Maltodextrin is derived from corn and is technically a polysaccharide or complex carbohydrate; that is made up of weak bonded long chain monosaccharides.
Maltodextrin is a common component in many protein shakes and sports performance drinks, with many products claiming that they are ‘sugar free’ because technically it is not classed as a sugar.
It is used as a ‘filler’ in many supplements because it is cheap, tasteless and does not appear on the nutrition label as a ‘sugar’.
Carbohydrates have had bad press, with many fad diets such as low carb and ketogenic gaining huge popularity. Many weight trainers are armed with lots of protein and essential fatty acids with carbs tending to be left out/neglected.
This is a huge error and when used in the right manner carbs boost muscle growth, prevent muscle loss and even rev up your metabolism. To use maltodextrin to your advantage, you must initially learn how it utilised by the body for energy.
Maltodextrin is quickly broken down into glucose after consumption; this causes a rapid spike in the blood insulin levels.
Whilst the body can use fat and proteins for energy, glucose is needed so that the body can perform at optimal levels when training.
Glucose is the preferred fuel source for the working muscles and the brain, and surplus glucose is stored in the liver and muscle to be used at a later date.
If the energy stores are full in the muscle and liver, the glucose is then converted into body fat. This is why consuming the right amount of maltodextrin/carbs is essential for building muscle, fuelling your gym schedule and metabolism.
Too many carbs is the issue due to its adverse effect on increasing your percentage body fat but the right amount is absolutely paramount in you achieving your physique goals. The question is ‘how does maltodextrin boost your muscle mass?’
The Role of Insulin
As mentioned previously, maltodextrin causes a rapid spike in the body’s insulin levels. In fact maltodextrin is the best and most effective supplement on the market to spike up your insulin levels.
Insulin is the key anabolic hormone that aids gains in muscle mass by increasing the transportation of amino acids into the skeletal muscle.
This is a huge catalyst for protein synthesis because the glucose binds with the muscle cell and creates a barrage of reactions that aid muscle growth.
Insulin also counteracts cortisol and it is this mechanism that prevents muscle loss, as cortisol is catabolic and breaks down the muscle proteins.
Therefore, when insulin levels are raised, cortisol levels are lowered and this stops the cortisol trying to break down the muscle proteins as fuel. This is indeed the principal anti-catabolic role of insulin.
In addition, when you are training hard the body can move into a catabolic state and cortisol levels tend to be high.
Some of the muscle loss can be prevented by consuming maltodextrin before and after training.
After training your body is in a catabolic state until and it’s very sensitive to protein and carb consumption.
This is the optimal time to consume maltodextrin as it has very high glycemic properties and it acts upon the body as follows:
- Increases protein synthesis by acting on the muscles during this post exercise state
- Replenishes energy stores that you have used during your training session
- Decreases recovery times via the insulin driving the glucose, amino acids, minerals & vitamins into the muscle cells
- Prepares your body correctly for the next training session
After a hard session pumping out the weight, many people ingest a protein shake to aid muscle growth and recovery. Your body will inevitably convert some of this protein shake into energy instead of using it to feed the muscles.
You really want to avoid this from happening as this will reduce your success rate at building muscle due to poor and decreased nutrient delivery.
By adding maltodextrin into your post exercise supplementation routine will not only replenish your muscle glycogen stores but will also stop your protein shake being converted into energy.
This in turn will increase your body’s uptake of protein and these amino acids can be used as building blocks and driven into the muscle by the high levels of insulin.
Maltodextrin should be consumed continuously when training, as many professional bodybuilders tend to use it up to 2 weeks before competing.
Sustaining muscle mass is vital for you to achieve your lean muscular body, especially when in the cutting phase of your program.
Due to the fast acting nature of maltodextrin it’s highly unlikely that it will be stored as fat and will be utilised rapidly post exercise supporting weight loss and muscle gain.
Malnourished muscle can get cannibalised post exercise for energy usage. By adding maltodextrin to your protein shakes or by buying a product that contains both will stop this from happening.
By supplying the muscle with the right fuel will allow more effective fat burning to occur, increase your metabolic rate and will inevitably increase muscle mass.
Therefore, next time you drink your protein shake post exercise, stop and think where the maltodextrin is!