Many people avoid carbs at all costs. Yet you need energy if you want good workouts. This does not mean stimulant energy. A little caffeine is fine. Yet, it’s not going to give you cellular energy.
Carbs supply the cellular energy the body uses. That means you need a fast absorbing carb source. Yet it must be low glycemic, and it must be long lasting.
This guide will look at the best carb supplements on the market. Ready? Let’s go!
In a Hurry? Here is our top pick:
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Here’s our pick for best overall. EFX Sports Karbolyn has been a popular carb supplement for quite a while. It provides 50g of carbs per serving. The carb source is, like the product name, called Karbolyn.
It’s a combination of potato, rice, and corn. It’s sourced from food, but it’s a designer carb created in the lab. Karbolyn absorbs faster than sugar, and will not cause insulin spikes. It provides sustained energy with no crash.
The other benefit of carb powders is that they promote pumps. That’s because carbs pull water into the muscles. EFX Sports Karbolyn is research proven to improve endurance without causing a crash.
Karbolyn comes in several flavors. It does contain artificial flavoring, and it’s sweetened with sucralose. Finally, there’s an option with added caffeine. There’s also an option with added electrolytes.
- 50g Carbs Per Serving
- Sourced From Potatoes, Corn, And Rice
- Provides Extended Energy With No Insulin Spike Or Crash
- Uses Artificial Sweeteners And Flavoring
Here’s an unflavored carb supplement that provides a 25g designer carb complex. Tri-Carb features three patented carb sources. These include cluster dextrin™(15g), Carb10™(8g), and ModCarb™ (2g). There’s also glucose modulating minerals. Plus, there’s an electrolyte complex.
Tri-Carb increases glycogen uptake and increases performance. It’s also designed to avoid gastric discomfort. You should take 1Up Nutrition Tri-Carb before, during, and after your workout. When it’s used this way, it supplies energy and enhances cell volume. Also, it hydrates the muscles. It also restores glycogen when taken post-workout.
Finally, Tri-Carb has an open-label, contains no artificial coloring, and is quality-guaranteed.
- Features Three Trademarked Carb Sources
- Includes Electrolytes And Minerals
- Guaranteed Quality
- Some Users Don’t Like The Taste
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Here’s one of the first carb supplements to hit the market. Vitargo has been a popular choice among bodybuilders and athletes for a long time. It’s made for fast, same-day recovery.
Also, it improves endurance. One scoop provides 35g of carbs from amylopectin starch. This is a type of complex carbohydrate sourced from grains. Vitargo is fast-digesting but does not cause insulin spikes. It also provides sustained energy.
Plus, it promotes faster recovery from workouts. Vitargo contains zero sugar, its vegan, non-GMO, and free of gluten. Finally, it’s also BSCG certified drug-free.
- Supports Faster Recovery
- 35g Carbs Per Serving
- Sugar Free
- Not For Value-Minded Users
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NutraBio Super Carb features 25g carbs per serving. The carb source is cluster dextrin. There’s also an electrolyte complex to support hydration. Cluster dextrin is one of several designer carbs currently available.
There’s one idea behind any designer carb. That’s taking advantage of the benefits of both fast and slow-digesting carbs. This means cluster dextrin is fast absorbing with no gastric upset. Yet it does not cause an insulin spike. Also, it will provide sustained energy.
Like all NutraBio products, Super Carb features extreme label transparency. That includes the “other ingredients”. Super Carb uses natural flavoring, yet uses artificial sweeteners. Finally, this product uses several branded ingredients. It’s non-GMO, vegan, and GMP-Certified.
- 25g Cluster Dextrin Per Serving
- Includes Electrolytes
- Open Label
- Contains An Artificial Sweetener
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Here’s a carb supplement that’s based on whole food sources. 5% Nutrition Real Carbs believes in whole food sources. That was the philosophy of founder Rich Piana.
Rich believed in whole food first, then supplements. He refused to sell a carb supplement unless it used whole food sources only. Instead, 5% created Real Carbs. One serving provides 22g of carbs sourced from sweet potato powder, oat flour, and wild yam extract. There is only 3g of sugar and 3g of fiber.
If this product has a downside, it uses artificial (and natural) flavors. Also, it’s sweetened with sucralose. Still, this is a product that targets the benefits of natural, whole food carbs.
- Features Whole Food Carb Sources
- 22g Carbs Per Serving
- Easy Mixing
- Uses Artificial Ingredients
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Here’s the best carb supplement to use as a meal replacement. 5% Nutrition Real Carbs + Protein contains a different whole food blend of carbs than regular Real Carbs.
