Maltodextrin is a sugar that is widely used in the food industry and also by bodybuilders and athletes who practice endurance sports.
Drinks made with this sugar provide the body with carbohydrates that help to produce energy and help build muscle reserves.
They are therefore to be consumed before or after exercise, depending on the objectives to be achieved.
He would like to point out that maltodextrin is a rather special carbohydrate, since there is only one variety.
Depending on the sugar you buy, its glycemic index can vary greatly, which could radically change the way the athlete uses it.
This makes the purchase somewhat complicated, especially since the glycemic index is not always indicated on the package.
What is maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a sugar obtained by synthesizing corn starch, potato starch or wheat. Also called malto-oligosaccharides, maltodextrin is therefore composed of several sugars.
It is most often in the form of a white powder with a consistency similar to that of flour.
It is therefore an artificial product. It is the transformation of several sugars that causes all the differences between each variety of maltodextrin.
Before being transformed into sugar, starch passes through a process called partial hydrolysis, during which water and enzymes are added to partially digest the starch.
The resulting product is then refined before being dried and ground. The fine powder thus obtained has a neutral or sweet taste.
Understand the principle of the DE equivalent
It is common to compare maltodextrin with dextrose. This is called the D.E. index, which stands for Dextrose Equivalent. This index ranges from 0 to 100 and makes it possible to classify a sugar in relation to its equivalent, which is none other than dextrose.
As a point of clarification, dextrose has a DE of 100 while starch has a DE of only 0. You may have understood this, if the E.D. of maltodextrin is high, so is its glycemic index.
The E.D. of maltodextrin can therefore vary from 0 to 20. This explains why there are so many maltodextrin varieties on the market.
For this reason, it is important to be vigilant at the time of purchase. You should always check the DE index of the product you are interested in. Finding yourself with maltodextrin that doesn’t meet your expectations can be problematic.
Is maltodextrin a slow sugar or a fast sugar?
Slow sugar and fast sugar are two terms that are no longer topical, although they are still widely used in sports circles. Nowadays, we talk more about glycemic indexes.
It is from this referent that food is classified according to its impact on blood sugar levels. So to speak, the glycemic response is important when the glycemic index is high.
Following the same principle, the glycemic power is reliable when the glycemic index is low.
The fact is that it is almost impossible to know whether the maltodextrin you have in your hands has a high or low glycemic index. Because, as announced above, there is not only one, but several maltodextrins.
It should never be forgotten that once the D.E. indices of maltodextrins are low, so are the glycemic indices of beverages.
Why is maltodextrin of interest to food companies?
Maltodextrin is used as a food additive by many industries. Indeed, this sugar is intended to create volume, improve texture and also extend the shelf life of products.
Don’t be surprised if you find this sugar in sweets, low-fat yoghurts, energy drinks, body care products, laundry detergents and dressings.
The use of maltodextrin is very popular among industries because it is very versatile and affordable. It is mainly used as:
Maltodextrin adds volume to some foods without affecting their taste.
Maltodextrin retains the thickening properties of products containing starch. It is used as an essential ingredient by industries that make low-fat yoghurts, dressings, jellies and sauces.
Maltodextrin is frequently added to certain fermented beverages such as beer to improve their sweetness without altering their taste.
Maltodextrin is also used in the design of pharmaceutical products. It is present in tablets and pills.
This sugar has properties that allow it to increase the shelf life of a product, especially for baby and children’s products. As it dissolves easily without creating lumps, it is a perfect source of carbohydrates.
It is also found in many body lotions and creams because it helps to smooth the texture of these products.
The real advantages of maltodextrin on athletes
Maltodextrin is very popular among high performance athletes who are constantly looking to improve their performance. He would like to point out that the way maltodextrin is consumed differs according to the athletes.
Nutritional supplements such as drinks or energy gels are enjoying unprecedented popularity, as they help athletes recover quickly from strenuous training.
Maltodextrin is therefore intended to restore carbohydrates that are easily digested and assimilated by the body.
When the athlete trains, his body breaks down and transforms his stored energy reserves called glycogen into glucose, which is also known as sugar.
Sugar is the usable form of glycogen. It is not usable if it is not in this form.
The fact is that high performance athletes quickly deplete their glycogen stores when they train intensively or when they compete.
