What is maltodextrin? Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate that is typically derived from corn, rice, or potato starch. It is made of long chains of monosaccharides that are joined together by weak bonds. Maltodextrin is technically a polysaccharide, or a “complex” carbodydrate. Because of the weak bonds joining the monosaccharides, however, maltodextrin is rapidly broken down to glucose (sugar in its most simple form) upon ingestion, causing it to create an insulin response only slightly less than that of pure glucose.
Maltodextrin is included as a carbohydrate source in most weight gainer shakes and also as a filler in supplements that are in powder form because it is very cheap, virtually tasteless, and does not appear as sugar on the nutrition label. Because of this, the supplement companies can advertise that their formula is “low sugar” or “sugar free”. The effects of maltodextrin on blood sugar levels, however, suggest that it’s only use is as a simple sugar, rather than as a complex carbohydrate for sustained energy.
So what’s the bottom line? Maltodextrin may have its place as a cheap source of simple carbohydrates post-exercise, but in other situations it should be avoided in significant quantities due to the rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels that it creates. If you are looking for a high-calorie shake to put on quality lean muscle with minimal fat gains, avoid products containing maltodextrin as their main carbohydrate source.