Maltodextrin is much more than just a dietary supplement. In fact, it is found in many foods. At the sports level, maltodextrin is mainly used as a fast sugar that we use to increase our blood sugar level during an effort in order to provide the energy necessary for our muscles.
It can be used both in bodybuilding and in endurance sports such as cycling or running.
How is maltodextrin made?
Maltodextrin is a type of carbohydrate, but it undergoes intense processing. It comes in the form of a white powder made from rice, corn, wheat or potato starch. Its makers first cook it, then add acids or enzymes to further break it down. The final product is a water-soluble white powder with a neutral taste. This powder is used as an additive in certain foods to replace sugar and improve their texture, shelf life and taste.
If you have celiac disease, watch out for foods that contain maltodextrin. The powder contains traces of gluten if its source is wheat.
Potential Health Risks of Maltodextrin
Increased blood sugar
If you consume too many foods containing maltodextrin, the quality of your diet may be lower than normal. You will get too much sugar and a low amount of fiber. Such diets increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and high cholesterol.
The glycemic index (GI) of maltodextrin is higher than that of table sugar. This means that the powder can cause your blood sugar levels to spike soon after eating foods that contain it. A sudden rise in blood sugar in people with insulin resistance or diabetes can be fatal.
A high GI means that foods enter the bloodstream quickly and the body absorbs them quickly. This increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Complex carbohydrates (oat flakes, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, etc.) do not present this danger because the body takes longer to absorb them, thus avoiding a peak in blood sugar. You also tend to feel full longer.
May cause allergic reactions.
If you consume maltodextrin in large amounts, it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. These include gas, gurgling, and diarrhea. Studies show that it can cause allergic reactions such as cramps and skin irritations. The powder manufacturing process removes all proteins, including gluten, but traces can still be found. This can be dangerous for you if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
May cause weight gain. Maltodextrin is a simple carbohydrate that gives you no nutritional value. Consuming it in large amounts can lead to weight gain.
Benefits of Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin can be a quick source of energy. One gram contains four calories, the same amount as table sugar or sucrose. The body digests it quickly to help you get fuel for your muscles. This explains why companies use it in large quantities in the manufacture of energy drinks and sports drinks. People who exercise can take advantage of this product after intense workouts to restore their glycogen stores.
Since maltodextrin is a fast-digesting carbohydrate, it is often included in sports drinks and snacks. For bodybuilders and other athletes trying to gain weight, maltodextrin can be a good source of quick calories during or after a workout.
Since maltodextrin doesn't need as much water to digest as some other carbs, it's a great way to get some quick calories without getting dehydrated.
A study also suggests that maltodextrin supplements may help maintain anaerobic power during exercise. However, further research is needed.
May fight colorectal cancer
A form of maltodextrin - Fibersol-2 - is effective in preventing the growth of human colorectal tumor cells. This could be because it promotes bacterial fermentation and improves digestion.
Healthy Alternatives to Maltodextrin
The cons of maltodextrin outnumber its benefits, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system. There are healthier alternatives that can add flavor, act as a binder, and help restore energy levels:
Pectin comes from fruits, seeds and vegetables.
Stevia, derived from the leaf of the stevia plant.
Dates, which provide copper, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and iron.
The honey that protects you against many diseases.
Experts consider maltodextrin to be a safe product to consume, but it may come with some risks. If you have diabetes or celiac disease, use healthier alternatives to this product. Avoid consuming highly processed foods and instead opt for whole grains and vegetables to support brain, gut, and heart health.