Carbohydrate supplements then replenish these reserves to allow them to remain effective for longer.
There is ample evidence that taking a drink with high or low levels of maltodextrin before or after exercise promotes recovery of endurance athletes.
Studies have shown that the performance of cyclists who have taken a maltodextrin-based nutritional supplement is better than that of others who have taken a placebo.
Maltodextrin is so popular in sports because it is very low in nutrients. One teaspoon contains only 12 calories and 3.8 grams of carbohydrates.
Until proven otherwise, this sugar does not provide vitamins, minerals or proteins to the body.
This is mainly due to the fact that the starches by which this sugar is obtained are very poorly nutritious. Maltodextrin processing has further reduced this nutrient content.
For an athlete used to taking this supplement, recovery from fatigue and overall performance easily outweigh nutrients.
Be careful, maltodextrin can cause excessive weight gain if it is consumed in large quantities outside of training.
How to use maltodextrin as part of a healthy lifestyle?
Before exercise, a maltodextrin drink with low E.D. should be preferred as it helps to fill glycogen stocks.
In principle, this drink will not block the lipids that are considered the most used nutrient by the body when it is tested by endurance work.
According to various studies, during a long period of effort, it has been observed that a diet with low glycemic indices stimulates the body’s use of lipids.
It is recommended to drink the basic drink three days before exercise. This is how the body increases its muscle glycogen level. This is not an obligation, since this drink is very well tolerated by the body.
If the effort is long lasting, it is preferable to use maltodextrin with an E.D. of around 10. For a better assimilation by the body, it is necessary to combine maltodextrin, fructose and glucose.
Contraindications and dangers of maltodextrin
Maltodextrin is a very well tolerated supplement for the body. In fact, there are no real contraindications against this sugar. The real danger is the over-consumption of this supplement (which is the case for other nutrients).
If maltodextrin is consumed in a situation other than post or pre-training, it can lead to certain complications, including:
Increasing blood sugar levels:
Excessive consumption of maltodextrin is likely to cause blood glucose peaks, which is dangerous for diabetics or people who are insulin-resistant.
As a reminder, its glycemic index is significantly higher than that of table sugar, so caution is required.
Maltodextrin is not used for energy, it will quickly turn into fat.
Prevents the growth of probiotics
Maltodextrin, if still consumed in large quantities, is likely to modify the composition of intestinal bacteria, as it prevents the development of probiotics beneficial to the body.
Research conducted at the Lerner Research Institute in Ohio has shown that the polysaccharides in maltodextrin are linked to certain intestinal disorders associated with bacteria.
According to these scientists, the huge consumption of polysaccharides was responsible for the increase in Crohn’s disease in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Another study conducted at the Mucosal Center for Research on Immunology and Biology in Boston, Massachusetts also indicated that maltodextrin can alter the cellular antibacterial response and can radically suppress the defense mechanisms of intestinal antimicrobials.
This can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases.
Allergic reactions that may be caused by maltodextrin
A study published in a scientific journal in 2013 revealed that overuse of maltodextrin can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea and gurgling.
This excessive consumption can also cause stomach cramps, muscle cramps and skin irritations.
It has been accepted that during the production process, gluten is completely removed from wheat. However, no one is completely certain of the manufacturer’s honesty.
The chances of maltodextrin still containing some gluten are still high. Unless you are 100% sure, people with gluten allergies are advised never to consume gluten.
Resistant maltodextrin and simple maltodextrin
Resistant maltodextrin is quite different from simple or ordinary maltos.
In fact, resistant maltodextrin has gone through a chemical process that has altered the bonds between sugars, making them more difficult or even impossible for the body to digest. The resistant version is 90% made of indigestible fibres.
However, resistant maltodextrin is not totally prohibited for consumption. It has been proven that this sugar can stimulate the development of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. It also promotes the production of insulin and good cholesterol.
Currently, scientists are on the verge of discovering a way to exploit this resistant type in the prevention of colorectal cancer.
Maltodextrin is a very present element in a wide variety of foods and beverages. Indeed, this sugar is often used as a thickener, filler and flavour enhancer in some processed food products.
Maltodextrin must be consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle. If the body does not move during absorption, maltodextrin may turn into fat.