Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin: Which is Best for Endurance Athletes?
This blog aims to compare the effectiveness of Cyclic Dextrin vs. maltodextrin on endurance performance. Now, just in case you don’t care to read a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo and comparisons, I’m going to spoil it for you right now. If your goal is the best endurance performance possible, it’s no contest – Cyclic Dextrin is the hands-down winner. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, maltodextrin might be right for you.
To be clear, Cyclic Dextrin goes by three primary names including; Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin® (HBCD), Cluster Dextrin®, and Cyclic Dextrin®. They’re all referring to the same thing. In this blog, we will use Cyclic Dextrin. Cyclic Dextrin is a registered trademarked ingredient produced by Glico Nutrition.
I won’t go into extravagant detail in this blog. I’ll hit on what is known from the research available comparing Cyclic Dextrin vs. maltodextrin. With that, you can make your own decision.
Ok, let’s jump right into the head-to-head comparison of Cyclic Dextrin vs. maltodextrin.
Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
RPE is a rating given to the intensity of exercise. It is a useful way to determine how strenuous exercise “feels.”
A well-designed study by Furuyashiki et al. (2014) compared Cyclic Dextrin vs. maltodextrin head-to-head during endurance exercise. In this study, 24 participants cycled for 90 minutes, 30 minutes at 40% of their V02 max, then another hour at 60% of their V02 max. One hour into cycling, one group was given a drink containing 15g of Cyclic Dextrin, while the other was given a drink containing 15g of maltodextrin.
The study found that after ingestion of the carbohydrate beverage, participants given the Cyclic Dextrin had significantly lower RPE’s than the maltodextrin group.
Additionally, 30-minutes after ingestion, blood glucose levels were higher in the Cyclic Dextrin group than the maltodextrin group without impacting blood insulin.
In summary, even though the participants were exercising at the same intensity, the Cyclic Dextrin group felt like exercise was easier than the maltodextrin group. This difference was possibly the impact of more stable blood glucose levels.
Comparing Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin on Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
WINNER = CYCLIC DEXTRIN
Gastric Emptying Time
Gastric emptying time (GET) is an important measurement when discussing endurance fueling. It is what it sounds like – how long does a given food, or in this case – a carbohydrate drink, take to pass through the stomach. Have you ever drank an endurance fuel during exercise and felt like it was just sitting in your stomach? Well, that’s because it is. A fast gastric emptying time prevents this feeling of bloating.
While maltodextrin has advantages over glucose and fructose in regard to gastric emptying time, Cyclic Dextrin’s GET is even lower than that of maltodextrin. Cyclic Dextrin is generally considered to have the fastest gastric emptying time among all carbohydrate sources. Additionally, scientific literature implies that Cyclic Dextrin can do so at higher concentrations and with additional minerals, like electrolytes (Takii et al., 2005). This is a big deal in the world of endurance nutrition.
So, Cyclic Dextrin has a faster GET than maltodextrin AND can positively influence the rate of gastric emptying on other molecules. These could be things like electrolytes, amino acids, vitamins, etc. Beings that most endurance fuels contain these additions in some variety (especially electrolytes), this is a significant advantage.
Comparing Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin on Gastric Emptying Time (GET)
WINNER = CYCLIC DEXTRIN
Blood Sugar, Insulin Response, and Energy Release
Cyclic Dextrin has a much lower glycemic impact than does maltodextrin. Therefore, insulin release and blood sugar spikes (and drops) are reduced when using Cyclic Dextrin vs. maltodextrin. Cyclic Dextrin provides a steadier, less erratic supply of energy when compared to maltodextrin. This is especially beneficial in long-duration endurance sports like ironman triathlons, cross-country skiing, ultra-running, and the like.
Another way to say this is that Cyclic Dextrin provides a “slow-drip” of steady energy with very little insulin response. On the other hand, maltodextrin provides a “rush” of energy that stimulates an insulin response resulting in considerable energy swings.
A combination of different carbohydrate sources (multiple transportable carbohydrate solutions) is ideal in an endurance fuel as opposed to a single carbohydrate source. Cyclic Dextrin presents a better base for long endurance efforts to combine other sources such as dextrose, fructose, etc., than does maltodextrin.
