- As an energy resource, it plays a key role in bodily functions.
- It helps nutrients reach their destinations after workout.
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is used mostly as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis (breakdown) and it is usually available in a fine white powder form. Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as dextrose, and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavorless.
Since maltodextrin is commonly used in baking, it can be found in a wide range of products including cakes, ice cream, cereal bars, infant formulae, dairies, frozen desserts, coffee creamer, margarine, peanut butter, salad dressings or beverages. Its consumption is classified as safe.
In the US, maltodextrin is produced from corn, so it is safe for gluten sensitive individuals. In other countries, however, it is often derived from wheat, so make sure you always check what a given product is made of, if you have gluten-related disorders. Maltodextrin makes processed foods easier to digest and, with 4 kcal per gram, it is also a proper source of energy. Nevertheless, we should always keep in mind why these “bulking agents” are actually used in food products. First, they enhance the quality of the products so they become more marketable. But what is more important: most of these additives are inexpensive “filling agents” with poor nutritional value, used to efficiently increase the volume of the end product. By using maltodextrin, manufacturers can save a lot on costs, but on the other hand, such foods have less nutritional value. Four calories per gram are not worth a lot, considering the fact that maltodextrin doesn’t contain any fiber, vitamins or other valuable nutrients; it’s just pure carbohydrate. That’s why we keep telling you that you should avoid processed food whenever you can, and choose foods that are either unprocessed or have undergone minimal industrial processing.
Maltodextrin consists of D-glucose (dextrin) units connected in chains of variable length. Maltodextrin is typically composed of a mixture of chains that vary from 3 to 19 glucose units long. Maltodextrins are classified by DE (dextrose equivalent: 100 means dextrose itself) and have a DE between 5 and 20 or above. Above DE 20, the European Union's CN code calls it glucose syrup.
Maltodextrin can be enzymatically derived from any starch through hydrolysis. This is virtually like “artificial digestion”. In the US, this starch is usually corn; in Europe, it is commonly wheat. (Individuals suffering from gluten-related disorders should be aware of the fact that it may contain traces of gluten.)
Maltodextrin is frequently used in sports supplements, in weight gainers, for example, because it contains the same amount of calories as dextrose, but it is not sweet. This way, quite a lot of hidden carbs can be stacked into a given product. And, manufacturers are often obliged to display the nutritional values of their products including the proportion of carbs that comes from sugars. But, tricky as it is, maltodextrin is not considered a sugar. Let’s take a product that contains 40 g of carbs per portion, 22 of which come from sugar. Then we have a good reason to suspect that the remaining 18 grams come from maltodextrin, provided that there are no other carb sources listed on the label. This would not be a problem in itself. Still, when it comes to absorption, maltodextrin has virtually the same characteristics as dextrose. So you better not deceive yourself into thinking that you have only had 22 grams of fast-absorbing carbs and the rest are slow carbs. Instead, you better handle the whole thing as 40 grams of sugar. This still wouldn’t be a problem if there were no more than 40 grams of carbs in the product. But in the case of high-carb weight gainers, for example, you better be alert. Otherwise you may end up sick after ingesting like 100 grams of sugar, even though only 40 grams were listed as sugar on the label. The only advantages of maltodextrin over dextrose are lower osmolarity and that it causes less stomach acid secretion. Plus, if you add 50 grams of maltodextrin to your protein shake instead of 50 grams of dextrose, it won’t be so unbearably sweet, since maltodextrin is virtually flavorless.
Conclusion: you should basically handle maltodextrin the same as dextrose: only take maltodextrin if the energy stocks of your body are depleted and you need to recharge quickly, e.g. after workout, or maybe in the morning (but in the latter case you may be better off with slower carbs). Don’t take more than 50 grams at a time, because it may cause stomach problems if you are prone to it.
Ask your question about this article here!
You can ask questions after registration and login!
Please log in!