waxy Maize, a complex carbohydrate with a high molecular weight, which provides energy.

Highlights:

  • Steady stream of energy
  • Replenishes muscle glycogen
  • Great intra-workout supplement
  • Carbogen enzymes included for ease of digestion
  • Unflavored and is easy to add to smoothies and food
  • Reliable manufacturer

What’s in it:

  • 40 g Waxy Maize Starch, Trehalose, and Carbogen

Who makes it: Optimum Nutrition was started in 1986 and is famous for its quality protein and amino acid supplements. They are a company that is a part of Glanbia, which is an international cheese and nutritional ingredients producer. Optimum Nutrition focuses its products on athletic nutrition supplements, and their manufacturing facilities are located in Illinois, Florida, and South Carolina.

Bottom line: Optimum Nutrition Glyco-Maize is a great supplement to take during your workout. It’s made by a very reputable and trustworthy company.

5. Universal Nutrition Carbo Plus

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Universal Nutrition Carbo Plus is complex carbohydrate energy-filled maltodextrin powder.

Highlights:

  • No fat
  • Unflavored and unsweetened
  • No cholesterol
  • Very inexpensive
  • 100% all natural

What’s in it:

  • 18 g 100% Pure High Performance Complex Carbohydrates (maltodextrin)

Who makes it: Universal Nutrition is a sports nutrition company for bodybuilders and was founded in 1977 in New Jersey. This company passionately embraces the sport of bodybuilding, and they believe in bodybuilding as a way of life. They created some of the first ready-to-drink nutritional products and they also created the “pack” system that delivers properly dosed and timed nutrition to bodybuilders. Universal Nutrition has helped pioneer the field of bodybuilding nutrition.

Bottom line: This product is great for bodybuilders and athletes who are looking to enhance the benefits they get from their workouts, and recover faster post-workout.

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4. Rich Piana 5% Nutrition Real Food

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Rich Piana 5% Nutrition Real Food is called “Real Food” because it is made from raw ingredients. The carbohydrates are real food that have been dehydrated into a powdered form. The primary ingredients consist of yam, oats, dried fruit, and sweet potato! It has fiber that slows the rate of digestion of the carbs, so that it does not spike insulin.

Highlights:

  • Provides sustained energy
  • Replenishes glycogen stores
  • Great taken between or after workouts
  • Paired with protein it can be a meal replacement
  • Real food
  • No risk of fat gain
  • Tastes good

What’s in it:

  • 10 g pounded yam
  • 7 g oats
  • 10 g sweet potato
  • Vitamin A, Calcium, Potassium, sea salt, dried fruit, and natural flavoring.

Who makes it: Rich Piana 5% Nutrition is a sports nutrition company that is focused on helping the “5%” of people who are working to achieve their dreams. Their mission is to “provide the best possible supplements for the best possible results to help you be the best possible version of you.”

Bottom line: This product is a natural and all around great carbohydrate supplement for energy replenishment, but not necessarily for muscle growth. It will provide your body with sustained carbohydrate energy. It also comes in delicious flavors such as blueberry cobbler and sweet potato pie.

Full Breakdown: 5% Nutrition Real Food

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3. JYM Post JYM

jym-post-jym-carb

JYM Post JYM is a powdered carbohydrate supplement that is designed to replenish glycogen stores and enhance the uptake of other supplements such as protein and L-Carnitine. This is one of the best dextrose supplements on the market.

Highlights:

  • Extremely fast absorption
  • Reliable manufacturer
  • Enhance uptake of protein and L-Carnitine; great for stacking
  • Can be used as meal enhancement or stacked with protein as meal replacement

What’s in it:

  • 32 g dextrose

Who makes it: Founded by Dr. Jim Stoppani, JYM is a sports nutrition company that is dedicated to safe and effective products. All of the ingredients they use have actually been tested in laboratories and in the gym to make sure they are high quality, safe, and effective ingredients. Jim Stoppani is super accessible to his customers, and instead of referring you to a customer service representative, he urges you to ask him anything you want to know via Facebook and Twitter.

Bottom line: This is the best dextrose-based carbohydrate supplement on the market. Packed with energy, this powdered carbohydrate supplement tastes good and has real results. It is made by a reliable company, and is great for stacking with protein and L-Carnitine. You’re guaranteed to gain with this amazing carbohydrate supplement.

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2. MHP Dark Matter

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MHP Dark Matter is a great carbohydrate product with 48 grams of carbohydrates per serving. It also has an amino acid complex that goes straight to your muscles to help build them up!

Highlights:

  • Combination of waxy maize and dextrose provides both benefits
  • Protein is already stacked to get the most for your money
  • Low calorie but nutrient dense
  • Amazing choice for athletes
  • Well-known company in the industry
  • Tastes great

What’s in it:

  • 33 g DARK MATTER Hyper-Anabolic Growth Accelerator Matrix, consisting of Dextrose, Waxy Maize, amino acid complex, creatine and more

Who makes it: Maximum Human Performance (MHP) is a sports nutrition company that is well-known for quality by athletes familiar with the industry. Their mission is “to develop premier science-based, research-driven sports supplements to help athletes achieve their greatest physical potential.” Their ingredients are all clinically researched with input from top nutritionists and athletes to create the best supplements.

Bottom line: This product utilizes a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates, amino acids, and protein to give you a tailored all-around post-workout supplement. It provides everything you need so that you don’t have to take the time mixing up your supplements when you stack them. This is the best stacked carbohydrate supplement on the market, and will definitely help you maximize your performance.

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1. NOW Foods Carbo Gain

now-foods-carbo-gain

NOW Foods Carbo Gain is a top carbohydrate supplement because it can be used any time of the day and it is a slower digesting complex carbohydrate that can provide energy intra-workout or between workouts.

Highlights:

  • Perfect for hardgainers
  • 100% complex carbohydrates
  • Great for crossfit athletes
  • Great for athletic performance
  • Huge value for the price
  • Very versatile product

What’s in it:

  • 50 g 100% pure corn based maltodextrin

Who makes it: Chemist Elwood Richard founded NOW Foods and he makes sure their products are manufactured and produced using world-class labs and GMP certified facilities. Since 1968 they have been continuously producing quality, all-natural nutritional supplements and raising the standards for consumers everywhere. They are the Taste For Life 2017 award winner, the Delicious Living 2017 Beauty and Body award winner, Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest to Work For 2017 award winner, and much much more.

Bottom line: This product is one of the best maltodextrin supplements. It is made up of 100% natural and complex carbohydrates. It is an easy addition to your diet and can be used whenever it is needed. If you need to increase your energy levels during your workout, it can be taken between or during your workout.

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