When we talk about sugar being fuel, what we are usually referring to is Glucose, Fructose, Maltodextrin, and starches. Depending on what sugar your nutrition is made of, will greatly affect how your stomach and body handles and processes the sugar. Here is our guide to sugars:
GLUCOSE: Glucose, which to add to the confusing, is also known as dextrose, is arguably the most important simple sugar around (it is one of 3 monosaccharides). Glucose is the most basic form of carbohydrates found in plants. It is a product of photosynthesis and it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream when digested making it a key source of energy for the body.
For exercise, glycogen, the energy storage found in our muscles and liver is made up of chains of glucose molecules. In addition, the brain is primarily fueled by glucose. When you don’t have adequate amount of glucose in your body your brain function and mental processes will be impaired.
FRUCTOSE: Another monosaccharide is Fructose, more commonly known as fructose. When fructose bonds to glucose, the disaccharide sucrose is formed. While glucose is more easily absorbed than fructose, when they are combined equally and become sucrose, they become even more easy for the body to absorb. This is why a lot of nutrition, especially sport drinks use sucrose. When something is easier to absorb, it requires less water to break down and digest. Then the body can easily absorb the glucose for muscle glycogen and maintain performance.
MALTODEXTRIN: A very common, and primary ingredient in energy gels, chews, and other exercise nutrition products in maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide made up of glucose. It is easily digestible and used because it allows the body to get a lot of glucose into the bloodstream in a smaller amount of space. Basically, maltodextrin is very dense. For this reason it is not completely broken down in the stomach and requires more water to be pulled into the small intestines to aid digestion, which can be dehydrating and lead to stomach cramping. Some people have no problem handling maltodextrin. The FEED recommends experimenting with different energy gels to see how your gut reacts from highly concentrated amounts of carbohydrates in the GI tract. Blocks and chews are made up of lower concentration of sugars, and very rarely are comprised of maltodextrin. They also allow energy to be partitioned slowly as you can ration them more easily, and keep hydration up as well.
STARCH: Starch is a carbohydrate that is simply a polysaccharide of glucose. It is most commonly found in foods like potatoes, corn, rice, and wheat.
Hydration is critical with all sugary products, since more water is needed to digest these products than other sources of food the body will be forced to use fluid stores in the GI tract rather than exercise.