There’s whole grain oats, rice powder, and sweet potato. This blend provides 30g total carbs with 1.5g sugar and 6g fiber. Plus, there’s 21g protein from whole food sources. These include beef, whole egg powder, chickpea, and chicken powder. This combination creates a complete, whole food meal.
As noted, Rich Piana, the 5% Nutrition founder, believed in real food sources. There are quite a few flavors to choose from. Plus, this product uses natural flavoring. Finally, this product uses sucralose as a sweetener.
- Whole Food Carb Sources
- Whole Food Protein Sources
- Uses Natural Flavoring
- Uses Artificial Sweeteners
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Waxy Maize was first introduced in the early 2000s. It is sourced from corn starch. This was an advanced carb source at the time. One of the main benefits is improved absorption of other nutrients.
This was one of the main advertising highlights of the original product. Other benefits are no insulin spikes and sustained energy. NOW Sports Waxy Maize provides 37g of carbs. That’s the only ingredient.
One of the problems with early versions of this carb supplement was mixing. It was powdery, did not mix well, and clumped up a lot. Current versions, such as this one, seem to mix better.Like all NOW products, Waxy Maize is non-GMO, and made in a GMP-Compliant facility. It’s also vegan, and tested for purity as well as quality. Finally, it’s unflavored.
- 37g Carbs From 40g Waxy Maize
- Zero Sugar
- Provides Sustained Energy
- Waxy Maize Does Not Mix Well
Here’s a carb powder that features 15g Carb10™, and 11g cluster dextrin. Demo Day also contains osmolytes to help pull water into the muscles.
This is one of the things carbs does, and creates water-based pumps. There’s also 2g Palatinose®, another carb source that’s used to prevent clumping. Also, there’s cinnamon to help regulate insulin release, and alpha-lipoic-acid to control blood sugar.
Like any carb powder, you can use it pre, intra, and post-workout. It should be stacked with your favorite pre-workout powder. Further, you can stack it with your post-workout, and with creatine. Finally, this product uses several branded ingredients.
- Provides 25g Carbs From Several Designer Sources
- Also Contains Cell Volumizers
- Easy Mixing
- Contains Artificial Ingredients
First, carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients. Carbs are a combination of starch, sugar, and fiber. Complex carbs are slow digesting and absorbing. Simple carbs (sugars) are fast digesting. This is a problem because it causes insulin spikes. The result is excess carbs end up stored as body fat. The key to carb consumption is to choose carbs that are slow digesting. This type of carbohydrates do not cause insulin spikes. Plus, they provide sustained cellular energy. Along with cellular energy, carbs are important for optimal cognitive function. Finally, they help pull water into the muscles. This hydrates them but also causes increased cell volume. (1)
Carb supplements are usually specialized, or designer, carbohydrates. They are created in a lab. Designer carbs combine the benefits of complex and simple carbs. This means they digest fast yet provide extended energy. Plus, they will not cause an insulin spike. Also, they provide quick glycogen replenishment after a workout.
This is also known as highly branched cyclic dextrin, or cyclic dextrin. Cluster Dextrin comes from corn starch. It is a low glycemic carbohydrate with a high molecular weight. It’s also soluble in water. The key feature is fast gastric emptying. This reduces gastric distress that is often associated with other forms of carbohydrates. Even though cluster dextrin is fast absorbing, it provides long-lasting energy. Also, like all designer carbs, there’s no insulin spike. Cluster dextrin provides smooth, even energy and good glycogen replenishment. (2)
Carb10 comes from pea starch. It’s also a low glycemic carbohydrate source. Carb10 provides clean, smooth energy with no digestive discomfort. It’s fast absorbing, but does not cause an insulin spike. (3)
This is an all-grain complex-carbohydrate food. It consists of six organic grains. These include amaranth, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, chia, and millet. While it is a carb source, ModCarb also contains protein, electrolytes, and fats. Like other designer carbs, ModCarb is quick absorbing. Plus, it won’t cause an insulin spike. It provides even, sustained energy. (4)
Whole Food Sources – Oats, Yams, Sweet Potatoes, Rice
When founder Rich Piana was alive, there was one thing that defined 5% Nutrition. As noted, that was the idea of using real food sources. In fact, that’s why you won’t see whey protein in the 5% lineup. Rich didn’t believe it was real food. So, in his eyes, it was useless. Even now, 5% follows the same philosophy. They’ve influenced several other companies to do the same. 5% Nutrition has done the same thing with their protein powder. They only make protein powder using whole food sources. As we know, the same is true with their carb supplements.
