Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide (many carbohydrates joined together in a molecular chain) that is used as a food additive. It is produced from vegetable starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a white hygroscopic spray-dried powder.
Mmmm…that’s sounds yummy doesn’t it?
Maltodextrin is used as a thickener, filler, or preservative in many processed foods, and it can be enzymatically derived from any starch, most commonly from GMO (genetically modified organism) corn, rice, potato, or wheat. It’s also used in A LOT of sports drinks and fuel products! Don’t believe me? Walk into any shop that carries a wide variety of powder electrolyte drink and fuel mixes, gels, and bars and check the labels. Well-known companies like Gatoraid Endurance, Infinit, Hammer, BASE, EFS, and GU use it, plus many others. It’s commonly the first ingredient on the list. You will find more that use it, versus don’t. Why is that? Because its cheap and easy to mass produce, and companies can legally get away with referring to it as a “natural ingredient.” The truth is, maltodextrin has no real nutritional value and carries with it some possible dangers you aren’t aware of.
Maltodextrin can change the composition of your gut bacteria by suppressing the growth of probiotics. Polysaccharides have been linked to intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Independent research has linked GMO corn to a number of health issues, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, and kidney damage. Unfortunately, the FDA does not require safety testing for genetically modified organisms. Maltodextrin may also cause allergic reactions and some side effects. Higher dosage consumption may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as gurgling sounds, gas, and even diarrhea. Skin irritations, cramping, and bloating have also been shown to occur. You may see maltodextrin listed as an ingredient, but the name doesn’t indicate the source. Although it is generally considered gluten-free, people with severe allergies such as celiac should avoid it due to the possibility of wheat.
What are better options? We use organic cane sugar in our Hydrate and Diesel products. If you’re going to use sugar as a carbohydrate, why not use the best form of it? But if sugar is not your thing that’s ok. Stevia is an all-natural, no calorie sweetener that comes from the leaf of the stevia plant. SlayRx uses it in our zero calorie Hydrate Lite mix. Other options available are pectin – which is extracted from fruits, vegetables, and seeds, dates, and honey. At SlayRx we care about what goes into an athlete’s body, and we take pride in using the most natural ingredients as possible.
Chuck Sims is a certified USAT Level 2 Endurance Coach, USAC Level 3 Cycling Coach, 4 time Ironman finisher and Licensed Hypoxico Altitude Trainer. He is the founder of Atlanta, GA based Elemental Altitude Training Center.