What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is made from corn starch and is a polysaccharide or complex carb; which is created from long chain monosaccharaides. It is found in abundance in many protein powders and performance drinks; with some manufacturers claiming that they are free of sugar. This is because Maltodextrin is not actually classed as a sugar. Therefore maltodexrin is used in many supplements because it is inexpensive to produce, tasteless and will not be shown as a sugar on the product’s label. Maltodextrin can be purchased as a stand-alone supplement and this review will discuss the key benefits of supplementing with it when used in the right.

The ill-advised issues of eating carbs

Eating carbs in general has received some bad press from many fitness and nutrition writers; with many diets such as the Paleo and Atkins having a massive upsurge in their participation rates. It must be said that there is varying degrees of success attached to theses low carbs diets with each having its own unique pros and cons!

Many bodybuilders have large amounts of protein powders in their arsenal and carbohydrates in whatever form tends to be forgotten about. This is primarily due to the bad press that they released from many of the fitness writers and some of the nonsense that is spouted from the ‘bro-science’ brigade that are in ever gym up and down the country. This is in fact a massive miscalculation in your macros because when supplemented with correctly, carbohydrates can actually increase your muscle mass, stop you from losing muscle mass and can even boost your metabolism. Before you go rushing to buy maltodextrin online it is imperative that you have a clear understanding of how it works on the body to increase your energy levels.

The role of maltodextrin within the body

Maltodextrin is broken down rapidly into glucose after you have consumed it and this stimulates a sharp spike in your blood insulin levels. The body can use proteins and fat as fuel source but it needs glucose to function effectively when training. In fact glucose is the fuel of choice for the skeletal muscle and brain, with any surplus amounts being stored primarily in the muscle and liver. Conversely if the stores in the skeletal muscle and liver are over stocked with glucose; then in this scenario the glucose is turned into unwanted body fat!

This is the main rationale why is imperative to stock your body with the correct amounts of maltodextrin to ensure that are you building muscle and not storing body fat. It is also very important that you are feeling energised and ready to hit the ground running at the gym because you have the right amount of fuel. Yes we all know that too many carbohydrates in your diet can cause you to gain weight because you are causing a positive energy balance and not burning them off. On the other hand, the right amounts of maltodextrin can actually help you to gain muscle mass; the question is ‘how?’

The role of insulin

As discussed previously maltodextrin can cause a sharp spike in your blood insulin levels. As supplements go maltodextrin is the most efficient at causing this quick spike in your blood insulin levels. Insulin when controlled in the right manner is a major anabolic hormone that is a catalyst for muscle growth because it drives the amino acids in your muscle. This mechanism is a large platform for protein synthesis because the glucose molecules bond with the muscle tissues which then create some dynamic reactions to increase muscle growth.

Insulin controls the stress hormone cortisol and it this controlling mechanism that prevents muscle loss. This prevention of muscle loss occurs because cortisol has catabolic properties and one of its main counterproductive roles it to try to break muscle proteins to be used as a primary fuel. Thus when insulin levels are increased, cortisol levels are decreased and this prevents the cortisol from attempting to utilise your muscle proteins as a fuel source. This is a major role of insulin and the anti-catabolic properties are essential for you achieving your physique goals. Are you starting to see the bigger picture yet?

Another key point to consider is when you training at high intensities and for longer durations; this will stimulate increased levels of cortisol. This can be prevented by consuming some maltodextrin before and after you have trained. After you have trained your body is indeed in a catabolic state and this is an optimal time window to consume some maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is very high on the glycaemic index scale and has the following actions upon the body:

  • It boosts protein synthesis by acting on the muscles after you stop exercising
  • It restores glucose stores that have been used whilst training
  • Reduces recovery times because it drives all of the glucose and amino acids into the muscle cells.

Additional Benefits

Many bodybuilders after they have finished a tough work out tend to drink a protein shake to help with muscle growth and recovery. Your body inadvertently uses all of this protein as energy, instead of utilising it to feed the tired muscles. This really needs to stop if you want to improve your muscle growth and nutrient delivery is vital in the whole process. By supplementing with maltodextrin after your work out will block your protein shake being converted into energy. This has a positive effect by increasing the muscle’s uptake of protein and these amino acids can be used to build muscle tissue via enhanced levels of insulin.

Many bodybuilders who compete on the professional circuit tend to use maltodextrin up to 2- 3 weeks before competing. Maintaining muscle mass is crucial especially when in the cutting stage of any resistance training program. Maltodextrin is extremely fast acting and should be used post exercise to support weight loss and muscle gains. Another key point to consider is that muscle with a poor supply of nutrients can become cannibalised for energy after you train. By adding maltodextrin into your nutrition plan will stop this scenario from happening because the muscle is in a well fed state; this definitely will improve your success rate when building lean muscle mass.