Maltodextrin: Why We Use It as Our Sugar Substitute

Maltodextrin: Why We Use It as Our Sugar Substitute

Author: Brandon Amoroso

There’s a good chance that you’ve seen the word “maltodextrin” on the ingredients list of a nutrition facts label. Maltodextrin is becoming an increasingly popular sugar substitute, with athletes and food manufacturers alike jumping on the trend. 

In this short guide, we’ll be breaking down what maltodextrin exactly is, what it does, and why we use it! 

Breaking Down Maltodextrin

What Is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is classified as a polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are a specific type of carbohydrate that is made from a cluster of sugar molecules all bonded together. From a birds-eye view, maltodextrin is a starch made from multiple sugars, which can come from corn, wheat, rice, potato, or even tapioca.

Maltodextrin is made through hydrolysis, a process that uses water and a variety of enzymes and acids to slash starch molecules into tiny pieces. Every tiny piece of maltodextrin contains short chains of sugars. After hydrolysis, maltodextrin is purified, then spray-dried to turn it into its signature powder form. 

Interestingly enough, even though maltodextrin is mostly comprised of sugar molecules, it doesn’t actually taste tart or sweet. In reality, most people can’t taste maltodextrin at all, and those who can only taste a slight, somewhat sweet flavor. Thankfully, it is easily digestible by our bodies, behaving almost like glucose.

What Do We Use It For?

Athletic Supplements

Athletes have been using maltodextrin as a supplement. Before events, athletes have turned to maltodextrin to fuel up on carbs without feeling full. Maltodextrin also helps preserve muscle glycogen. These post-workout supplements can provide a quickly digestible fuel while not dehydrating you, and can directly impact an endurance athlete’s performance. 

All of the above means maltodextrin has the potential to be a reliable post-workout additive for any intense session. Sports products with maltodextrin supplements can take many forms, including:

  • Powders
  • Gel packets
  • Energy drinks

Later, we will go much more in depth with the athletic benefits of maltodextrin. 

Food Additive

Maltodextrin is most commonly used as a food additive. Food manufacturers have invested heavily in this additive, since it is relatively inexpensive, and:

  • Helps add bulk to certain processed foods
  • Acts as a preservative to increase the shelf life of a product
  • Is soluble in water, and can improve the mouthfeel of food and drinks

A few common foods that may contain maltodextrin are:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Salad dressings
  • Snack foods
  • Sports drinks

Why Do We Use Maltodextrin?

Below, you’ll find 4 reasons why athletes are on the maltodextrin trend.

Muscle Focused

The top benefit of maltodextrin is that it pushes carbs and sugars into your bloodstream. After a workout, your body is depleted of sugar, specifically muscle and liver glycogen. Well, maltodextrin replenishes those stores, aiding in recovery and keeping your muscles full. It’s benefits assist both your body’s energy stores and recovery systems, especially if combined with an amino acid mixture. 

More Carbs, Less Dehydration

Maltodextrin doesn’t use as much water to digest as other carbohydrates do. This is a direct benefit to athletes, since they can essentially take a maltodextrin supplement and not immediately become dehydrated. Instead of other carbs draining all the water out of their systems, maltodextrin supplements keep athletes hydrated while also adding carbs.

Maintaining Anaerobic Power

Our bodies absorb and digest maltodextrin quicker than other sugars, and breaking it down helps replenish the glycogen in our systems. However, most sports supplements actually help our bodies retain glycogen. If our muscles take longer to break down glycogen stores, our endurance performance actually improves. Some studies have shown that athletes who take maltodextrin supplements could maintain their anaerobic power better during workouts.

Healthy Calorie Source

Normally, sports drinks and snacks are designed to get calories into our system. Drinks containing maltodextrin are also less likely to upset your stomach, and can potentially deliver more energy to muscles. Bodybuilders use maltodextrin as a way to build muscle endurance.

Maltodextrin in a Nutshell

You can find maltodextrin in the wild more than you may think. It’s an inexpensive additive that is used in a variety of processed food and drinks, and is a viable sports supplement as well.  

If you find yourself eating more maltodextrin than usual, don’t worry, most people should be able to eat maltodextrin without zero problems. For athletes, taking maltodextrin supplements can actually improve performance by providing a quick source of easily digestible energy!


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