Palatinose for Ultra-Running
I recently posted a blog on the Endurance Benefits of Palatinose that highlighted some of the unique characteristics of Palatinose that would make it an excellent component for endurance fuels. But what about Palatinose for ultra-running? Is it an appropriate fuel choice for someone going for many hours, or even days, on end?
Some higher intensity, shorter duration endurance athletes might be turned off from Palatinose because of its relatively slow conversion to energy. I would argue that Palatinose warrants at least a fraction of any endurance athlete’s fueling strategy because of its unique benefits. However, the most significant benefits of fueling with Palatinose will be experienced by LONG duration, lower intensity endurance athletes, like ultra-runners.
This blog will highlight why Palatinose is a fantastic carbohydrate for ultra-running and why (in my opinion) every ultra-runner should be using it as part of their fueling strategy.
What is Palatinose?
Palatinose is a trademarked carbohydrate from Beneo, commonly referred to and seen on nutrition labels as Isomaltulose.
Palatinose is similar to sucrose in that it is made up of equal parts of fructose and glucose. The BIG difference is in how the fructose and glucose are bonded together. Sucrose uses α-1.2-glycosidic bonds, while Palatinose uses α-1.6-glycosidic bonds.
While this might not SOUND like a big deal, the 1.6 bonds in Palatinose are significantly stronger, taking up to 5 times as long to be broken upon ingestion.
Palatinose and sucrose may both be made up of fructose and glucose, but the similarities stop there.
Palatinose is made from beet sugar, while sucrose is literally white table sugar. Sucrose is super-cheap, which is why you will see it as the main ingredient in most endurance fuel supplements. As you can imagine, Palatinose, being a trademarked ingredient, is NOT cheap. It’s expensive in comparison to traditionally used carbohydrates.
Additionally, Palatinose has a much lower glycemic index (32) than sucrose (67). We will get into why that’s important later.
Sucrose can be an effective fuel source for endurance athletes under the right conditions. However, it would never be my primary and definitely not my only source of carbs (neither would Palatinose, BTW). Palatinose offers many unique and beneficial characteristics for ultra-runners, unlike those seen with other carbohydrates.
So, with all that being said, let’s check out WHY Palatinose is great for ultra-runners!
Why Palatinose is GREAT for Ultra-Runners
Ultra-Runners benefit the most from improved fat oxidation.
Palatinose, when compared to other carbohydrates, leads to far superior fat oxidation. In other words, Palatinose allows you to effectively use fat as fuel while at the same time providing you with carbohydrates. This is especially important for ultra-runners because of the long duration of training and racing. It’s impossible to replace all of the fuel used during an ultramarathon without GI issues; therefore, utilizing fat as fuel becomes increasingly essential as distance and duration increase.
A study by König et al. (2016) compared the cyclic performance of 20 male cyclists after consuming either 75 grams of Palatinose or 75 grams of maltodextrin. Participants cycled for 90 minutes at 60% of their V02 max and then completed a time trial. A few significant differences were found between the Palatinose and the maltodextrin groups.
- The Palatinose group resulted in improved performance over the maltodextrin group.
- The Palatinose group had higher blood glucose DURING exercise and lower blood glucose while resting.
- The Palatinose group had higher fat oxidation and lower carbohydrate utilization than the maltodextrin group.
This led the researchers to conclude by saying, “PSE (Palatinose) maintained a more stable blood glucose profile and higher fat oxidation during exercise which resulted in improved cycling performance compared with MDX (maltodextrin). These results could be explained by the slower availability and the low-glycemic properties of Palatinose™, allowing a greater reliance on fat oxidation and sparing of glycogen during the initial endurance exercise“(König et al., 2016).
Palatinose provides slow, consistent energy with less drastic energy swings.
Compared to other typical endurance fuel carbohydrate sources, Palatinose has a low glycemic index.
Check out the glycemic index of some standard carbs used in endurance fuels below.
Glycemic Index of Common Endurance Fuels
Glucose (Dextrose) – 100
Maltodextrin – Around 100
Sucrose – 67
Palatinose – 32
Because of the low glycemic index and the slow breakdown of the α-1.6-glycosidic bonds holding glucose and fructose together, Palatinose can provide a consistent energy source without the big spikes and drops.
You’ve probably noticed if you’ve fueled long endurance sessions with solely high glycemic carbs like glucose or maltodextrin that, your energy can feel much like a roller coaster at times. The rapid digestion of these sugars leads to big blood sugar spikes. Big spikes always result in big drops.
Refer to the chart below comparing sucrose to Palatinose to better understand what this looks like. And remember, this spike would be even more exaggerated with higher glycemic carbs.
Athletes who include Palatinose in their endurance fueling strategy report feeling a cleaner, consistent, and sustainable sense of energy.
Ultra-running is an aerobic sport.
The aerobic nature of ultra-running makes Palatinose much better suited for ultra-runners than short duration, explosive bouts of exercise. Exercise sessions of shorter duration are typically also at higher intensities.
During higher intensity endurance sessions like half marathons, fast marathoners, etc., a faster-digesting carbohydrate may be more desirable to provide an immediate source of usable energy.
