This is actually something I plan to talk about in my next nutrition video which will be on fueling for recovery.
It depends, because recovery drinks are not always necessary. If you are finishing a really hard ride (we are talking 3+ hours or say 250+ TSS) that completely depletes your glycogen stores then yes a recovery drink is a good choice as you will need to consume a large amount of carbs within the first few hours. Based on current research the recommendations are 1.2g per kg of carbs per hour for 2-4 hours. That amount of carbs can exceed 60g per hour depending on your body weight (e.g. for a 175lb athlete that is ~80g of carbs). If you were to consume all of those carbs from glucose you’d likely end up with a stomach ache as the transporters in your small intestine that absorb glucose can only handle ~60g per hour. The transporter for fructose can absorb ~30g per hour. Thus, if you need more that 60g per hour you will want about a 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. Good news is that nearly all recovery drink mixes these days contain that ratio.
For reference, sucrose (table sugar) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Here is a graphic about that 2:1 ratio too that you may find helpful:
Now in reference to maltodextrin… It is basically a chain of glucose molecules linked together (the amount in each chain varies). This composition makes it have a lower osmolality, which is good for athletes who need to fuel long, hard workouts.
Now when I say that, most athletes think I am speaking in jibberish ha. So to explain osmolality: consider you have 2- 16 oz bottles of water that have 30g of carbs mixed in, one contains glucose (so there will be 30 of those little molecules floating in the bottle) and the other has maltodextrin . Because maltodextrin is a chain of glucose, there will be less maltodextrin molecules in second bottle… thus it will have a lower osmolality.
Why does osmolality matter? Because the lower the osmolality of a drink, the faster it will empty from your stomach to your small intestine, be absorbed into your bloodstream and then delivered to your working muscles so you can keep riding fast!
Here is a visual representation of osmolality that may help you grasp that nerdy junk I just said (lower osmolality to the left):
Now a lot of people dog on maltodextrin because it is so rapidly absorbed. This is not good for the average person who is eating foods while sitting at their desk working because it can cause a rapid rise in insulin, blood sugar spikes and ultimately a sugar crash… all things that can contribute to metabolic syndrome and other health conditions like diabetes… However as just noted above, this rapid absorption is crucial for endurance athletes in order to maintain optimal performance. If an athlete choose fuel sources that are absorbed slower, then they risk depleting their glycogen stores quicker than their competitor and thus, losing a race because they cannot maintain their power output due to depleted energy stores.
Also want to note that in individuals with IBS and even a lot of females, high amounts of maltodextrin can cause stomach discomfort. Which is just one of the mannnny reasons I encourage athletes to test their fueling strategy during training and have it nailed down so that they don’t experience gut rot or bonking on race day.