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If you’re trying to lose weight then you may be trying to avoid foods or supplements that contain sugar, but this could be a mistake because sugars, like dextrose, may help you take your training to the next level and encourage a leaner physique.
So, can you take dextrose while cutting?
Yes, you can take dextrose while cutting and still make progress. In fact, 15 to 30 grams of dextrose before or during a workout can help you feel more energized and improve your performance. You can also take it after a workout mixed with protein to encourage faster recovery from training.
Although there are benefits to taking dextrose there are also some drawbacks as well, so it’s important to get the full picture before incorporating it into your diet while cutting.
- Taking dextrose or other simple sugars can provide fast-acting energy when you have low blood sugars, or help you with energy replenishment after exercise.
- Aim for no more than 10% of your total calorie intake from added sugar. Having too much sugar, including dextrose, can lead to poor blood sugar control over time.
- Look for a product that’s only ingredient is dextrose to ensure you’re getting a higher quality product rather than a product with cheap fillers.
What Is Dextrose?
Dextrose is a carbohydrate derived from corn or wheat and is considered a fast-digesting carbohydrate because it’s easy for the body to break down.
It is known to raise blood sugar levels more quickly because it enters the bloodstream at a faster rate.
You may often hear that dextrose is a “high glycemic index” carbohydrate. A high glycaemic index (GI rating of 70 or higher) refers to carbohydrate foods that cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.
Who Uses Dextrose?
Dextrose is most often used by medical professionals, food and drink manufacturers, and athletes to provide energy, balance blood sugars, or to make food taste sweeter.
Doctors usually prescribe dextrose in an IV solution to help people with low blood sugar levels and people who have problems absorbing nutrients through their digestive system by mixing dextrose with amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and fats.
It’s also used in food and drink products as a sweetener or preservative and is commonly used by endurance athletes (i.e. marathoners) and strength athletes (i.e. powerlifters) to replenish their energy quickly during intense periods of exercise.
- Related: What Are Fast Digesting Foods? 10 Examples + When To Eat
The Role Of Dextrose In Cutting Diets
Recreational and/or competitive athletes going through a cutting phase (eating in a calorie deficit to lose weight) are known to use dextrose as a source of fast-acting energy.
Dextrose provides energy quickly because it makes your blood sugar increase more rapidly, which the body responds to by releasing more insulin (a hormone your body produces to manage blood sugar).
Insulin encourages your muscles and other organs to absorb the sugar in the bloodstream and use it as energy.
Here are the specific scenarios in which you can take advantage of dextrose while cutting:
To increase energy levels (blood sugar) pre/intra-workout
If you’re low on energy (low blood sugar) because you haven’t eaten in a while and you feel that your energy levels will impact your performance, then you can take dextrose to boost your energy levels.
To replenish energy stores quickly post-workout and promote recovery
After a workout, your energy stores may be depleted (empty) and your muscles will need to recover.
You can take dextrose with your post-workout recovery meal/drink to help refill your energy stores quickly and promote recovery.
In fact, fast-digesting carbs, like sugar, improve the effects of post-workout recovery supplements (like protein powder) by boosting nutrient absorption.
Benefits of Taking Dextrose While Cutting
Provides Energy For Training
When following a calorie-restricted diet, it can be challenging to maintain energy levels, particularly when you exercise.
So, taking dextrose at the right times can help support your exercise performance and recovery by providing you with fast-acting energy.
If you have the energy to continue pushing hard during your workouts, then you’ll be able to maintain your strength, endurance, and muscle mass much better while cutting than if you were too low on energy to keep up with your training.
Replenishes Energy After Training
Dextrose can also help you recover from training more quickly rather than feeling like a zombie for the rest of the day because you didn’t properly replenish your energy stores.
Research has shown that ingesting carbohydrates and protein within two hours following exercise can optimize recovery and support energy absorption in the muscles.
Drawbacks of Taking Dextrose While Cutting
Can Lead To Health Issues If Over-Consumed
While dextrose can be helpful during a cutting phase, it should be used in moderation as it is a sugar. It is recommended not to consume more than 10% of total calories from added sugar.
Consuming too many added sugars in the diet, including dextrose, can lead to issues with blood sugar control and cause issues over time like insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is when your body doesn’t respond properly to the insulin that it produces, making it difficult for glucose (energy) to get absorbed.
Because your body cannot use the insulin as it should, your blood sugar levels increase (this is because glucose remains unabsorbed in the bloodstream).
Can Cause Digestive Upset
Additionally, dextrose can cause gastrointestinal discomfort (gas, diarrhea) in some people.
This may be because it is not the best quality carbohydrate out there, being an ingredient that is often combined with other processed products or supplement formulas.
If you’re experiencing any kind of digestive upset after consuming a product containing dextrose, then it could be the culprit.
Dextrose vs Other Carbs For Cutting
Dextrose is simply one type of carb that you could include while cutting.
Many different forms of carbohydrates exist and they are classed as either simple carbohydrates or complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates (or sugars) refer to glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose (to name a few).
They act in the same way as dextrose, increasing blood sugars rapidly (and are also high GI carbs).
Some foods naturally contain sugar, whereas other foods contain added (processed) sugars, such as:
- Milk, fruits, and yogurts (naturally contain sugar)
- Desserts, biscuits, sweets, fruit juices, fizzy drinks, and gels (have sugar added to them)
On the other hand, complex carbs refer to starches.
Starches are more filling than simple sugars because they require more effort for the body to break down.
