Skip to main content
​Dextrose vs Maltodextrin: The Battle of Carbohydrates

​Dextrose vs Maltodextrin: The Battle of Carbohydrates

Posted by Leonard Shemtob on Apr 27, 2023

Dextrose vs Maltodextrin: The Battle of Carbohydrates

Lets explore the differences between dextrose and maltodextrin, two commonly used carbohydrates in food and sports supplements. In this article, we'll discuss their sources, uses, and how to choose between them based on your needs.


Dextrose (AKA glucose), is a simple sugar that is naturally present in many foods. It has a single sugar molecule, making it a monosaccharide.

Sources of Dextrose

Dextrose can be found in fruits, vegetables, and honey. It is also produced from cornstarch through a process called hydrolysis.

Applications in food and supplements

Dextrose is used as a sweetener and energy source in many food products, including candies, baked goods, and sports drinks.


  • Dextrose is quickly absorbed and utilized by the body for energy.
  • Helps replenish glycogen stores, which can aid in muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Simple sugar with low molecular weight, making it easy for the body to digest and absorb.


  • Can lead to rapid increases in blood sugar levels.
  • Not suitable for diabetics
  • High calories in Dextrose may not be ideal for those trying to lose weight.


Maltodextrin is a complex  carbohydrate made up of multiple glucose molecules, known as a polysaccharide. Many sports nutrition products include maltodextrin as a primary carbohydrate source.

Sources of Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is derived from starches such as corn, wheat, or potato through a process called partial hydrolysis.

Applications in Food and Supplements

Maltodextrin is used as a thickening agent, stabilizer, and energy source in a variety of processed food products, including sauces, dressings, and sports nutrition products.


  • Rapidly absorbed and provides a steady supply of energy.
  • As a food additive, it improves the texture and consistency of many foods.
  • Less sweet than Dextrose, making it suitable for use in savory products.


  • High glycemic index
  • Some users may get digestive discomfort or bloating from maltodextrin.
  • Maltodextrin is often derived from genetically modified (GM) corn.



  • Both are derived from starch.
  • Both are used as energy sources.
  • Both are common ingredients in sports drinks, gels, and bars.

Differences of Maltodextrin vs. Dextrose

  • Molecular structure: Dextrose is a simple sugar, while maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate.
  • Sweetness: In comparison, Dextrose is a bit sweeter than Maltodextrin.
  • Glycemic index: Both have a high glycemic index, but dextrose's impact on blood sugar levels is slightly more pronounced.
  • Suitability for use: Dextrose is better suited for post-workout recovery, while maltodextrin is more versatile in food applications.

Choosing The Right Carbohydrate

Factors to consider

  • Dietary preferences and restrictions: Consider any allergies or sensitivities when choosing between these carbohydrates.
  • Fitness goals: Your exercise regimen and goals can help determine which carbohydrate is most appropriate for your needs.
  • Health concerns: People with diabetes or blood sugar issues should consult their healthcare provider before using dextrose or maltodextrin.

Use Case Scenarios

  • Post-workout: Dextrose is ideal for quick glycogen replenishment and muscle recovery after intense exercise.
  • Weight management: Both dextrose and maltodextrin are calorie-dense, but maltodextrin's lower sweetness may make it more suitable for weight management.
  • Cooking: Maltodextrin is a versatile thickener and stabilizer in cooking, while dextrose can be used as a sweetener.
  • Convenient Source of Carbs: Dextrose and Maltodextrin powder can be easily mixed into beverages or food, making it a convenient carbohydrate source for athletes and active individuals.

Benefits of Using Carbohydrates During or After Training

For workouts lasting 90 minutes or longer, consuming carbs during a workout can help maintain energy levels and improve performance.

Here are some of the benefits of post workout or intra workout carbs

  • Increased energy
  • Sustained energy release
  • Improved endurance and athletic performance
  • Enhanced hydration and electrolyte balance
  • Better recovery after training sessions
  • Stable blood sugar levels
  • Improved muscle glycogen levels during exercise

Cluster Dextrin

Cluster Dextrin, also known as Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD), is a type of complex carbohydrate created by breaking down and rearranging starch molecules. The result is a unique, branched structure that offers several advantages over traditional carbohydrates like dextrose and maltodextrin.

Cluster Dextrin, with its high molecular weight, offers a slower and more sustained energy release compared to maltodextrin or dextrose.

Sources of Cluster Dextrin

Cluster Dextrin is produced through a process called cyclization, which uses branching enzymes to break down and rearrange the starch molecules. This is typically derived from waxy cornstarch.

Applications in food and supplements

Cluster Dextrin powder is primarily found in sports nutrition products, where it provides a sustained energy release to support endurance activities.


  • Sustained energy release
  • Low osmolality
  • Low glycemic index


  • Generally more expensive
  • Limited availability
  • Lack of sweetness

To Wrap Things Up...

Dextrose and maltodextrin are both carbohydrates with unique properties and uses. While they share some similarities, their differences in structure, sweetness, and glycemic index make them suitable for various applications. By considering your dietary needs, fitness goals, and health concerns, you can make an informed decision about which carbohydrate suits you best.

Written and Sponsored by Leonard Shemtob

Leonard Shemtob is President of Strong Supplements. Leonard has been in the supplement space for over 20 years, specializing in fitness supplements and nutrition. Leonard appears on many podcasts, written over 100 articles about supplements and has studied nutrition, supplementation and bodybuilding. 

Leonard's articles have been published in many top publications around the web. Leonard enjoys weight training, playing basketball and yoga, and also enjoys hiking. In his free time he studies and works on improving himself. For more detailed information, visit his official blog.

Continue Reading About Bodybuilding Ingredients

Shop Carbohydrate Supplements

Carbohydrate FAQs

Yes, maltodextrin is vegan-friendly as it is derived from plant-based sources, such as corn, rice, or potato starch.
Some stevia products contain maltodextrin as a filler or to improve texture and taste. Always check the food labels to confirm the presence of maltodextrin.
Yes, some manufacturers add maltodextrin to protein powders as a carbohydrate source, thickener, or to improve mixability. Check the ingredients list to determine if a protein powder contains maltodextrin.

The best carbohydrate intra-workout supplement depends on individual preferences and needs.

The highest quality carbohydrate intra workout supplement at our store is currently FORMULA 19 by Blackstone Labs. It combines three rapidly digesting carbohydrates but without the unwanted insulin spike.

There is no definitive "best" dextrose post-workout supplement, as preferences and needs vary. Look for products with high-quality, pure dextrose and consider factors such as taste, ability to dissolve in water, and cost when making a choice.
Dextrin is a group of carbohydrates with varying degrees of polymerization, while maltodextrin is a specific type of dextrin derived from starch with a high glycemic index. Both are used as thickeners and carbohydrate sources, but maltodextrin is more common in food and supplements.
Dextrin is a group of carbohydrates that can include both simple sugars and complex carbohydrates. It is not a sugar in the same sense as table sugar or glucose.
According to Maltodextrin nutrition facts, it has approximately 4 calories per gram. In a typical serving size of 1 tablespoon (approximately 10 grams), there would be around 40 calories.

Dextrose: Rapid absorption, similar insulin response to table sugar.

Maltodextrin: Quick absorption, high glycemic index, strong insulin response like table sugar.

Cluster Dextrin: Slower, steadier glucose release, lower insulin response compared to table sugar.

Although these carbohydrates are generally well-tolerated, some potential side effects may include:

- Gastrointestinal discomfort

- Blood sugar fluctuations

- Weight gain

- Allergies or sensitivities

Related Articles

Read More About Bodybuilding Supplements

View more