As an athlete, your body requires more calories than most people do. Most of those calories come from carbohydrate sources and you may need to fuel up during exercise when training long distances. Although most athletes load up on solid carbohydrates prior to exercise, most prefer liquid during the exertion. Maltodextrin provides long lasting energy that can help in increasing performance and activity.
According to Dr. Jason Barker, maltodextrin is an artificially produced long chain carbohydrate created from applying acids to cornstarch, which breaks up into medium length molecule chains. Due to this structure, maltodextrin is classified as a complex carbohydrate rather than a simple carbohydrate like glucose. It can also be labeled as glucose polymers on some products.
Consuming enough calories to sustain maximum performance during exercise presents a challenge when drinking concentrated solutions. Since a typical sports drink contains about 100 to 125 calories and a sugar solution of 6 percent, you may want to increase your caloric intake. However, an increase above 8 percent sugar solution will lead to a slower rate of gastric emptying and may cause cramps, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. Hence, maltodextrin allows you to pack more calories within a set volume.
Maltodextrin Sports Drinks
Maltodextrin is commercially available in the form of specialty sports drinks and gels providing more calories than typical sports drinks. Examples are Extran and Carbo Gain, which contain more than 400 calories per bottle. Maltodextrin also comes in a powdered format which is generally less expensive allowing you to make your own solution and add your own taste, but may have problems with dissolvability. However, it is relatively tasteless in its natural format and the cost is less than $1 per pound with a shelf life of two years, as of December 2010.
Benefits of Maltodextrin
Although carbohydrate loading prior to an event allows for extra glycogen storage, a supplementation is needed every two to four hours. Maltodextrins provide low calorie, high carbohydrate energy with low osmolarity. While fruit juices and flat soda contain a high sugar content that may cause gastrointestinal distress, maltodextrin has a less likelihood of causing stomach issues.
Looking Beyond Maltodextrin Alone
Although maltodextrin provides a large number of calories within a low concentration, a combination of maltodextrin and fructose helps to keep the blood sugar level more stable, providing a more consistent source of energy during physical exertion. According to Smart Supplementation, while maltodextrin provides long lasting energy, fructose provides an early fuel, allowing the body to utilize the energy to boost performance.