Monday, July 1, 2024

Supplement formulators are experimenting with new carbs

Also in this week's C&EN, this cool article (article by Robin Dooovan)

Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen fueled her 2016 Olympic gold with Red Bull, a potent, fizzy mix of sugar, taurine, and caffeine that tastes a bit like cherry cough syrup. Perhaps surprising to non-Olympians, sugar is the most important fuel in that concoction. Athletes rely on carbohydrates, often in the form of sugars, to provide energy and prevent them from “bonking”—or hitting a wall of exhaustion. Glucose is the body’s primary energy source, so athletes look for drinks and gels that will impart a lot of this simple sugar.

Red Bull provides simple sugars like sucrose, which contains a single unit each of glucose and fructose. While that was enough to power Jorgensen to an Olympic medal, she later switched from triathlon to running full time, and longer run sessions meant she needed even more mid-workout carbs. Simply gulping down sweet drinks made Jorgensen’s stomach cramp—she needed something that would give her more glucose without upping the concentration of sugary carbs she was taking in.

It is really fascinating to read about the various chemicals that go into supplements - it makes sense that the highly branched cyclic dextrins take longer to metabolize, but I am genuinely curious about their bioavailability over time. (Isn't this something that could be pretty straightforwardly tested in a lab somewhere?) 

1 comment:

  1. Maltodextrin is one of the most prevalent carbohydrate sources in sports gels, and provides a much more steady source of glucose through hydrolysis of the polymer than a high concentration of glucose or sucrose. It's also super cheap in bulk.
    Also, wouldn't the greater polydispersity of a hydrolyzing polymer chain favor higher gut absorption than a high concentration of a single monomer (glucose) or dimer (sucrose)?


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