I do want to start off and say that I am not a nutritionist but I am a person like many of you that have tried almost everything on the market to improve on my body composition, enhance my training and just improve my lifestyle. From sports drinks, gels, Gu's, powders and costly pre-made meals and shakes. The only thing that these products did were cause stomach aches and trim my pocket book instead of my waistline. I will point out that just because this product has worked for me, it may not be the right fit for you. You ultimately will be the judge on the product.
So what is Generation UCAN? Generation UCAN is a small company out of Connecticut that originally came into existence for medical purposes. A group of Dr's were trying to find a better lifestyle for a young boy (Jonah, listen to his story here) who had a disorder called Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD). This disorder does not allow you to maintain a normal blood-sugar level which can result in many different symptoms. Some examples:
- Low blood sugar
- Enlarged liver
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle weakness
- Extreme fatigue
In order for Jonah to maintain a normal blood-sugar level, he and his parents had to live an un-normal lifestyle. As an infant he had nasogastric infusion of glucose until he was able to be fed by hand. Then his parent fed him uncooked cornstarch in small increments throughout the day (sometimes every two hours, including nighttime). So as you can see, this was a process and very hard on the family.
With the Dr's help, the parents set out to bring awareness of this disorder and through multiple fund-raising efforts and research a "SuperStarch" was discovered.
This complex carbohydrate provides a steady release of glucose, keeping blood-sugar levels (energy) steady for several hours. This discovery allowed Jonah the chance to sleep through the night. It meant a chance to be a normal kid and play hockey in the cold Connecticut air with his parents watching proudly. It meant a chance to live.
Once SuperStarch was created, the Dr's realized that the same symptoms that patients like Jonah were experiencing (refer above) were also the same symptoms that many weekend warriors, runners and top athletes were experience during their training/competition. Not only that, there was an added benefit to using SuperStarch as it improved body composition.
Their mission is Provide a healthy, sustainable energy source for athletes of all levels so they can achieve their very best.
Now the reason you're here...Training with UCAN
I was first introduced to UCAN during my half training at the end of 2011. I was tired of all the gels, Gu's and sport drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, Accelerade, etc...) that I was taking because no matter what, they all upset my stomach and I would simply "BONK". I knew that there was only so many carbs you can take in before your body just says enough. Since I am also sensitive to sugars and fructose being the main ingredient in some sport drinks and Maltodextrin in others these two "traditional" methods of fueling was problematic for me. The whole purpose of this bonk sensation was due to too much sugar in the system which caused a spike in blood sugar and then a major crash. In case you don't know, traditional carbs convert into sugar. Which ultimately cause a spike and crash in your blood sugar levels as insulin has to retrieve the elevated blood sugar to bring it back down. Hence, Spike and crash! Well, I saw Generation UCAN mentioned in an article about Meb Keflezighi and his win in the New York City Marathon in 2009. I figured if this product was good enough for my running hero and if the ingredients were right, I should try it out. So I went to the UCAN website and bought the Meb Combo pack (hey, he's my running hero!) in the beginning of 2012.
Well, UCAN comes in two different types of SuperStarch. One is just their SuperStarch which comes in plain, Cran-Raz, Pom-Blu and lemonade. I ended up being a fan of the plain because well, I am a simpleton. There is one ingredient in the plain and it's SuperStarch (I do want to note that drinking the SuperStarch is a little chalky). The other SuperStarch they sell is the protein infused version which comes in Chocolate and Vanilla. This goes without saying; I am a fan of the chocolate.
When I tested UCAN, I started with the lemonade and mixed the product based on the company's recommendations. Since my diet at that time was a high carb intake, I did not eat my normal pre-long run meal so I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen with a product that was going to use body fat as an energy source. Well to my surprise, I ran a solid 15 miler but had some major hunger pains around mile 8. I concluded my workout with the Vanilla protein SuperStarch and ate a solid breakfast. As I continued using the product I narrowed down my two favorites (Plain and Chocolate) and quickly learned that in order for me to get the full advantage of using UCAN my diet would have to change since I did not have to use as much food as I've had in the past. Also, Gel usage was becoming less of a dependency (A major plus) and the only thing I continued to bring with me was my water with some Hammer Endurolytes.
Something else that was noticeable was that after training or competition I could never really stomach any food; so I always reached for a sport drink to start the recovery process which has some carbs. Shortly after consuming said drink I ended up hunched over due to stomach pains (the fructose or maltodextrin I referred to above). With Generation UCAN, there is no gastric distress (easy on the stomach), you avoid spiking and crashing, the drinks have a slow time release glucose profile that mobilizes fat for energy that is a clean, healthy form of energy.
As I trained for CIM, my diet had changed (I consume high fat, low carb now) and UCAN became a major fuel source in my training (Thank you Jimmy Hart of Pace-Labs). During the summer months, I used two packs of UCAN (1xplain and 1xprotein) just because of the good ol' Texas heat. Although it probably was never needed, I also consumed a plain UCAN in the middle of my run (I made a paste with 2oz of water) when the heat had turned up. When the weather cooled down, I only needed one pack of UCAN for an 18-20 miler and felt really good. Now for CIM, I knew the weather was going to be a huge factor with rain and high winds. Before I left the hotel room, I consumed a plain UCAN and headed for the bus with my additional fuel and Endurolytes. In the bus about an hour from race time I consumed a Pure Organic Blueberry Bar (hey my main focus was a Boston Qualifying time) so although in my training I didn't have a blood-sugar drop I was making sure the tank was full. Then about 30mins from race time I consumed a protein UCAN. The weather was windy and miserable, so I was glad the tank was full. The first half of the race I was feeling great, smiling the whole way. I went ahead at the half way point and consumed a plain UCAN paste I made. Looking back did I need it? I don't think so, but I had so much energy at that point I wanted to make sure that feeling stayed with me the entire way. Oh....and it did! I never had to worry about the spike and crash like in races past and a finished with my BQ time!
