Ever look at the back of your energy gel package and feel overwhelmed? Like you need a degree in food science to be able to make any sense of the ingredients? …they want me to put what in my body?!
We are here for you, to help you understand these common ingredients, and how they help you run stronger, longer.
Let’s start with the first ingredient you see in many energy gels: maltodextrin. This is perhaps the biggest and strangest word you’ll see on the package, but it’s also one of the most essential ingredients, because it provides the actual energy that your body needs to keep on runnin’.
What is maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a flavorless (or very slightly sweet) carbohydrate made from starch; in the US it’s usually from corn. It is essentially chains of glucose molecules. Glucose is a type of sugar that is easy for your body to burn, and in fact, virtually the only fuel used by your brain (fun fact). This means that maltodextrin is very easy for your body and brain to use as well.
Why is maltodextrin used in energy gels?
Your body needs carbohydrates to function, they are like the fuel in the gas tank of your car – without it, you’re toast. For most people, the body will burn carbs until they are no longer available and then switch to burning fat. This can cause a lag in energy, which is uncomfortable to say the least (ever heard of ‘hitting the wall’?). Eating carbohydrates earlier on in a long run will allow your body to start burning fat earlier, making that transition from burning carbs to burning fat much less painful.
Because maltodextrin is a chain of easily-digested glucose molecules, it will result in a slightly slower release of energy compared to if you were to simply eat a spoonful of straight glucose.
What does maltodextrin do for your run?
Maltodextrin provides you with a steady release of energy so your body can begin to break down fat to use as fuel. This essentially helps you avoid ‘bonking’ or ‘hitting the wall’ during your long run.
Maltodextrin is also practically flavorless, making it a good choice for exercise nutrition products. Energy gels that include maltodextrin might taste a little less sweet than gels that don’t contain maltodextrin.
Or, to compare energy gels, visit the Learning Center
Juli is known around Running Warehouse for her vast knowledge of running product, from shoes to hydration to nutrition to… well just about anything running related. With a background in food science (Read: Bachelor’s degree and an addiction to scholarly journal articles on exercise nutrition), she’s also a trail lover that fiends for long runs in beautiful places.