Unless you’re diligent about reading food labels, you could be eating artificial, synthetic, and unhealthy ingredients without even knowing it. Today we’re going to examine Maltodextrin, what it means for athletes, and it’s potential impact on optimal health and performance.
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a synthetic white powder and a food additive made from corn, rice, wheat, or potatoes.
It’s a processed food product much like corn syrup that’s used as an artificial sweetener. It is approved by the FDA for consumption in small amounts.
Because it’s often used as a cheap thickener or filler, maltodextrin is usually manufactured from genetically modified (GMO) corn. It can be found in a variety of products, such as:
- Potato chips
- Nutritional Supplements
- Sports drinks
- Hair and skincare products
How Does Maltodextrin Affect Health and Performance?
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate that contains sugar.
It offers 4 calories per gram, as do table sugar and sucrose. The body digests these carbs very quickly, meaning it provides a surge of calories and energy.
Maltodextrin spikes blood sugar and insulin levels, especially when consumed in large quantities.
The glycemic index (GI) of Maltodextrin is between 106-130, which exceeds table sugar. Anyone with diabetes or insulin resistance should avoid Maltodextrin. Instead, opt for more balanced forms of dietary carbohydrates.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that no more than 45-65% of your daily diet should come from carbohydrates. It’s better to consume complex carbs that are high in dietary fiber, such as:
- Whole grains
These carbs digest more slowly and won’t spike blood sugar. This provides athletes a sustainable flow of energy without the ups and downs caused by Maltodextrin.
Because it’s a fast-energy carbohydrate, Maltodextrin is found in many sports drinks, supplements, and “healthy” snacks. Weightlifters often use Maltodextrin-containing supplements to gain weight.
Since it’s an artificial sweetener that provides no added nutritional value, the excess blood sugar from Maltodextrin does effectively promote weight gain, although probably not the type of weight you are looking for.
According to Healthline.com, “Another reason to limit maltodextrin is to keep your gut bacteria healthy. According to a 2012 study published in PLoS ONE, maltodextrin can change your gut bacteria composition in a way that makes you more susceptible to disease. It can suppress the growth of probiotics in your digestive system, which are important for immune system function. The same study showed that maltodextrin can increase the growth of bacteria such as E. coli, which is associated with autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease.”
That said, performance athletes trying to stay lean should avoid Maltodextrin.
Here’s a graph showing the blood sugar levels of athletes using supplements with Maltodextrin versus supplements without Maltodextrin.
The light blue line illustrates how Maltodextrin unnaturally spikes blood sugar, resulting in an energy crash after just 60 minutes. The dark blue line indicates the blood sugars of athletes who opt for quality food or supplements – steady and balanced for 2 solid hours. The flat line uses pea starch (X1’s primary carb source) as a clean source of sustained carbohydrate energy.
This carbohydrate profile clearly shows that athletes looking to maintain high levels of energy throughout physical activity should steer clear of Maltodextrin.
Given the evidence against Maltodextrin, energy-maximizing supplements use pea starch for their source of necessary fast-acting carbs. Combined with natural energy igniters, these pre-workout boosters provide the edge and the optimal energy for athletes who always finish strong.
Choose Smart Food
Like sugar and other simple carbohydrates, maltodextrin can form part of a healthy diet, but it shouldn’t be the main course. On food and supplement labels this means maltodextrin either shouldn’t be there at all or should be near the end of the ingredients list. The higher something is on the Ingredients list the more of it there is in the product you’re eating/drinking. If it’s near the end there is far less of it.
There are healthier and more naturally nutritious sources of energy than Maltodextrin. If you’re looking for a kick of added sweetness before or after exercise, try adding stevia or honey to your diet instead.
Though it’s abundant in processed foods and low-level health supplements, health-conscious athletes who prioritize their training potential make the smart choice. To train with optimal energy levels, pick a workout supplement that delivers sustained energy – without the crash.