Similar to Cluster Dextrin, Waxy Maize comes from corn starch. As noted, Waxy Maize first broke into the supplement market in the early 2000s. Since then, several designer carbs have hit the market. Waxy Maize is still the main carb source in many supplements. Like other carb sources, it increases energy and restores glycogen. Back in the day, it was mainly used to enhance nutrient absorption. As mentioned, the major selling point was better absorption of your other supplements. For example, imagine a product that could improve BCAA absorption. Or, improved absorption of a natural muscle builder such as ecdysterone. Now that’s a great benefit! (5)
This is a designer carb that comes from a blend of corn, potato, and rice. One of the main benefits of Karbolyn is carb loading. Elite endurance athletes use Karbolyn for fast recovery and sustained energy. Yet anyone can use it. Is your goal is more workout energy and to replenish glycogen stores? Then Karbolyn is a good choice. (6)
Amylopectin is a complex carbohydrate. It is a polysaccharide or a long chain of sugars. It consists of glucose, yet it does not cause insulin spikes. Vitargo is a good example of this type of carb.
Amylose is a natural starch that occurs in many carbohydrate foods.
Here’s a look at the main benefits of carb supplements.
Bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts all need carbs for training energy. Yet many people follow a low carb, low sugar diet. That means you should limit carb intake to the hours surrounding the workout. It also means that any carb source needs to be low glycemic yet fast digesting. Also, the energy should last the entire training session.
What about those individuals that do not follow low carb diets? These athletes still need fast absorbing carbs with no insulin spikes. They also need long-lasting energy. The products in this guide provide these benefits.
Why is fast absorption important? The faster a carb source digests and absorbs, the sooner you experience energy. This is also important for glycogen replenishment. Yet, you don’t want gastric discomfort or insulin spikes. Most carb sources in this guide absorb quickly. Also, they all meant to avoid any gastric problems.
There are only two products that are not directly related to pre-training energy. They are the two 5% Nutrition products. Both Real Carbs and Real Carbs + Protein are for post-workout recovery. They also act as meal replacement powders. Having said that, 5% uses whole food complex carb sources. That means they are low glycemic. They also provide long-lasting energy.
There’s one benefit of carbs that not everyone may realize. They pull water into the muscles. This means cell volume or water-based pumps. It also means good muscular hydration. Axe & Sledge Demo Day is a great choice for this purpose. Besides 25g carbs, there’s glycerol and taurine. These are two osmolytes. That means, you guessed it; they pull water into the muscles. Stack Demo Day with a pump formula that includes betaine. Also, stack it with creatine, the original cell volumizer. By doing this, you can amplify the water-based pumps.
When looking at a carb supplement, consider the following.
You should base the number of carbs per serving on your personal needs. Many low carb dieters will want a lower carb content. Products such as NutraBio Super Carb only contain 25g carbs per serving. Others, such as endurance athletes, may want more carbs. Products such as our best overall, EFX Karbolyn, provide 50g carbs per serving.
Many of the choices in this guide are flavored. The unflavored versions are easier to mix in with other powders. What if you use a flavored carb supplement, and want to mix it with your pre-workout? Make sure the flavors are compatible. Otherwise, unflavored may be the way to go. The other advantage with unflavored is that you can mix it with protein powder easier. Many of the carb supplements in this guide offer flavored and unflavored options. The unflavored products include 1Up Nutrition Tri-Carb and NOW Sports Waxy Maize.
Most of the carb supplements in this guide only contain carbohydrates. That means the label is simple and open. Are you considering a carb supplement with a blend of ingredients? Two good examples are Axe & Sledge Demo Day or 1Up Nutrition Tri-Carb. In both cases, the label is transparent. This means you can see exactly how much you get of each ingredient.
Of course, follow all instructions on the product you are using. Most carb supplements suggest use before, during and after your training session. You can use 5% Nutrition Real Carbs pre or post-workout. You can also use it as a meal replacement. In this case, add a protein source. Real Carbs + Protein is a complete meal. You can use it pre-workout but it makes more sense to use it after. Also, it’s meant to replace 1-3 meals a day, depending on lifestyle needs.
EFX Sports Karbolyn® provides a food-based designer carb source with 50g per scoop. It absorbs fast, will not cause gastric distress, and provides prolonged energy.
Are you looking for a carb supplement with added protein? Do you want to use it as a meal replacement? Then 5% Nutrition Real Carbs + Protein is the ideal choice. This product is completely whole food-based. There are no designer carbs here, only real food in powder form.
Finally, do you want a carb-based pump supplement? Axe & Sledge Demo Day is the choice for you. There are several carb sources plus cell volumizers and insulin regulators. There’s also a blood sugar control ingredient.
There are quite a few different types of carb products on the market. They all absorb quickly, avoid insulin spikes, and last a long time. The best carb supplement for you is the one that fits your goals. Use our guide to find the one for you. Then carb up and let’s train!