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Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin

Also known as: HBCD

Rapid digesting carb source that speeds recovery and improves intra-workout nutrient delivery and performance.

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What is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin?

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD) is a source of carbohydrates that is relatively new to the world of sports nutrition. It is synthesized through the breakdown of starch by an enzyme that forms clusters of sugar molecules. HBCD has a relatively low osmolarity and high molecular weight which increases gastric emptying. This means that HBCD will spend less time in your stomach compared to traditional carbohydrates and be absorbed by the intestines and sent to your muscles quicker.

Where Does It Come From?

Cyclic dextrins are produced in nature by bacteria that degrade carbohydrates. They can also be synthesized from starches using a number of enzymes. These by-products can then be further refined for various uses.

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin HBCD) is a specialized form of cyclic dextrin that is formed through the breakdown of amylopectin using enzymatic treatments. These enzymes turn the starches into clusters, which are then formed into larger chains by means of additional branching enzymes. HBCD offers a rapid gastric emptying allowing for quicker absorption of nutrients and increased recovery.

What does it do?

Spiking insulin with simple carbs is old school weight training knowledge. We consume some sort of fast-digesting carb, create an insulin spike, and nutrients are then shuttled into the muscles where they can be of most use (replenishing glycogen stores and rebuilding muscle tissue).

Although dextrose, waxy maize, and other simple carbs look good on paper, they arent ideal choices for an intra workout carb source. These various carbohydrates have an extremely high osmolarity, which trigger the osmoreceptors in the small intestine to delay gastric emptying. (Note: osmoreceptors are receptors in the small intestine that sense the nutrient density or concentration of stomach contents and dictate the rate of gastric emptying.)

This is with dextrose and other simple sugars. Carbs are absorbed in the small intestine, so anything that delays their entry into the small intestines delays the insulin spike and shuttling of nutrients to the muscle. As applied to pre and intra workout nutrition, not only are precious carbs delayed in getting to your muscles, but so are various amino acids and other ergogenic compounds (creatine, betaine, beta-alanine, etc). Too many of the incorrect type of carbohydrate and you may as well have eaten a Big Mac right before starting your workout.

HBCD solves this problem by means of its unique branching structure which increases its molecular weight and decreases its osmolarity. The result is a rapidly digesting carbohydrate that is absorbed just as fast and on it way to your muscles. As we all know, carbs power performance and the quicker the carbs and essential amino acids get to your muscles the better workout and recovery you will have.

Benefits of Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin

  • Better recovery

  • Improved nutrient transport

  • Sustained increase in blood sugar during workouts

  • Improved insulin sensitivity

  • Increased endurance and stamina

  • Reduced delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS)

  • No stomach discomfort


There is no optimal dosing for intra or pre workout carbohydrates. The amount of carbs needed for your workouts are dictated by the style of training you are undertaking. That being the case, should you need a source of carbs during your workout start with 12g and assess your performance. If you find you still need more energy during your workouts, work your way up incrementally to 25g sipped throughout the workout.


Carbs provide the energy you need to power through tough training sessions and athletic competitions. The favorite bro carbs of yesteryear (dextrose, maltodextrin, waxy maize) dont provide the rapid absorption we need during the course of a work out to truly utilize the benefits of an intra workout carb source. Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin stands as the best option for you to top off your energy stores mid workout and make the most of each and every set.

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