Some examples of starches include:
Starchy foods also contain fiber, especially if they are of the brown/wholegrain variety. Combining both starch and fiber means that blood sugars rise more slowly (which is why these foods are referred to as low GI carbs).
It is important to consume an adequate amount of fiber (14 g dietary fiber per 1,000 kcal, or 25 g for adult women and 38 g for adult men per day) to promote proper digestion (i.e. regular bowel movements) and to help you feel fuller for longer, which can help on a calorie-restricted diet.
Key takeaway: Sugars can be used to increase energy quickly and support recovery from training, whereas starches should make up the bulk of your total carbohydrate intake, to provide you with more sustained energy and to help keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Related article: 17 Best High-Fiber Low-Calorie Foods
Taking Dextrose While Cutting
Using dextrose to boost your energy levels while cutting can be helpful if you’re implementing it correctly, here’s how to do that.
Dosing and Timing
There is a lot of conflicting information about this topic. Most research refers to taking simple sugars (like dextrose) mainly for endurance sports.
Such recommendations suggest taking ~30-60 grams of simple carbs per hour for exercise lasting between 1-2 hours, and nothing for exercise lasting 1 hour or less.
However, there are no precise indications for strength/physique athletes on a cutting diet.
So, my suggestion would be to focus on consistently meeting your daily carbohydrate target to maintain steady energy levels.
However, if you end up in a situation where you feel low on energy then there’s no harm in supplementing with dextrose.
When taking dextrose before your workout (pre-workout) or during your workout (intra-workout), aim to take a 15-30g serving.
Some options include:
- 1 scoop dextrose powder (approximately 20g) with 100ml water
- 4 dextrose tablets (i.e. Dex4)
- 1 dextrose gel pack (i.e. Transcend Gel)
That said, if you’re consistently feeling low on energy then perhaps you should think about increasing your daily carb intake to support better performance and recovery.
Fitting It Into Your Daily Targets
If you are taking dextrose while you are cutting, it’s important to fit it into your daily calorie targets to stay on track with your weight loss (dextrose is still a carb with 4 calories per gram).
For example, if your cutting calories are 2000 calories a day, and you take 20g of dextrose powder before a workout, consider that this equates to around 70 calories and 18g of sugar, or 3.5% of 2000 calories.
This makes up less than 10% of daily calories from added sugars, which is important to keep track of because adding dextrose to food/drinks makes it an added sugar.
Mixing With Other Supplements
Dextrose can also be combined with other supplements that you may be taking to help improve your energy, performance, and recovery.
Mixing dextrose with your protein powder is a great option after a workout because whey protein is a fast-digesting protein that can repair muscle damage more quickly and dextrose is a fast-digesting carb that can replenish your energy stores more quickly.
“High GI carbs are often combined with protein, as it optimizes insulin and glucose responses following exercise. For this reason, post-exercise carb +protein supplements often contain dextrose, sucrose, or maltodextrin as the source of carbohydrate”– Richard Kreider, International Society of Sports Nutrition
Therefore, pairing protein powder and dextrose together can promote faster recovery from training.
You can also mix dextrose with caffeine, which is why it’s often included with caffeine in pre-workout supplements.
Caffeine is a stimulant that helps improve alertness and focus and dextrose provides your body with fast-acting fuel, so mixing these ingredients together can have a positive effect on energy levels, concentration, and exercise performance.
This pre-workout concoction produces the best results with a caffeine intake of 3-6 mg/kg of body weight and a 15-30g serving of dextrose, taken 30-60 minutes before exercise.
If you’re making your own pre-workout at home, then you may want to add dextrose to serve as your energy source.
- Related Resource: Pre-Workout Dosage Calculator
Beta-alanine could be another good option to pair with dextrose because it helps delay the onset of muscle fatigue, so these two ingredients paired together can improve exercise performance by facilitating the absorption and uptake of energy in the muscles.
The optimal dose of beta-alanine is 3-6g daily for 4-10 weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 1.2 grams per day.
That said, it’s always a good idea to read the supplement labels before mixing anything with dextrose to ensure it doesn’t already have added sugars.
- Related article: Explaining 27+ Pre-Workout Ingredients & What They Do
Choose The Right Dextrose Product For Cutting
If you want a quick and convenient option to support your training, you’ll need to pick the right dextrose product.
Tips For Choosing The Right Product
It is important to choose good quality products to avoid any unwanted side effects from low-quality products. Take into account the following advice:
- Opt for products with limited ingredients. This way you can ensure a higher-quality product that is free of artificial sweeteners or flavors.
- Read the ingredient list on your supplements to check for added sugars. Check the labels on your supplements to see if there are already added sugars (dextrose or maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, or syrups).
If it already contains sugar, you won’t want to add more (by adding dextrose) because it will be too much sugar in one go.
- Try out different forms of dextrose to see what you prefer. You can try dextrose powder, gel, or tablets to see which you prefer and which you can tolerate the best. If you find the gel upsets your stomach, then try the powder mixed with water and sip on that instead.
Bulk Supplements Dextrose Powder: My Top Recommendation
There are many different brands of dextrose powder available on the market, so it can be difficult to know which one is the best.
My personal favorite is bulk supplements dextrose powder because it is pure dextrose and free from additives (artificial sweeteners, flavorings, and preservatives).
I also appreciate that this brand clearly outlines labeling information online and it uses sustainable materials for product packaging.
About The Author
Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist.
She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta).
Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals.
She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).