Supplements

What Is Dextrose?

Our bodies run on energy, or calories, like our cars run on fuel. Some sources of energy, like fat and protein, take a long time to digest into energy, while carbs are the body’s choice for quick energy.  

When we think about energy for our muscles, it’s glucose that keeps them (and our brain, heart, lungs) and the rest of our body functioning. But you don’t see glucose on the shelf at the grocery store or available as a supplement.  

Read on to find out the ways in which dextrose, a pure form of glucose, can help to maximise your fuelling strategy. 

 

What is Dextrose? 

Dextrose is a simple sugar — the opposite of the types of “complex carbs” that are recommended for sustained energy release. Chemically, it’s the same structure as the glucose found in our body — the body’s primary energy source. It’s also a component of high fructose corn syrup (the fructose comes from fruit). 

 

Is Dextrose a Sugar? 

Yes, dextrose is a sugar. Sugars can range from simple (small molecules) to complex (multiple types of longer chains of molecules). Commercially available dextrose is typically made from corn sugar and is quick and easy to digest and get into the blood stream. 

 

Who Should Use It? 

Anyone who needs the energy of a simple sugar can use dextrose. Its commonly used by endurance athletes who need constant, quick energy during their workouts (think sports drinks).  

It can also be used regularly for carb loading. However, due to its ability to spike insulin and increase the absorption of other molecules (like amino acids) it can also be used by anyone looking to boost the impact of their post-workout supplements. 

 

When Should I Use It? 

1. When you’re low on energy

It can be used at different times depending on your workout plan. If you haven’t eaten and are worried about having low energy, taking dextrose before your workout can help.  

2. When doing endurance exercise

As previously mentioned, endurance athletes might prefer to use it in small doses during their long, intense workouts.  

3. Post-workout to boost nutrient absorption

Others might simply add it to their recovery shake after a workout to boost the absorption of other nutrients. If you are following a carb cycling plan, dextrose should be used on a high-carb day. 

 

What are the benefits of Dextrose? 

Exercise challenges the muscles and breaks down their energy storage (glycogen) and muscle fibres (protein). We use protein shakes to help rebuild the muscle fibres, and we need carbs to help replenish the stores of glycogen for energy.  

The more quickly we can replenish these building blocks for our muscles, the faster we can recover and get ready for our next challenge or workout. 

Because dextrose is a simple sugar, it is very easily digested and transported throughout the body. It can take action quickly for an almost immediate benefit.  

Ingesting dextrose after a workout also increases the body’s insulin response, which can help your muscles also absorb protein and re-build glycogen stores to recover quickly. 

 

Is Dextrose Vegan and Gluten Free? 

Because its derived from corn, dextrose is 100% vegan and gluten free. Its considered a natural product. 

 

What are the Side Effects of Dextrose? 

Potential side effects of dextrose include concerns with blood sugar control (hypo or hyperglycaemia) due to the way it makes insulin work.  

Because dextrose is a simple sugar, it carries all the potential side effects of any high-carb food  it can also cause gastrointestinal discomfort and other symptoms related with blood sugar spikes and drops.  

Long term, too many added sugars in your diet can lead to poor blood sugar control, so its best to monitor all of the sugars in your diet. 

 

Dextrose in Food 

Dextrose is naturally found in corn and some other plants. Commercially its often used in baked goods and other foods that have added sweeteners, like sweets, breakfast cereals, and frozen desserts. Don’t be surprised if adding dextrose makes your post-workout shake extra sweet  you are boosting the sugar! 

 

Take Home Message 

Dextrose, while simple in nature and action, can have a range of benefits if you need to improve your carbohydrate intake. While it impacts blood sugar levels and might not be the best choice for everyone, its a quick and effective tool for boosting energy levels and can play a role in maximising your workout results. 

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Claire Muszalski

Claire Muszalski

Registered Dietitian

Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.

Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.

Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.

Find out more about Claire’s experience here.


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