UCAN, Improving you lifestyle!!!
The Science Behind Spiking and Crashing
Well, I wasn't sure if I was going to write about this because it can be cumbersome. But, if this is going to be a review, I wanted you to see why I picked UCAN over the normal sports drink or endurance drinks that contain maltodextrin and include the science data behind it.
So why IMO are sports drinks bad? Well Carbohydrates are encouraged for the general public, and carbohydrate-rich diets are even more aggressively recommended for athletes (although I don't believe in this). While exercise can provide some protection from the untoward effects of too much carbohydrate, regular physical activity does not provide a license to binge on carbohydrates. In the quest to achieve optimal performance and body composition, the question is why use sports drinks that rapidly elevate blood sugar and insulin? Even if you are looking for small changes in body composition, the most potent and healthiest way to reduce body fat is to keep insulin levels stable though modulation of the quantity and quality of carbohydrate.
In the post-exercise period, consumption of fast-acting carbs that spike blood sugar and insulin are not needed and may be counter-productive. In some athletes, a surge in insulin may be followed by a low blood sugar eliciting a stress response characterized by a counter-regulatory hormonal response that can manifest as carbohydrate cravings, lethargy, poor physical/mental performance and suboptimal recovery.
Many sports beverages use sucrose (half glucose and fructose) or high fructose corn sweetener as their primary energy source. Daily fructose intakes have increased dramatically in the last decade, especially in adolescents, mainly attributed to increased use of sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages, grains, and other foods with added sugars. An alarming one in four kids gets greater than 15% of their calories from fructose. Many health experts implicate increasing fructose intake with a host of health problems (e.g. fatty liver, obesity, dyslipidemia, oxidative stress, vascular dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, increased uric acid, etc.)?
SuperStarch Does Not Spike Insulin and Provides an Uninterrupted Sustained Flow of Energy
SuperStarch offers an ideal carbohydrate source for athletes concerned with their weight and health. In contrast to other sports drinks that block access to body fat, SuperStarch provides a better fuel balance between fat and carbohydrate because of its proprietary manufacturing process that slows digestion and absorption of the starch. SuperStarch provides a highly palatable carbohydrate source that delivers sustained energy while having a minimal impact on insulin levels.
In a study conducted at the University of Oklahoma study, trained cyclists ingested SuperStarch or maltodextrin before and after cycling for 2.5 hr. SuperStarch blunted the initial spike in blood glucose and insulin and enhanced the breakdown and oxidation of fat during exercise. Subjects also consumed the supplements after exercise, and again the athletes showed greater use of fat during recovery (Fig 1). Keeping insulin low during recovery translates into less time in fat storage mode thereby promoting a more favorable metabolic state for decreasing body fat.
Carbohydrate is the main stimulator of insulin. Using fewer or higher quality carbohydrates that do not cause a marked increase in insulin is a fully rational approach to improve body composition. A diet that is lower in insulin-stimulating carbohydrates is associated with greater fat loss, and the effects were independent of energy intake and exercise. Work in my laboratory has shown that diets that lower insulin translate into greater fat loss. For example a normal-weight man who consumed a low carbohydrate diet for 6 weeks decreased fat mass (7.5lbs) and increased lean body mass (2.4lbs). There was a significant decrease in serum insulin (-34%) and 70% of the variability in fat loss was accounted for by the decrease in serum insulin concentrations. The effects are even more dramatic when you add exercise training to a diet that controls insulin. An experiment was performed in overweight/obese men who participated in resistance training and were either placed in a low fat or a low carbohydrate diet group. The results were compared to non-training diet only groups. The low carbohydrate diet group lost more fat which was associated with greater decreases in insulin. Resistance training, independent of diet, resulted in increased lean body mass without compromising fat loss in both diet groups. It turned out the the most dramatic reduction in insulin and percent body fat was in the low carbohydrate diet resistance training group. Thus, the combination of a diet that lowers insulin and resistance training is added maximizes fat loss while preserving/increasing lean body mass and therefore produces the largest reductions in percent body fat.
As I mentioned before, what works for me may not work for you. Nutrition is 100% unique to an individual. In order to live a healthy lifestyle, we should find a nutrition plan for life and sport that suits each one of us. By utilizing a nutrition plan that keeps your insulin levels from spiking and crashing you not only will lose body fat but you gain a competitive edge from those around you that rely on high carbs. Generation UCAN is a complex carbohydrate but does not spike your insulin. It worked really well for me when I used before a long run, tempo or race. My energy levels remain even and I never crashed liked I did using traditional sports drinks, gels, Gu's, etc... So now after regular use of Generation UCAN, I now require less traditional fuel during training runs and races.
If you would like to purchase some UCAN, you can select here and get 10% off you order or enter the code UCANRHGS at checkout.
Train Hard = Race Easy, Train Smart = Race Fast.
1. Roberts, M.D., et al., Ingestion of a high-molecular-weight hydrothermally modified waxy maize starch alters metabolic responses to prolonged exercise in trained cyclists. Nutrition, 2010.
2. Volek, J.S., et al., Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet.
Metabolism, 2002. 51(7): p. 864-70.