Maltodextrin is a very popular type of carbohydrate among athletes. It has a high glycemic index, ideal to take at certain times when glycogen is depleted and should be replenished as quickly as possible, such as after training or when performing long-duration exercises. Maltodextrin also has a higher molecular weight than other carbohydrates of high glycemic index, so its osmolarity is lower. This provides it with a faster transit through the stomach causing the glucose to reach the bloodstream as fast as possible to serve as an energy substrate.
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a type of carbohydrate that originates as a result of the enzymatic reaction of starch.
It is found in most sports drinks, as it is a supplement tolerated by most athletes. It helps improve performance in those high intensity sports and even favours recovery after strenuous training.
What is the molecular structure of Maltodextrin?
According to a classification in terms of the degree of polymerization, the molecular structure of maltodextrin corresponds to that of a polysaccharide, ie a set of glucose units forming branched chains.
Thus, we see that it is not a simple carbohydrate, such as dextrose (composed of glucose directly), but would be within the group of complex carbohydrates.
Maltodextrin is obtained from the hydrolysis of starch by acids and/or enzymes, and this can come from different sources, such as corn, potato, rice or wheat, finally obtaining a pure white powder.
The hydrolysis of starch consists of dividing or dissociating the chains that form their original molecular structure to obtain a new product with more segmented molecular structures that have a greater presence of unit elements (glucose).
To measure the degree of hydrolysis, the term Dextrose Equivalent is used, which indicates the percentage of the number of glucose units obtained after this procedure. Another way of looking at it would be the degree of conversion of starch into dextrose.
Within the processes of obtaining maltodextrin, results are sought with a dextrose equivalent of less than 20, to maintain a relatively low molecular weight, which will produce certain benefits, such as producing a faster gastric emptying of maltodextrin after it goes through the stomach.
Properties of Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate that has a number of interesting properties which make it ideal for multiple uses.
In fact, this molecule is used by food industries as a soluble additive for different types of foods, but it is also the ingredient of many sports supplements. It has practically no flavour, just a slightly sweet one, is colourless, and most important, easily digestible.
It is composed of several chains of carbohydrates, but linked together by easily breakable or decomposable bonds. For this reason, the maltodextrin molecule can be immediately digested and assimilated by the gastrointestinal tract.
Maltodextrin, as such, is gluten-free, particularly if it is obtained from maize or potatoes, but even that which is extracted from wheat is processed in a specific way, so gluten can be totally eliminated. For this reason, maltodextrin can also be used by people who have celiac disease.
The caloric intake of maltodextrin corresponds directly to that supplied by the carbohydrates (4 kcals per gram), leaving a value of 400 kcals per 100 g of product. For athletic uses, the most common doses usually range from 25 to 100g depending on the person, goal and activity to be performed.
What is the Glycemic Index of Maltodextrin?
The Glycemic Index or GI of Maltodextrin is of the order of 85-105, hence the High Glycemic Index. However, as we have seen, the molecular structure is integrated by branched chains of glucose, with bonds that must be broken or metabolized to obtain the absorbable monosaccharides.
What is Maltodextrin for?
Maltodextrin has a number of uses within the industry, such as for food additives in a variety of commercial foods and beverages.
In fact, it is a valid thickening agent, which, given its properties, water-soluble, easily digestible, colourless and practically flavourless, it is especially used in dressings, toppings and sauces, and as a valid thickener for food and beverages. Allowing to increase the quantity of the product, without altering the characteristics and properties of said product.
It is also used as a bulking agent in pill encapsulations.
Maltodextrin within the sports world has a use especially for those sportspeople and/or athletes whose energy requirements are high, and thanks to its easy energy conversion, they can choose to include it as an energy source for:
Recharging energy deposits (muscle glycogen) to tackle sports activities
Maintaining the intensity during the course of the effort until the end of the sport activity
Contributing to the recovery of the energy spent during the sport exercise
Benefits of Maltodextrin
High molecular weight, for a fast stomach transit
Low osmolarity, does not cause stomach discomfort in athletes and/or sportspeople
Allows to refill energy deposits quickly
Helps to maintain energy levels during prolonged efforts
Improves performance in high intensity activities
It can be combined with any other type of sports supplementation
Easy to be used
Clean energy supply, does not provide other nutrients
How to take Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin can be taken in two different ways:
For Carbohydrate Loading
The Peri-workout refers to the period of time just before training, during training, or once the sports session is finished.
For Carb-Loading a period of several days are considered to increase the storage of energy (muscle glycogen) for a sporting event, in which we need to have the maximum energy available to face the competition with full guarantees.
This sports nutrition protocol is based on the principle of "overcompensation", therefore, the first step will be to "empty" our energy reserves through food that has no elements that can replenish glycogen, ie we will not eat carbohydrates for a period of 2-3 days maximum, to subsequently and until the day of the event, have daily intakes of carbohydrate sources, to complete a daily total of this nutrient much larger than the normal amounts established by the diet.
Maltodextrin can facilitate this overcompensation, and above all, for those who have difficulties in having big meals or intakes and that can cause them upset stomachs or a bloating feeling. In this way, you can take maltodextrin between meals to complete the requirements.
How to combine Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a very versatile supplement when combining with other products:
Combine Maltodextrin with other types of Carbohydrates
Within the nutritional strategies referred to sport supplementation, knowing how to use carbohydrates will be one of the aspects that provides most benefits for the athletes and/or sportspeople. Especially, those who perform activities that produce a high deterioration or that need the intensity to be kept throughout the activity.
It is really a very delicate task, and the performance and final success depends on it.
In this sense, combining different sources of carbohydrates is a resource that is put into practice by most professionals. It is based on providing different types of carbohydrates, with different ratios and rates of absorption, so that we are arranging "in stages" this energy and thus have the most optimal energy combination.
Among the carbohydrate products to combine with Maltodextrin are:
With this range of sources, we can combine it in the same mixture in a proportion of ⅓ of the normal individual amount that we would take of each product on its own.
Combine Maltodextrin with Proteins
One of the pillars of sports supplementation are Proteins, given their properties and characteristics in order to provide in a convenient and effective way essential nutrients to our diet, as in this case, helping to complete the daily requirements of protein.
Those people who seek to gain weight and muscle mass should know that one of the ways to achieve this will be to establish a hypercaloric diet, ie produce a calorie surplus so that the body has sufficient energy with which to perform the various physiological processes which intervene in the construction of tissues.
One of the best options we can use to favour this process will be precisely to combine Proteins with Maltodextrin, completing a series of daily services with which to produce an excess of calories, enough so that there is a surplus and thus collaborate with this diet.
We can, of course, take a protein shake along with a dose of maltodextrin before and/or after workouts as a means to elevate energy stores at the same time as providing amino acids.
Combine Maltodextrin with Pre-Workout Supplements
As the name implies, the Pre-Workout Supplements will be consumed during Peri-workout, just before starting the physical activity, to produce a stimulus that allows us to improve our performance, concentration, and favour the later recovery and muscle growth.
In this way, maltodextrin can perfectly be combined with any product and it will take advantage of the stimulation and energy provided by this polysaccharide.
Combine Maltodextrin with Intra-Workout Supplements
During a physical activity in which there is a considerable energy expenditure and that is characterized by both its high intensity and its duration, will be one of the scenarios where the use of Maltodextrin along with Intra-Workout Supplements is most called upon.