Maltodextrin is an ingredient that people seem to not pay a huge amount of attention to, other than to check that their energy drink is largely made from the stuff.
Whether it’s a branded product or a home made concoction, its pretty much understood that Maltodextrin is going to be the basis of a proper energy drink.
So thats that. Or is it?
What many consumers of energy drinks do not realise is the amount of choice there is in the World of Maltodextrin. This is not often talked about or reported on in the technical sections of the magazines that purport to have all the answers. The choice available and differences in specification is not surprising when you think that Maltodextrin is an ingredient used in many things other than energy drinks or sports nutrition products.
What is not made clear is the exact specification of the Maltodextrin in the energy product you are using, and this if for a number of reasons. Firstly to protect the product specification against being copied, it is not required information either, but there is also a good chance the manufacturer of the particular product does not know… so its quite likely you will never know. However it can make the difference between a product working up to a point, working well or being the very best available.
How do we know this you may ask?
The answer is simple – through experience. Our original product, Bikefood Energy Drink Mix was conceived as the ‘all in one’ cycling drink, potentially the only drink you’d ever need on the bike. Given that Maltodextrin is the ingredient most dominant in the formula we thought it worthwhile looking into this area in greater detail.
What transpires is that there are different ‘brands’ and makers of Maltodextrin, each of which manufacture to their own specification so products from different manufacturers are similar, but not identical. Technically the choices range on a scale, for arguments sake numbered from say 1 through to 20. The variations affect things such as mixing ability, taste, sweetness and most importantly the molecular structure of the ingredient which directly affects its performance. You can see that choosing the correct specification of Maltodextrin for the application of an energy drink is important, as mix ability, taste and function are key factors in having a drink that delivers what it should. This is the base starting point.
To summarise this key ingredient in energy drink as simply, Maltodextrin, tick – done. If you take the modern road frame as an analogy, you could argue that all carbon road frames are equal. On the face of it they are exceptionally similar with not a huge amount of real variations between them, but then you look at the finer detail – variations exist even in the most generic of open frame molds, the raw materials, the layup schedules the accuracy and skill of the worker, the quality control of the finish and so on. Location plays a part in this process also, has it been manufactured in Europe or the Far East?
A carbon frames of even the most dubious origins will provide a function to a degree providing it has been made at least correctly, but it should not be recognised as a direct equivalent of exotica from the other end of the scale – it will however serve some of the original intentions of the function of a bicycle. With the specification of Maltodextrin, the combinations in which it could be used there may well be more choice available than you would get with the specification of a road frame.
When deciding what the exact specification of the Maltodextrin should be in our Bikefood products, we were specific to say the least. We’d been working with a leading light in the industry, an asker of difficult questions and a champion of a meticulously analytical approach that always delivers results. It’s a level of attention to detail we admire and we took the view that it is best to embrace and try to understand the science and rationale behind our formulation, so that is what we did.
What we chose was unusual and a breakaway from the norm, the end result effects the speed of which the solution is absorbed into your system. This effect the main purpose of the product, it alters or controls the speed of which you body can digest the energy drink. This is absolutely fundamental to how a product like Bikefood Energy Drink functions when out on a ride. If we had chosen an alternative or less suitable specification this function would not be as effective, Maltodextrin has the ability to cause digestion discomfort depending on its specification and can also have properties that can make it unsuitable for use in energy drinks.
Making products might seem straightforward. The reality is rather different. Exact requirements often mean change, expense, delays and hassle. Why were we being so specific in our request for such an everyday ingredient, why did it matter? For us it mattered a huge amount as the logic and science told us that there would be a marked improvement in the performance of our product if we followed our specification request. So for us there was no other option.
One of the most satisfying moments in a products lifespan is gaining feedback from its users. The first cyclists on the planet to use our new Bikefood Energy Drink were Mark Neep and his team at GPM10, the Alps based training specialists. These guys know energy products, having been sponsored by the UK’s largest firm and the market leaders for more than 4 years. GPM10 put our new drink through its paces and the following year we had replaced the industry giants with a product yet to be available to the public. A real case of David vs. Goliath.
The fact is in an industry where exact specification is not open information in order to protect recipes and valuable intellectual property – the key ingredient Maltodextrin is more complex than one might first think. The choice is often governed or steered for ease of production, cost saving, sourcing and so on. Maltodextrin, regardless of the source of its origin should be gluten and wheat free. We went a step further and specified a version of Maltodextrin that is derived from Maize, so it is naturally gluten and wheat free from the start. It is also European, and not from the far east – so at the very least it has done fewer miles to get here too.
We’ve been very specific in the choices and exact specification of the main ingredient in our energy drink, our decisions were made on logic and supported by science – the end result is a product that works exactly as we intended and had hoped for, the real world results showing that same logic and science put into action. In a world where marginal gains seem to make all the difference, we’re happy we have demonstrated that small details really count.
Bikefood has been the energy drink of choice for GPM10 the Alps based training specialists 2009 / 2010 / 2011.
See the GPM10 Schedule, where every ride has Bikefood available.