• Why you should check gels for Maltodextrin & Glucose Syrup

The Hidden Pitfalls of Maltodextrin and Glucose Syrup in Endurance Sports

Commonly found in sports drinks, gels and bars

When it comes to endurance sports, nutrition plays a crucial role in performance, recovery, and overall health. Athletes often turn to quick sources of energy to fuel their long workouts and competitions. Maltodextrin and glucose syrup are two such ingredients commonly found in sports drinks, gels, and bars. While these substances are marketed as efficient energy boosters, they may not be the best choice for enhancing endurance performance.

Rapid Spikes and Crashes in Blood Sugar Levels

Maltodextrin and glucose syrup have high glycemic indexes, meaning they cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Initially, this might seem beneficial as it provides a quick energy boost. However, this spike is often followed by a sharp drop, leading to a "sugar crash." A study published in the Journal of Clinical & Translational Endocrinology found that high glycemic foods can lead to postprandial hypoglycemia, characterized by fatigue and reduced mental clarity, which can impair athletic performance (Tremblay et al., 2018).

Digestive Issues

Consuming high amounts of maltodextrin and glucose syrup can lead to gastrointestinal distress, which is the last thing an athlete needs during a race or long training session. Research in the International Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that athletes consuming high-glycemic index carbohydrates during exercise reported more frequent gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating and diarrhea, compared to those consuming low-glycemic index foods (Jeukendrup & Vet-Joop, 2000).

Lack of Sustained Energy

Endurance sports require a consistent supply of energy over a prolonged period. Maltodextrin and glucose syrup provide a quick but short-lived energy source. Unlike complex carbohydrates, which break down slowly and provide a steady energy release, these simple sugars burn out quickly. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology demonstrated that athletes consuming complex carbohydrates maintained better performance levels during prolonged exercise compared to those consuming simple sugars (Wong et al., 2015).

Insulin Resistance and Long-term Health Risks

Regular consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates like maltodextrin and glucose syrup can contribute to insulin resistance over time. Insulin resistance is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. For athletes who prioritize long-term health, the frequent intake of these sugars is not advisable. A study published in Diabetes Care found that diets high in simple sugars increase the risk of insulin resistance and related health issues (Ludwig et al., 2002).

Alternatives for Endurance Athletes

While maltodextrin and glucose syrup might offer a quick energy fix, they are far from ideal for endurance athletes. The rapid energy spikes followed by crashes, potential digestive issues, and long-term health risks make them a poor choice for sustained athletic performance. Endurance athletes should focus on balanced nutrition that includes complex carbohydrates and natural sugars to fuel their bodies more effectively and healthily.

Fortunately, there are better nutritional strategies for endurance athletes looking to optimize performance and maintain health.

Complex Carbohydrates: Foods like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole grains provide a slower, more sustained release of energy.

Natural Sugars: Fruits such as bananas, berries, and dates offer quick energy with additional vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Balanced Nutrition: Combining carbohydrates with proteins and fats can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide a more prolonged energy source.

By making smarter nutritional choices, athletes can improve their performance, avoid unnecessary health risks, and enjoy a more consistent and sustained energy supply during their endurance activities.