Trehalose is a dissacharide found naturally occurring in honey and some breads. Trehalose is composed of two glucose molecules. Maltose is another dissacharide composed of two glucose molecules, but trehalose differs from maltose in that the two glucose molecules are upside-down relative to each other. Trehalose is sweet tasting, and has been used in food products as a sweetener as well as a thickener
Trehalose raises blood sugar levels as rapidly as glucose, but without a “spike” in blood glucose levels. With trehalose blood glucose levels are rapidly raised and then maintained, so the insulin response is lower than what is experienced with glucose. This is likely due to the fact that trehalose is absorbed slowly in the small intestine. Trehalose is somewhat comparable in effect to palatinose, but it may have the ability to cause greater muscle glycogen storage as it is composed of glucose only, whereas palatinose includes half fructose which cannot be stored as muscle glycogen. One possible side effect of using trehalose is gastrointestinal upset. This varies among users, and is likely due to a lack of trehalase, the enzyme required for proper digestion of trehalose.
There is not much research actually showing that trehalose has any benefits over other carbohydrates for exercise performance, so there is likely nothing special about it other than the fact that it can be used as a sweetener and a low glycemic index carbohydrate source. Trehalose may be of benefit to use in a pre-workout shake for sustained energy during training, or in a meal replacement or weight gainer shake as a slow digesting carbohydrate source. Trehalose is not often used in meal replacements and weight gainers, probably because it shows up as a sugar on the nutrition label or because maltodextrin is a cheaper source of carbohydrates.
1. Venables MC, Brouns F, & Jeukendrup AE. (2008). Oxidation of maltose and trehalose during prolonged moderate-intensity exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 40(9), 1653-9.
2. Jentjens RL, & Jeukendrup AE. (2003). Effects of pre-exercise ingestion of trehalose, galactose and glucose on subsequent metabolism and cycling performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 88(4-5), 459-65.
3. van Can JG, Ijzerman TH, van Loon LJ, Brouns F, & Blaak EE. (2009). Reduced glycaemic and insulinaemic responses following trehalose ingestion: implications for postprandial substrate use. The British Journal of Nutrition. 102(10), 1395-9.
4. Oku T, & Nakamura S. (2000). Estimation of intestinal trehalase activity from a laxative threshold of trehalose and lactulose on healthy female subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 54(10), 783-8.
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