What’s The Deal With Maltodextrin?

maltodextrin, should maltodextrin be avoided, processed foods

Written by: Amanda Ennett

What’s The Deal With Maltodextrin?

If you are a health nut like me, you probably like to read food labels too. A big part of being healthy is knowing what you are fueling your body with. One ingredient in particular throws me off every time. It seems like everything has maltodextrin. But what is it? I know it doesn’t grow on a tree, nor does it grow from the ground, not originally at least. Here’s what I found out:

Is maltodextrin natural or synthetic?

Maltodextrin is a naturally occurring substance when broken down by our bodies from whole foods, but is manufactured to be a food additive.

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide (complex) carbohydrate manufactured by breaking down starches found naturally in corn, wheat, rice, barley or starchy vegetables (like potatoes). The isolate is made by cooking the starches down and then purified with the help of natural acids and enzymes. In its purest form it looks like a simple white powder, this is what is added into processed foods.


Why is it added into foods?

Maltodextrin is often used in processed foods as a thickener or filler since it’s fairly inexpensive. Depending on its processing, maltodextrin can be either moderately sweet or have barely any flavor at all. The sweeter varieties are often mixed with sugar substitutes.

It is also used in pharmaceuticals as a binding agent.

How do our bodies handle it?

Maltodextrin is an easily digestible carbohydrate. Although it is a complex carbohydrate, the bonds are weak and the chain is very short, resulting in a much faster digestion and absorption rate than would be expected and, in fact, it’s absorbed just slightly slower than dextrose (AKA glucose).

This indicates that maltodextrin is a highly glycemic substance. It is absorbed quickly by the blood stream – causing a surge of insulin. If you do not use insulin immediately (i.e. during exercise/activity) it is a fat storage hormone.

Why is it added into sports performance foods?


After reading several recovery drinks, protein tubs and the like, it seems that they all have maltodextrin. I researched this as well and here is the theory behind it:

Because the glycemic index is high it is popular among bodybuilders and endurance athletes as an aid to recovery during and after hard workouts, and there appears to be scientific evidence to support its role in this regard.

Several sports nutrition research investigations have found that using a combination of dextrose (glucose) and maltodextrin, along with protein and amino acids following an intense exercise protocol:

  • promotes faster recovery
  • restores glycogen levels
  • promotes protein synthesis at quicker rates
  • helps an exerciser work harder
  • limits muscle protein  breakdown (catabolism)

(Ivy JL et al, 2002; Berardi JM et al, 2006; Renata TM et al, 2006, Harger-Domitrovich SG et al, 2007).

Should maltodextrin be avoided?

Ultimately the choice is yours, but here are some things to consider:


  • Athletes seem to benefit from maltodextrin during exercise.
  • It shouldn’t cause cramps or diarrhea because it has a low osmolality and is absorbed quickly.
  • It is generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
  • Maltodextrin is usually used in such small amounts that it doesn’t have a significant impact in terms of the amount of protein, fat, carbohydrate, or fiber it adds to foods.
  • It contains very few calories.
  • It is not a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols tend to cause gas/diarrhea because they are fermented in the gut and suck water into the bowel (instead of the bowel sucking all the water out of the waste).



  • It is void of vitamins and minerals.
  • It creates a large insulin response.
  • Although it is made from real food, it is a highly processed food additive.
  • Most likely if maltodextrin has been added to a food then there might be an abundance of other ingredients that you might want to avoid.
  • Maltodextrin might be derived from a GMO-crop.
  • For those who have gluten intolerances, food labels do not specify where the maltodextrin was derived from and it is unclear how much intact gluten remains in the maltodextrin (it is most likely exceedingly low).
  • Anyone suffering from starch intolerance could experience wheezing, itching skin rashes or asthma.
  • Bodybuilders and athletes could experience a sudden drop in blood sugar levels if they work out to excess.
  • Side effects may include: headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, upset stomach, fatigue and weakness (but it is unclear if it is from maltodextrin alone or other ingredients).

Closing Note:                                      

I am sorry for leaving this article a little open-ended about whether or not you should avoid maltodextrin.

At the end of the day, if you want to know for sure that you are standing by your body’s best interests, it is best to avoid all ingredients that aren’t whole foods. In a perfect world we would be growing our own fruits and vegetables and raising our own foul and livestock for meat and eggs. Since we don’t live in that world we must make educated choices about the food around us and make our best attempts to limit artificial ingredients and chemicals.

By Amanda Ennett

Amanda Head Shot

I am a self-proclaimed health fanatic living by the mantra “let thy food be thy medicine.” Ask me about working out, being a foodie, or my kids and we’ll talk forever. Looking for like-minded people to share pictures of food with which we can discuss over fresh juice after yoga.

Follow my facebook page @ AJ’s: Fit n Beautiful and on instagram @fitnbeautiful

Make use of this information to hype up your very own detoxification! Start now!

Disclaimer: The techniques, strategies, and suggestions expressed here are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author, Drew Canole, and the associated www.fitlife.tv are not rendering medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury.

It is imperative that before beginning any nutrition or exercise program you receive full medical clearance from a licensed physician.

Drew Canole and Fitlife.tv claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented here.

Drew Canole

Ceo at Fitlife.tv
Drew Canole is a rockstar in the world of fitness, nutrition and mindset, with a huge heart for others and doing his part to transform the world, one person at a time.

As the founder and CEO of Fitlife.TV, he is committed to sharing educational, inspirational and entertaining videos and articles about health, fitness, healing and longevity. He is also a best selling author and the founder of Organifi, an organic, incredibly delicious greens powder, chock-full of superfoods to make juicing easy no matter your busy schedule.


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