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Post workout carbs: Dextrose vs Oats

When it comes to post workout carbs the two most popular choices are Dextrose and Oats, but which one is best. Nigel Holloway gives his opinion. After an intense workout it's important to refuel and give your body the vital nutrients and materials it needs to replenish itself and grow. For the purpose of this article we'll ignore the specifics of nutrient timing, protein and fat requirements and supplementation, and instead concentrate on post workout carbs used. Some people prefer to have a complete meal after training, which is a good idea of course but this has never been practical for me due to the times I usually train. To this end I have always used either Dextrose or Oats as part of a post-workout shake. For people in a similar situation as me a common question is "which one is better". The answer, as it is a lot of the time, is it depends...

Post workout carbs: Dextrose and Pure Fine Oats

Typical values per 100g Dextrose Pure Fine Oats
Kcal 410 364
Protein 0g 10g
Carbohydrate 90g 69g
Fat 0g 7g
Fibre 0g 4.6g
Nutritionally Oats are the superior choice among post workout carbs, as Dextrose is just a simple sugar that is pure carbohydrate. Oats have the advantage of also containing protein, fat and fibre, as well as other assorted nutrients. So the choice of Oats as the post workout carbs of choice is a no-brainer yes? Well actually it's not as simple as that.

The Glycemic Index

The other thing to factor into this discussion is the Glycemic Index. Essentially this is a score from low to high, indicating how quickly the food is absorbed by the body. Dextrose is high on the Glycemic Index, indicating it is rapidly absorbed into your system, whereas Oats are low indicating they give much more of a sustained energy release as they are absorbed over time. This is one of the reasons why sugary food doesn't keep you feeling as full for as long as starchy food. Does all of this matter? Yes and no.

When can you ignore GI?

As a general rule; if your next training session is more than 24 hours away you can safely ignore the Glycemic Index completely. It really doesn't matter. By the time you train next your glycogen stores in your muscles will be completely replenished no matter what source of post workout carbs you choose, (assuming adequate nutrition of course). It only starts to matter if your next training session is less than 24 hours away; later that same day for example. At this point you need to get the energy into your body quickly and at this point Dextrose becomes the clear choice. Ultimately if you don't train more than once a day it comes down to a personal choice – what do you prefer? As for me – I never, (or at least rarely), train more than once a day and the majority of my training sessions are in the evening, so I choose Oats as my source of post workout carbs.

Choose Oats?

Why? The sustained release suits me, it tastes good and it has a superior nutritional profile that fits my macros nicely. Does this mean I never use Dextrose though? Not at all. I also have a session on a Sunday morning that is usually very intense. Depending on what I'm doing the rest of the day I sometimes prefer Dextrose to Oats after this session. The massive jolt of energy it gives after the session makes me feel energised and refreshed far quicker than anything else, and makes me feel more alive and awake to do whatever it is I have to do for the rest of the day, rather than just sitting in a near-comatose state after a particularly brutal session! Dextrose is also commonly uttered in the same sentence as "insulin spike". This is similar to the Glycemic Index in that it is something that, in the vast majority of people, can be completely ignored. Did you eat before your training session, (as you always should)? Then you'll still have the insulin from that meal in your system. For this and other reasons - just don't worry about it. The take-home message is to get your nutrition to work for you. Get the basics down and don't worry about more complex things like the Glycemic Index, as unless you're training more than once every 24 hours it doesn't really matter. Use these foods as a tool to benefit you, as fits your lifestyle, as fits your goals, or as personal preference dictates.
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