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What are oligosaccharides?

Oligosaccharides are complex carbohydrates made up of 3 to 10 simple sugars (monosaccharides) linked together. They are found naturally in various foods and are also used as ingredients in sports nutrition products.

In the context of sports nutrition, oligosaccharides play a vital role as an energy source. They are slower to digest and absorb compared to simple sugars, providing a more sustained energy release. This makes them particularly valuable for endurance athletes or those engaging in prolonged exercise sessions.

Oligosaccharides can be found in energy gels, bars, and drinks designed for athletes. These products aim to provide a balanced energy release, helping to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. By doing so, they support sustained performance and may help delay the onset of fatigue.

A common ingredient in sports products is maltodextrin, which is made up of glucose molecules linked together. 

Furthermore, some oligosaccharides, known as prebiotics, can promote gut health. They serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria, potentially aiding digestion and immune function. Examples include 

  1. Fructooligosaccharides: Found various vegetables like garlic, onions, and asparagus, and often used as a prebiotic supplement.
  2. Galactooligosaccharides: Present in legumes and dairy products, and also used as prebiotics.

This aspect of oligosaccharides may be of interest to athletes looking to optimise their overall health and well-being, as a healthy gut can support better nutrient absorption and recovery.

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