On the other hand, racing and most training sessions are done at relatively low intensities when it comes to ultra-running. In this case, Palatinose is an excellent complimentary fuel. Adding Palatinose to your ultra-running fuel will allow for that nice clean feeling of energy over the long haul while enabling you to burn more fat as fuel.
Less sweet = less palate fatigue
Palatinose is only about 50% as sweet as sucrose and only about 10-15% as sweet as fructose. A significant problem that is exponentially magnified in ultra-endurance sports is palate fatigue. Palate fatigue is most often caused by the high sweetness of foods and drinks ingested during ultramarathons.
This is understandable as sugars are typically high in sweetness, easily digestible, and an efficient fuel source for endurance athletes.
By using Palatinose, sweetness is significantly reduced, reducing the risk of palate fatigue.
Easy on the gut when used in appropriate quantities.
When used appropriately, Palatinose is easy on the stomach. When I say “appropriately,” I mean in suitable amounts. An ultra-runner doesn’t want to fuel with SOLELY Palatinose. Because of the slow-digesting nature of Palatinose, doing so could cause them to get “backed up” and bloated.
A study by Oosthuyse et al. (2015) compared the effect of Palatinose vs. a maltodextrin/fructose mixture consumed at a rate of 63 grams/hour in endurance cyclists. Although fat oxidation was improved in the Palatinose group, gastrointestinal distress was common when attempting to maintain the recommended carbohydrate intake solely with Palatinose. This GI distress led to impaired cycling performance later in the endurance session.
Other studies show improved cycling performance with Palatinose compared to maltodextrin when taken immediately before exercise in doses of 75 grams (König et al., 2016). In lower doses, Palatinose is gentle on the gut during endurance exercise. For these reasons, Palatinose is best as a “complimentary” carbohydrate.
I would recommend Palatinose being ingested in quantities of 25g/hour or less. That’s 100 kcal of Palatinose per hour at the most. Keep in mind that ideally, you should be ingesting at least 250 kcal/hour of total carbohydrates (about 63 grams) during endurance exercise, so additional sources are needed.
Additional things to keep in mind when using Palatinose for ultra-running
The best endurance fuels have multiple carbohydrates
It’s no secret that multiple transportable carbohydrate solutions are ideal for fueling endurance performance. That is, rather than using a single source of carbohydrates, combining various (at least two) different sources will typically result in improved results, according to scientific literature. Combining slow and fast-digesting carbs is often recommended. The optimal ratio between the two is likely dependent on endurance intensity.
As previously mentioned, I wouldn’t suggest Palatinose as a stand-alone endurance fuel because of the potential for GI distress.
How much is Palatinose for ultra-running ideal?
Personally, I would keep Palatinose under 20% of total carbs to be on the safe side. This is enough to reap all the unique benefits of Palatinose without putting unnecessary stress on your stomach. Cyclic Dextrin and Palatinose are a great combination. Like Palatinose, Cyclic Dextrin also allows for fat oxidation. But, Cyclic Dextrin has a super-fast gastric emptying time and causes virtually zero GI distress.
If you’ve read my blog 6 Reasons Why Cyclic Dextrin is the BEST Carbohydrate for Ultra-Runners then you know that I think that Cyclic Dextrin is the single best carbohydrate on the market for ultra-runners. Combining Palatinose with Cyclic Dextrin makes a fantastic combo. Add a little fructose to take advantage of the GLUT5 transporter and a fast-absorbing sugar like dextrose, and you have what I believe is the perfect ultra-running combo!
Why aren’t more endurance supplement companies using Palatinose?
So why don’t endurance supplement companies use carbohydrates like Palatinose and Cyclic Dextrin in their fuels? One reason may be that their fuels are not explicitly made for ultra-endurance athletes, so they opt for primarily quick-digesting carbs. However, I would argue that Palatinose and Cyclic Dextrin would be beneficial additions to any carbohydrate blend if used in the appropriate ratios.
The other more likely reason is cost. Trademarked ingredients like Palatinose and Cyclic Dextrin cost, on average, about 5x as much as traditional carbs like maltodextrin, sucrose, or glucose.
Remember, when it comes to ultra-running, there are many things to keep in mind that traditional endurance athletes don’t have to worry about (at least not to the same extent that ultra-runners do). Things like the increased importance of fat oxidation, susceptibility to palate fatigue, high instances of GI distress, and the primarily aerobic nature of ultra-running.
It makes sense that there should be a fuel specifically designed to meet the unique demands of ultra-running.
That fuel is Proxima C.
Proxima C Endurance Fuel
Proxima C Endurance Fuel is a revolutionary, no-expense-spared endurance fuel made for ultra-runners and other ultra-endurance athletes that go LONG. Proxima C sports an amazing four carbohydrate blend that consists of over 50% Cyclic Dextrin. The remaining blend comes from Palatinose, dextrose, and fructose. It’s the perfect combination for ultra-runners!
Proxima C is exceptionally easy on the stomach, has a low sweetness to prevent palate fatigue, and has an unbeatable electrolyte profile.
To learn more about Proxima C Endurance Fuel, check out the Proxima C product page and click through all the drop-downs!