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Waxy corn starch


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The ultimate slow digesting/low glycemic carbohydrate

In 1908, a small agricultural export from China landed on the shores of America. It was a unique corn kernel that, when cut in half, looked as if it were filled with wax. This golden, unpolished jewel became known as Waxy Maize Starch (WMS, in German "waxy cornstarch"). In 1942, the first crop of waxy cornstarch was sown and processed for commercial use by two different starch companies in the state of Indiana. In the 1950s, WMS was used in laundry starch, glue, sticky cream, pie fillings, salad dressing, and as a stabilizer and thickener for canned foods (1).

Waxy Maize(waxy corn starch) has a higher molecular weight and much lower osmolarity compared to dextrose or maltodextrin, but what does this mean for the user? Mainly that Waxy Maize passes through the stomach undamaged, is not absorbed until it reaches the intestines, where it is immediately absorbed. This all happens at a much faster rate than dextrose or maltodextrin - almost twice as fast to be exact.

Waxy Maize can increase the absorption rate of many of your favorite supplements such as creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, cell volumizing supplements, nitric oxide supplements, and more. Nutrients like these often remain in the environment of aggressive stomach acid, which negatively affects their absorption rate. Waxy Maize helps move these nutrients through the stomach faster and allows the body to absorb these nutrients much more quickly.

Waxy Maize has the ability to replenish the body's glycogen stores much faster than is possible with a mixture of dextrose and maltodextrin. This is once again made possible by Waxy Maize's ability to quickly pass through the stomach and into the intestines for immediate absorption. Waxy Maize's ability to move all of these nutrients and starches quickly through the stomach gives the body an instant pump that you can physically feel in your muscles after a workout. You will see a much larger, fuller and rounder muscular body.

The study

Unlike ordinary corn starch, WMS consists to a very large extent (up to 100 percent) of amylopectin. Amylopectin is a long chain of glucose molecules with branching side chains resembling junctions on a highway. Ordinary corn starch consists of amylopectin and an appreciable amount of amylose, which is a long, coiled glucose chain with no branches.

Fast forward 50 years to one of the top sports nutrition laboratories at Ball State University in Indiana. For nearly two decades, Dr. David Costillo's laboratory conducted numerous studies focused on carbohydrates, performance and muscle glycogen utilization. In the early 1990s, Costillo's laboratory conducted two different comparative tests:

  1. How does WMS behave in terms of glycemic (blood glucose) and insulinemic (insulin blood levels) response as a pre-workout energy provider, and how does WMS affect fat and carbohydrate burning?
  2. How does WMS behave in terms of muscle glycogen resynthesis after an exhaustive training session?

In the first study, 10 elite male cyclists (yes, I know, what the heck does a study of cyclists have to do with muscle development? But please read on anyway...) were given one of four different supplements at four different times:

  1. Dextrose (glucose)
  2. WMS (100 percent amylopectin)
  3. Resistant starch (resistant to digestion and slow/poorly absorbable, consisting of 70 percent amylose and 30 percent amylopectin).
  4. A placebo drink artificially sweetened with sweetener without calories

All four supplements were sweetened and flavored and administered in the form of a drink (18.7 percent carbohydrate solution) at a dosage of 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight 30 minutes before a 2-hour exercise session on an ergometer (2).

Glucose and insulin responses were 2 to 2.5 times higher after glucose administration than after WMS administration. This is believed to be the first human study to show that WMS is a low-glycemic/low-insulin carbohydrate. After 15 minutes of exercise, all groups showed a decrease in insulin levels and blood glucose levels to levels that were BELOW baseline levels prior to supplement administration. During the last 30 minutes of training, subjects were encouraged to give it all they had. Dextrose and WMS allowed for a work output that was significantly higher than placebo administration and approximately in the same range for WMS and dextrose. In terms of carbohydrate and fat burning, there were no differences between dextrose and WMS.

During the second study, 8 elite male cyclists (read on, there's a link here) were placed on a moderate carbohydrate diet (55 percent carbohydrate/25 percent fat/20 percent protein) for two days before a training session to empty carbohydrate stores (3). This was repeated four times, each time with a different one of the following carbohydrate supplements as the sole carbohydrate source after carbohydrate stores were emptied:

  1. Dextrose (glucose)
  2. Maltodextrin
  3. WMS (100 percent amylopectin)
  4. Resistant starch (100 percent amylose)

Immediately after training, a quadriceps biopsy was performed.

The carbohydrate supplements were consumed by the athletes in liquid form at a dosage of 6.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight during the following 12 hours before going to sleep. The next morning, another biopsy was performed (the ultimate pick-me-up!). Dextrose, maltodextrin, and WMS intake showed no significant differences in terms of muscle glycogen resynthesis, but the greatest percentage increase (based on post-exercise glycogen concentration) was observed after dextrose consumption.

In 2002, the same university laboratory that developed the glycemic index compared a 75-gram dose of WMS with maltodextrin, sucrose (table sugar), and a high-amylose cornstarch-all in the form of a beverage (4). Maltodextrin and sucrose showed a glycemic response that was 1.6 to 2.9 times greater during the first 15 to 45 minutes after consumption.

Last July, a study confirmed that WMS is a premium slow-digesting, low-glycemic carbohydrate that causes little insulin release. Purdue University researchers published a glycemic index study conducted over 4 hours that compared 50 grams of WMS with a mixture of 78 percent maltodextrin and 22 percent sucrose (MS) and white bread (5).

WMS and the MS mixture were administered in the form of a sweetened gel. The glycemic response to WMS and white bread was almost identical and was about a factor of 2 to 3 lower and slower than the glycemic response to the MS mixture during the first 60 minutes. After 3 and 4 hours, only white bread and WMS did not cause a drop in blood glucose levels to values lower than baseline before carbohydrate administration. The maximal insulin response to WMS was only about half that of the maximal insulin response to white bread during the first 30 to 60 minutes and was only about one-quarter that of the maximal insulin response to the MS mix. The overall increase in insulin levels was almost a factor of 3 for MS Mix and almost a factor of 2 for white bread compared to WMS.

What does this mean for bodybuilders and strength athletes?

These studies confirm that waxy cornstarch is a slowly digestible, low-glycemic carbohydrate and suggest that WMS can be used for energy by individuals who are susceptible to fluctuations in blood glucose levels or who exercise for longer than 2 hours before exercise.

WMS can provide energy for training just as well as dextrose. The glycogen response of WMS is at least similar to that of glucose and maltodextrin, although accurate values are only known for a 24-hour loading phase following depletion of glycogen stores, which is difficult to achieve with resistance training. The lower maximum insulin peak induced by WMS could possibly be enhanced by the addition of whey protein or branched-chain amino acids, although this remains to be confirmed by further studies.

What we do not yet know is how quickly WMS passes through the stomach (gastric emptying rate), as no studies have been conducted in this regard. Even though the osmolality of WMS is much lower than that of dextrose or maltodextrin, studies examining the glycemic and insulinemic properties of WMS suggest that even if gastric passage were rapid, it could not overcome the rate-limiting steps of digestion and absorption.


  1. Anon. Agric Food Chem, 1955;3:105-7.
  2. Goodpaster BH, et al. Int J Sports Med, 1996;17:366-72.
  3. Jozsi AC, et al. Int J Sports Med, 1996;17:373-8.
  4. Anderson GH, et al Am J Clin Nutr, 2002;76:1023-30.
  5. Sands AL, et al. Nutr Res, 2009;29:383-90.