Save Up to 30% When You Bundle! Save Up to 30% When You Bundle! SHOP NOW
Maltodextrin: The Time and Place for High Glycemic Carbohydrates

Maltodextrin: The Time and Place for High Glycemic Carbohydrates

Written by
March 8, 2020
Updated May 15, 2020

Maltodextrin is a type of carbohydrate synthesized from grain starch, corn, potatoes or rice that is commonly added to food to enhance sweetness and texture. As one of the main components of ‘weight gainer’ used by bodybuilders, maltodextrin has a thick, sweet taste that matches its dense caloric content.

Despite its classification as a complex carbohydrate, maltodextrin is quickly absorbed by the gut and can elevate blood sugar faster than glucose. On the glycemic index, a relative scale of how quickly a ingested carbohydrate affects blood sugar, maltodextrin ranges between 85-105, where the standard glucose is set at 100.

Sugars that induce a rapid rise in blood glucose content are typically considered poor sources of energy and nutritionally deficient. Though it is generally true that a diet comprised of mostly high glycemic carbohydrates would be unsatisfactory, they do have an important role in athletic performance and recovery.

Why You Need Carbs

During intense exercise, active muscle tissue relies heavily upon stored sugars in the form of glycogen for energy. Depending on the muscle type, exercise intensity and duration, the ability for glycogen stores to maintain the metabolic demand diminishes over time.

Many endurance athletes utilize energy gels whose main ingredient is maltodextrin. One study supplemented marathon runners with 60 grams of maltodextrin spaced throughout a race and compared it to runners who were free to consume their desired amount.

The runners who took 60 grams of maltodextrin averaged significantly shorter marathon completion times by more than 10 minutes compared to runners assigned to freely consume the carbohydrate supplement [1].

Maltodextrin & High Glycemic Carbs for Post-Workout Recovery

The post-workout period is a crucial time to refuel. Consuming high glycemic carbs will increase the release of insulin, an anabolic and glucose-regulating hormone that facilitates the influx of sugars and amino acids into muscle cells.

In an often cited study by Borsheim, post-workout supplementation with 100 grams of maltodextrin significantly improved the net protein balance by reducing muscle breakdown[2].

Further studies have shown that 30 grams of carbohydrates were comparable to 100 grams. The post exercise period has been studied using multi-ingredient post-workout formulas that contain various ratios of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

A 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein has been shown to benefit muscle recovery through a similar mechanism. Other studies using variations of carbohydrates to protein have proven beneficial, yet It is challenging to discern a single best ratio for recovery given the lack of direct comparison studies.

The bottom line is that large amounts of high glycemic carbohydrates like maltodextrin are appropriate in the post-workout phase to reduce muscle breakdown and aid recovery.

Consuming small quantities, such as 1-10 grams, of high GI carbohydrates that are added to food are unlikely to cause large changes in blood glucose and are essentially equivalent to other added sugars.

Low glycemic carbs, such those present in most fruits and vegetables, are better for long term energy storage and tend not to spike and crash blood sugar levels. Furthermore, despite its origin from grain, maltodextrin is synthesized using enzymes making it gluten free and safe for nearly all to consume.


[1] Improved marathon performance by in-race nutritional strategy intervention Hansen EA1, Emanuelsen A, Gertsen RM, Sørensen S SR. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Dec [2] Effect of carbohydrate intake on net muscle protein synthesis during recovery from resistance exercise Børsheim E1, Cree MG, Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR. J Appl Physiol. 1985 Carbohydrate supplementation increases intramyocellular lipid stores in elite runners. Sousa M1, Simões HG, Castro CC, Otaduy MC, Negrão CE, Pereira RM, Madsen K, Silva ME. Metabolism. 2012 Aug
Laura has a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She works as a full-time freelance fitness writer and has had bylines in publications such as Men’s Journal. As a recent widow, she believes strongly in the healing power of fitness. She can often be found surfing in Costa Rica, running in San Diego, or wrestling at home with her four dogs. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, @lwilliams_exss.
Free shipping is offered on orders with a minimum subtotal of $100 less discounts. Free shipping is only available in the contiguous U.S. and excludes Fitness and Digital items.
For media inquiries please contact us at
With a subscription, you'll get your favorite Onnit products whenever you want at 15% off MSRP. All automatic, worry free, and with our same great money back guarantee.
Cancel or adjust your order at any time, hassle free. Your payment method will only be charged right before your order ships. The discount applied every time is 15% off MSRP or the current sale discount, whichever is greater. For more information, see the complete Onnit Subscription Terms & Conditions and Frequently Asked Questions.

Secure Shopping

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access any information on our website. We incorporate physical, electronic, and administrative procedures to safeguard the confidentiality of your personal information, including Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for the encryption of all financial transactions through the website. We use industry-standard, 256bit SSL encryption to protect your personal information online, and we also take several steps to protect your personal information in our facilities. For example, when you visit the website, you access servers that are kept in a secure physical environment, behind a locked cage and a hardware firewall. After a transaction, your credit card information is not stored on our servers.