Should Maltodextrin (Glucose Polymers) be Included in my Pre-Training Nutrition?

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The debate of fasted training vs. pre-training nutrition is one that has been going on for many years. We know that carbohydrates are necessary for a functioning glycolytic energy system, but are there distinct training advantages to strategically timing our intake of nutrients?

Well, let’s look at what science tells us!

The Science behind Maltodextrin – Does Fasting Help?

Alan Aragon, nutrition advisor for Men’s Health magazine, conducted a study to review whether lipid metabolism is increased by doing cardio in a fasted state. In essence, two major points concerning the question sum up what we’re trying to figure out:

  • Carbohydrate during exercise spares liver glycogen, which is among the most critical factors for anticatabolism during hypocaloric & other conditions of metabolic stress. This protective hepatic effect is absent in fasted cardio.
  • At the established intensity level of peak fat oxidation (~63% VO2 max), carbohydrate increases performance without any suppression of fat oxidation in trained subjects.

To elaborate on the first bullet point, amino acids are used when liver glycogen is depleted to provide energy during exercise. Yes, the same amino acids that your muscles are made out of. Yes, that means you burn more muscle when you don’t take in exogenous sources of carbohydrate fuel. Yes, that means you should take in maltodextrin (a polysaccharide carbohydrate chain) before you go hard in the gym!

Pre-training Nutrients – Maltodextrin Benefits

This concept is not limited solely to cardio. Resistance training has fat oxidation properties as well. Therefore, if you’re trying to gain muscle mass, you definitely need to provide your body with pre-training nutrients.


Your body needs certain nutrients before workout!

Why is maltodextrin a good choice in terms of pre-training carbohydrate fueling? For one, it’s easily digestible, and equally as quickly digesting as glucose. Marathon runners take this in the form of a gel to replenish glycogen reserves to prevent muscle tissue breakdown.

Even though this glucose polymer is quickly and easily digested, it is not a “simple” carb. Classified by “complex” by some, this seemingly makes it a clear choice in comparison with other carbs. Or does it?…

Alan Aragon conducted a study also on the glycemic index, and whether or not certain polymers of carbs are more efficacious than others. The result in the study concludes that the glycemic index (GI) is an insufficient tool to monitor body composition and diet efficacy. With that said, relative to body mass, a carb is a carb. Moreover, maltodextrin, a “complex” carb by name, is absolutely fine to consume before a workout, though it will not provide any added benefit because it’s “complex.”

An interesting test revealed how increase glycogen can synergistically work with other things to improve body performance. Glycogen, or glucose polymers, has shown to increase calcium absorption in this peer-reviewed study. Why is this important? Calcium promotes healthy muscle contraction, function, and overall musculoskeletal health in general. With the added help of absorption from carbohydrate intake, individuals ensure higher workout quality.

Different body composition goals call for different nutritional needs. As a general rule, consuming a lower amount of calories than your maintenance level allows (varies individually) leads to fat loss. So, if you’re goal is to slash body fat, the pre-training maltodextrin calories should be taken into account.

Overall, it’s a good idea to supplement carbohydrates before training. Regardless of your cutting, bulking, or recomp goals, carbs are necessary for muscle fuel. Maltodextrin is an ideal option for pre-training nutrition intake, and can and should also be used afterwards in your post-workout shake. Maltodextrin has anticatabolic, muscle building properties that any weight lifter or fitness enthusiast is looking for.


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