While we focus mostly on helping our local riders find the best bike paths and engage with local cycling clubs, I do like to take some time now and then to discuss broader topics such as how to protect yourself from injury and, today, looking at energy sources.
Contrary to popular belief, maltodextrin and the malt used in beer and malted milk are very different. Typical malts are made of barley and wheat, while maltodextrin is actually more of a corn or rice sugar starch product. Sometimes it’s even made from potatoes.
So why is it hitting the shelves as a fitness supplement if it’s nothing but sugary starches?
The reason is that it causes a very fast insulin spike response, which is supposed to help amino acid absorption. So maltodextrin is added to post workout shakes to get a faster and more effective gain from the workout.
Does it work? That depends. Apparently, it almost entirely depends on whether or not you are working out in a fasting mode. If you do your workout in a fast, then your post workout shake needs to do a lot of work in a little bit of time. But if you are consuming enough proteins for optimal gains before and after the workout, then the prolonged sugar highs from adding carbs like maltodextrin to your routine can encourage health issues like hypertension.
But high glycemic index foods are known to aid in recovery and reduce muscle break down in a post workout phase, making it a solid option for carving up your post workout protein.
Another common use for maltodextrin is the energy gel used by cyclists and endurance runners. With the combination of fast and slow absorption sugars, the fitness industry has been able to create a carb pack that gives an extended energy burn. It’s proven to be massively effective in distance runners and is one of our personal favorites for cycling. My personal go to is the Clif gel shots, that use organic maltodextrin.
But watch out. Using maltodextrin in any extended pattern can suppress healthy gut probiotics and bacteria that have been linked to autoimmune disorders.
You don’t want this stuff to be a daily habit, even though occasional ingestion has not been shown to have negative effects.