Maltodextrin: The energy supplier for endurance athletes
General information about maltodextrin
Maltodextrin belongs to the complex carbohydrates and is obtained from starch. Most often corn starch is used for this purpose. Alternatively, potato or wheat starch can also be used.
During processing, starch, a so-called polysaccharide (= multiple sugar, many sugar molecules strung together), is broken down into short pieces by enzymes. This produces maltodextrin, a carbohydrate mixture of short-chain sugars. In the intestine, maltodextrin is absorbed into the blood just as quickly as the simple sugar glucose.
Maltodextrin is composed of maltose (= malt sugar, a twofold sugar consisting of two glucose molecules) and dextrose (dextrose = a single sugar, therefore also called monomer). This is also where the name of the carbohydrate comes from.
The white powder is not only used in products for athletes. Maltodextrin is also used in the food industry as a stabilizer, filler, preservative and energy source, among other things.
It is also frequently found in so-called light products. It is used here as a fat substitute because maltodextrin has fewer calories than fat.
Different types of maltodextrin
There is not just ONE maltodextrin. Depending on the sugar content and the proportion of short- and long-chain carbohydrate molecules, a distinction can be made between three types:
- Maltodextrin 6
- Maltodextrin 12
- Maltodextrin 19
Purely in terms of taste, the three species can be distinguished by their sweetness. Maltodextrin 6 tastes the mildest and maltodextrin 19 the sweetest.
In terms of composition, the three types differ in such a way that a significantly higher amount of long-chain carbohydrates is found in maltodextrin 6 than in maltodextrin 12 and – 19. This therefore means that the blood glucose level will rise much more slowly as a result of the intake of maltodextrin 6 than when maltodextrin 19 is taken.
A higher number of short-chain carbohydrates is found in maltodextrin 12 and -19. This results in a rapid rise in blood glucose levels after intake, and thus also in a rapid availability of energy.
Advantages of maltodextrin for athletes
- High calorie intake possible
Maltodextrin is neutral in taste and has very little sweetening power. Thus, a relatively large amount can be used very well for caloric intake, eg. in drink mixes, bars or gels without the product tasting unpleasantly sweet.
This is especially important for athletes who are on the road for several hours. After some time, the supply of energy can definitely become a torment – among other things, because the perception of taste changes.
Products that are too sweet can taste off-putting after a while. This then affects not only energy intake, but often fluid intake as well. Too little intake of energy and fluids should of course be avoided.
- Low viscosity
The carbohydrate mixture is water-soluble and has a lower viscosity (= viscosity) than glucose solutions, so it is more pleasant to drink. Maltodextrin is mostly used in combination with fructose (= fruit sugar) in sports products.
- Low osmolarity
Maltodextrin has a very low osmolarity. This has the advantage that it binds less water, for this reason it is easier to drink even when dehydrated.
- Fast energy supply
Maltodextrin has a high glycemic index, which means that blood glucose levels rise high above normal after ingestion of maltodextrin. Thus, the necessary power is immediately available for high loads.
Use of maltodextrin in endurance sports
Maltodextrin is used as an energy carrier in cases of increased energy or calorie requirements, such as in the context of competitive sports and treatment plans in clinical nutrition.
100 grams of maltodextrin contain about 95 grams of carbohydrates, which correspond to about 380-390 kcal (kilocalories).
The insulin level, which rises sharply due to the intake of maltodextrin, helps the body to transport proteins to the muscles in the fastest way. This supports the build-up of muscle mass accordingly.
Maltodextrin is excellent for endurance athletes due to its good tolerability and rapid provision of energy.
Glycogen stores deplete quickly during prolonged exercise and should be replenished with fast or slow-available carbohydrates, depending on the training goal.
That’s why maltodextrin is found in many sports nutrition products for endurance efforts – including our professional products from Ministry of Nutrition.