Comparing Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin on Blood Sugar, Insulin Response, and Energy Release
WINNER = CYCLIC DEXTRIN
GI distress is a significant issue in endurance sports, and especially in LONG duration ultra-endurance sports (like ultra-running) that require large amounts of calories over long periods. Cyclic Dextrin shines in this area and is widely considered the “gentlest” carbohydrate on the stomach available.
Studies suggest that maltodextrin and dextrose are responsible for significantly more (up to twice as much) GI disturbances compared to Cyclic Dextrin (Takii et al., 2004). In fact, Cyclic Dextrin has been shown to barely have any more instances of GI distress than water alone (Takii et al., 2004). This is a clear win for Cyclic Dextrin.
Comparing Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin on Likelihood of Gastrointestinal Distress
WINNER = CYCLIC DEXTRIN
Maltodextrin is super-cheap, and Cyclic Dextrin is super-expensive. How much more expensive is Cyclic Dextrin than maltodextrin? According to Wilburn et al. (2021), well over 5 times as expensive (gram for gram).
After looking at all the advantages of Cyclic Dextrin for endurance athletes, this might lend some insight as to why most endurance supplement companies choose maltodextrin over Cyclic Dextrin. They don’t want to pay for it. Additionally, if they use Cyclic Dextrin, they have to charge significantly more to their customers. It might be difficult for a consumer on a budget to justify a $45 endurance fuel when they could grab an endurance fuel from a big name brand for $20.
However, I assume that most consumers don’t necessarily realize the differences outlined above either.
Whether those differences and potential for improved performance justify spending 5 times as much for the same amount of fuel is up to the consumer. Hopefully, after reading the differences between Cyclic Dextrin vs. maltodextrin, you can make an educated decision that suits your performance goals and budget.
Comparing the Cost of Cyclic Dextrin vs Maltodextrin
WINNER – MALTODEXTRIN
Additional Points to Consider when Comparing Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin
Endurance Exercise Stress Response – Although not directly compared to maltodextrin, Cyclic Dextrin has been shown to significantly decrease the hormonal stress response following endurance exercise when compared to glucose (Suzuki et al., 2014).
This decreased stress response is beneficial because it reduces cytokine release and can potentially prevent inhibited immune function and susceptibility to infection – a significant issue after exhaustive endurance exercise. I haven’t seen any evidence that maltodextrin does this any better than glucose. This is another win for Cyclic Dextrin, in my opinion.
Time to Exhaustion – Again, I couldn’t find a direct comparison between the Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin, which is why this wasn’t one of my primary comparisons. However, Cyclic Dextrin once again, has a significant advantage over glucose in terms of time to exhaustion (Shiraki et al., 2015).
I couldn’t find any literature suggesting maltodextrin is capable of a comparable boost in time to exhaustion.
Summary – Cyclic Dextrin vs. Maltodextrin
If you’re looking at performance alone, this is an easy choice; Cyclic Dextrin is the way to go.
As mentioned previously, the best endurance fuels will have multiple carbohydrate sources, as multiple transportable carbs have been shown to be more effective than a single carbohydrate source for fueling endurance performance. But if we HAD to pick a single carbohydrate to label as the BEST, Cyclic Dextrin would undoubtedly be our pick.
On the other hand, if you’re participating in a shorter event, don’t have a sensitive stomach, and are looking for a more budget-friendly option, maltodextrin might be right for you.
If you’re looking for a carbohydrate drink that will fuel your performance like nothing else out there, check out Proxima C Endurance Fuel by Ultraverse Supplements. Proxima C Endurance Fuel is a no-expense-spared formula that only uses only the best of the best when it comes to every single ingredient. There is absolutely no expense spared when it comes to Proxima C. Cyclic Dextrin is the primary carbohydrate in Proxima C (accounting for over 50%) as opposed to the cheaper, less effective carbohydrate – maltodextrin.
Perhaps not be the best for the budget-conscious or the weekend warrior, but for athletes who want to get everything they can out of themselves, Proxima C Endurance Fuel is the way to go.