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How athletes are fueled by functional carbs

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 10, 2021 6:00 am

The current Tokyo Olympics, although one year delayed by the pandemic, is a thrilling spectacle of inspiring feats and superhuman physical achievements. Many are encouraged to strive for the same excellence through a renewed focus on training and nutrition. 

We had the privilege of interviewing Christian Philippsen, managing director for Asia-Pacific of BENEO, on how functional carbohydrates assist athletes in performing their best by providing them with the long-lasting replenishment they need.

Athletes need proper nutrition to fuel their sporting activities, but many may be relying on “fast carbohydrates” to get an energy boost that is usually short-lived. To reach their full potential, athletes should reconsider their carbohydrate intake and include functional carbohydates in their diet. Functional carbohydrates can deliver a sustained and balanced energy supply for longer periods of time.

There is increased interest in sports nutrition products globally.

THE PHILIPPINE STAR: How do athletes benefit from functional carbohydrates?

CHRISTIAN PHILIPPSEN: Palatinose is the only low-glycemic, but fully available carbohydrate that provides carbohydrate energy in a balanced and sustained manner, empowering athletes to achieve optimum training outcomes. As a slow-release carbohydrate, it facilitates efficient fuel management for athletes, resulting in blood glucose levels that stay balanced throughout the day.

This functional carbohydrate does not easily form lumps in powder form, making it perfect for powdered drinks and blends. Its good solubility also allows it to be added to liquid products as well, enabling athletes to dissolve it easily into their workout drinks.

Additionally, Palatinose also enables maintained osmolality, meaning the concentrations of drinks remain stable and unchanged with its addition into the mix.

  Palatinose provides carbohydrate energy in a balanced and sustained manner.

When applied to sports drinks, this ensures that they retain their isotonic properties to serve their water replenishment purposes, and are optimally absorbed by the digestive system of athletes. It also has a much higher process and acid stability than sucrose, making it highly relevant in isotonic sports beverages that tend to have a pH level below 3.

What are the industry prospects?

The health and fitness trend has led to a booming global fitness industry and an increased interest in sports nutrition products globally. In fact, the global sports nutrition market is anticipated to be valued at US$50 billion by 2025. Asia-Pacific is the fastest-growing market, due to its rapidly progressing economies, which has resulted in a greater demand for sports nutrition products.

As athletes start looking for a satisfactory product that can fulfill their unique nutritional needs, manufacturers will need to step up their game and address this demand.

This trend is a market of opportunity awaiting food manufacturers to embrace. As athletes start looking for a satisfactory product that can fulfill their unique nutritional needs, manufacturers will need to step up their game and address this demand.

Christian Philippsen, managing director for Asia-Pacific of BENEO.

Who were the primary users you had in mind when you developed the product?

Isomaltulose was patented by BENEO’s mother company in 1956 and marketed as Palatinose since 2007. The company’s unwavering goal has always been about contributing to good nutrition with the ultimate aim of keeping consumers healthy.

With the discovery of this better-for-you carbohydrate, it was pushed to the market with the aim of helping people of all ages achieve better blood glucose levels. Its slow-release nature is also a good fit for sports people, busy professionals, and those who wish to manage their weight effectively — making it essentially the  ‘‘fuel for life.’’

Athletes need proper nutrition to fuel their sporting activities.

What makes it unique compared to other products in its category?

The most unique aspect is that it is a slow-release carbohydrate. This means that compared to other fast carbohydrates like sucrose or maltodextrin, Palatinose is more slowly digested by the body.

In addition, it is also the first non-cariogenic carbohydrate as it is gentle on teeth and does not cause tooth decay. The good solubility and mild, sugar-like sweetness also allow it to be incorporated into a myriad of food products, such as in dairy products, baked goods, or beverages, making it easy to use by food manufacturers and consumers alike. 

Is Palatinose only available for industrial use or can individuals already use it in their kitchen?

Palatinose is currently only available for industrial use but some sports nutrition brands have repackaged it into consumer-friendly packs. It is most commonly used in sports nutrition products such as energy drinks or snack bars as athletes appreciate the sustained energy benefit it provides.

Due to its low glycemic nature, it is a common carbohydrate added to diabetic supplements as it has a gentle impact on blood sugar levels. It is also ideal for meal replacements as it provides a feeling of satiety, while helping with weight management. It is also found in many baked goods, cereals and snacks, so keep a lookout for it the next time you go grocery shopping and you may be surprised to see it in the ingredient list of your favorite product.