The Performance-Enhancing Sweetener

A Fat-Burning Sugar?

Can a natural form of sugar boost workout and sports performance while also helping you get lean? Yep. Here it is.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, magazines were flooded with weight-loss ads. These ads promoted a product guaranteed to help you “reduce,” stay thin, and have abundant energy. This natural product, the ads stated, kills cravings and increases willpower. Parents were encouraged to give it to their kids so they’d have the energy to do chores.

That product was sugar.

These ads were put out by Sugar Information, Inc., an arm of the sugar industry. That industry was panicking because health experts were beginning to advise against eating sugar, plus diet sodas were getting popular. The ads are laughable today, of course.

But there’s sugar and then there’s “sugar” – a disaccharide carbohydrate composed of glucose and fructose. Yes, chemically, it’s a type of sugar with a molecular formula of C12H22O11. And while that sounds like it was created in a lab, it’s found naturally in nature. One type is derived from beets.

This type of “sugar” does much of what the vintage sugar ads claimed. In fact, it can legitimately be called a performance-enhancing substance. You may know it as isomaltulose or Palatinose.

The Isomaltulose Advantage

As a sweetener, isomaltulose has a mild natural sweetness with no aftertaste. Distinctively, its digestion and absorption rates are slow compared to other sugars like sucrose (table sugar) or glucose.

Isomaltulose is known as a “functional carbohydrate” because it’s a low glycemic index (GI) carb that prompts the body into using body fat for energy by improving fat oxidation to a much larger degree than other carbs. Isomaltulose is the only carb that provides sustained energy while simultaneously supporting fat mobilization – releasing free fatty acids from fatty tissue. In turn, that greater fat oxidation rate improves endurance and athletic performance.

One study found that the percentage of energy supplied by fat in isomaltulose-supplemented endurance athletes was 25% higher than in those who ingested maltodextrin (a carb used in many workout powders and energy bars). Another study found that isomaltulose caused insulin to rise 55% less than regular sugar.

That same study examined the effects of isomaltulose on GIP and GLP-1, two hormones that play a role in regulating glucose levels and body weight. The former influences insulin levels. The latter increases muscle uptake of glucose, decreases the speed food is digested, and decreases appetite.

You want GIP levels to go down or stay near the same when you eat something, whereas you want GLP-1 levels to go up after a meal. That’s exactly what happened when the subjects ingested isomaltulose. GIP levels only went up a tiny bit, as compared to the effects of regular sugar, which saw GIP levels more than double in 15 minutes.

Regarding GLP-1 levels, isomaltulose caused them to jet upwards and linger there for a considerable time, which is exactly what you want to see if you care about how much fat you carry around.

Train Harder, Win More

In another study, scientists recruited experienced cyclists to test just how well isomaltulose can increase endurance.

Subjects consumed 750 mL of a drink containing either 75 grams of isomaltulose or 75 grams of maltodextrin. Then the subjects completed a 90-minute ride performed at 60% of Vo2max (because the researchers wanted to measure fat oxidation). After, the cyclists completed a time trial that included a ramp test where the intensity increased at pre-determined intervals.

  • The isomaltulose group completed the time trial test in 30.05 =/- 4.70 minutes.
  • The maltodextrin group completed it in 31.08 =/- 6.27 minutes.

The “effect size” was just over a minute, which is huge in a race. Beating your opponents by a minute generally gives an endurance athlete superstar status.

How Did Isomaltulose Do That?

When you spare glycogen in the muscles and liver, you enhance endurance capacity. That’s what isomaltulose did in the cyclists. Ingesting isomaltulose before exercise favored fat oxidation during the initial 90-minute endurance ride, which spared glycogen in the muscle and liver so that it could be tapped into during the time trial.

The researchers also speculated that the low-GI isomaltulose improved mental performance more than the higher glycemic index carb. Since cognitive performance increased during the time trial, so did physical performance.

What About Lifters?

While it provides a huge benefit to endurance athletes, isomaltulose also fuels longer or tougher gym workouts by providing sustainable energy, promoting fat-burning, and supporting muscular pumps.

Where Do I Get Isomaltulose?

Isomaltulose is found in Biotest’s FINi Competition Protein/Energy Bar. Originally designed for an Olympic cyclist, it’s since been successfully tested by bodybuilders, CrossFitters, and several team sports athletes.

Just keep in mind that the isomaltulose component is listed as part of the Total Sugars count on the label (as the FDA requires), but obviously, this is a very different kind of “sugar.”


Sounds too good to be true. Why don’t we see this sweetener in every protein powder and performance supplement ( or even “energy” drinks)?

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When do the majority of companies do what’s best for the product/performance/customer rather than the bottom line?


on a scale of 1-10, how much does this make you fart, or give bubblegut?

It’s weird you don’t include 0 on the scale, because that’s the answer. Finibars digest VERY well. It’s one of their big selling points.

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Thanks. I’m primarily carnivore for a couple reasons, which I guess you could say is zero. I can’t remember the last time I farted. Probably the last time I tried a keto product with sweetener.

So this is nothing like the fake fiber or sugar in other bars/products out there?

It is not a fake fiber or sugar. Finibars digest VERY well.

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Is there similar research on glycerin/glycerol? As far as I know it’s “processed” in the liver and a “slow carb” and easy availble…

Ah, it’s a slow digesting sugar. Nice, thank you

It really is pretty wild how easily and well they digest. I can eat FINi bars prior to and during hockey games or trail rides without any complications.


I found some of those old sugar ads the intro to the article talks about: :smile:


Isn’t it amazing that we’ve come so full circle with modern nutritional debauchery that, in light of high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin, sugar is considered wholesome again?

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