Understanding Sugar - Dextrose

What is Dextrose?

Lets start first with Glucose. Glucose is the fuel source that is used in and stored in the muscle fiber. When you're working the muscles they send glucose into the krebs cycle to produce ATP; the energy source of the cell. CO2 is produced in the Krebs Cycle as a by product of breaking down the glucose carbon chain. Attaching one carbon molecule to two Oxygen molecules, CO2. Glucose in layman terms is 6 carbon molecules. These 6 carbons get broken down into 2 pairs of 3 carbons called pyruvate that then enter the krebs cycle to create ATP.


Dextrose and Glucose have the same chemical formula C6H12O6. In the medical community you will often hear doctors refer to dextrose instead of glucose because that is what the pharmaceutical companies label it as. However, the doctor's intention is maintaining blood glucose levels. In fact if you search dextrose on wikipedia it will take you to the article on glucose. Simply put, dextrose is a carbohydrate that is ready for the cell to uptake and burn; your body doesn't have to do much to use it. 

Why use Dextrose?

If you've just woken up for that early morning ride or you've been hammering away for an hour and need that extra kick to keep the legs moving Dextrose is your best friend. When you ingest dextrose it can be metabolized by the stomach and passed directly into the blood stream. There it can be transferred to the muscle cell to be converted into pyruvate and eventually ATP. 

If you've just woken up, you've likely been fasting for 8 to 12 hours and your cortisol levels are high. Muscle is very hard to earn and very expensive to keep. Thus if you're fasted and cortisol levels are high your body will start to metabolize the protein in the muscle fiber to convert it to glucose for the working muscles.  Ever watch the Tour De France? Ever wonder why the pro rider's arms are so skinny? Because stress is another inducer of cortisol and when the body can't get enough calories to maintain it's energy demands it starts to break down the non-working muscle fibers. By ingesting a quick carbohydrate like dextrose this creates an insulin spike. Insulin is a direct inhibitor of cortisol. This will help you to preserve muscle fiber. This is the reason body builders will use insulin as they want to keep the calorie intake really low to burn fat stores but don't want to lose any hard earned muscle mass. Really brings a whole new meaning to breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

Won't Sugar Make me fat? 

Sugar in my opinion is one of the leading causes of obesity epidemic. This is because simple carbohydrates allow us to pack a large number of calories in a small package. Thus making it very easy to over indulge and eat to many of them. However, just like anything else when used properly sugar can have immense benefits. We as a society love to place the blame on someone or something. But the truth is sugar alone won't make you fat, the over consumption of calories will make you gain weight. The reason we love riding bikes so much is it's amazing ability to burn calories while having fun! I mean what can be better than that!!?? 

So how do we use sugar properly. Simple- Before, During or After exercise. We already talked about the before benefits so lets look at during. 

During Exercise

Your body stores roughly 90 mins of glucose in your muscle fibers when fully fueled at a moderate pace. A simple formula is 1/4 of your body weight (lbs) in grams of carbs per hour after 45 to 90 mins of exercise. Example. - Let's say you ride for 2 hours and you weight 150 lbs. The last hour of your ride you will want to consume 37.5 grams of carbohydrate. Thus any sugar you ingest during that ride is going to get sucked up by the muscle as fuel and help you maintain your pace.   

After Exercise

The general rule of thumb to help those tired legs start to recover is 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate within 30 mins of finishing. In this 30 min window your muscles are like sponges ready to soak up that sugar. Combine this with a quick digesting protein shake and you'll have all the tools needed to start the repair processes. It's the repair that makes us stronger not the ride! 

While I do love the taste of the Bike-A-Latte Pre-Ride Cold Brew I wouldn't recommend you drink them while sitting at your desk. We want to take advantage of all those sugars to help us burn more calories, get learner and stronger.  So when you're on your bike pack a couple brews in that jersey pocket and have an adventure!