Warning: Stay with me through this longer post. There’s a gift at the end.
Growing up, I played soccer at some of the highest levels. I was an all-state selection for my high school. I captained elite club teams. And I received a scholarship to play at Villanova University. I performed well on the field, fueled at the time by bagels, bread, sandwiches, pasta, and pretty much any carbohydrate I could get my hands on. Post-training or post-match nutrition always included a Gatorade. Even more, Gatorade found its way into mouth during training and games.
I picked up my knowledge about sports nutrition from coaches, trainers and other athletes. The bottom line: for a high-demanding sport like soccer, where a player can run 6-8 miles in one 90-minute game at speeds ranging from a walk to an all-out sprint, I had to carbo-load. As I’ve said before in previous posts, “Carbs were king.” This was the only approach to nutrition I knew.
Though it seemed to suffice on the field, off it things were a different story. Despite training for sometimes three or more hours a day in college, I still retained some abdominal fat. I excused it by telling myself it was still “baby fat.” I suffered from acne for periods of time, only controlling it with high-strength, chemical face washes and creams. I also suffered from migraines, which I wrote about in this post. They were horrific, so debilitating I stayed in bed for an entire weekend once. And the most significant one of all, I felt tired a lot, no matter how much I slept or ate.
These challenges followed me as I took up marathon running after my soccer career. I ran my first marathon – the Philadelphia Marathon – in 2007. I finished with a respectable time, somewhere around 3 hours and 50 minutes. But, man, those last 8 miles were pure agony. I didn’t just hit the wall, I felt I smashed into it. Afterwards, I wasn’t sure whether I would ever run another one. It took almost two years later until I finally did.
Sometime in 2011 I came across this new fuel source called UCAN Superstarch. At the time, I was radically transforming my nutrition, adopting a whole food-based, nutrient-dense, low-carb, wheat-free diet. I ditched sports drinks, gels, and really any simple sugar. They were causing too many issues: GI, mood, performance. I also began learning more about the damage that long-term sugar consumption can do to one’s health, even “healthy” endurance athletes. (See this post about a study about declining oral health among triathletes ingest lots of simple sugar-based fuels.)
Then I decided to try this new product made by a small, relatively unknown company at the time called Generation UCAN. The product wasn’t sold in running stores or even on Amazon. I bought my first sample of six packets and gave the white powdery, corn starch-looking substance a try on a few long training runs.
My first “holy s@#t this stuff works” moment came during a tough session a few weeks prior to the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon where my goal was to qualify for Boston. The workout’s main set was 3x 25 minutes at marathon pace (6:45 per mile) with 5-minute recovery between sets. My only pre-workout fuel was a serving of UCAN Superstarch mixed with water and a coffee. I nailed the workout. No, I killed it. I negative-split each interval and felt stronger the longer the workout went.
A few weeks later in Philadelphia, exactly five years after I ran my first marathon on the very same course, I ran my first sub 3-hour marathon. I also achieved the first goal I ever set for myself in the sport: to qualify for Boston. I carried a hand-held flask of UCAN Superstarch the entire way.
What’s so special about UCAN?
Generation UCAN has a unique history. The science behind Superstarch’s formulation (it’s a gluten-free, non-GMO corn starch) emerged from the story of a boy with a rare metabolic disorder that prevented him from breaking down certain carbohydrates. Without carbohydrate metabolism, what’s the alternative? Fat oxidation.
This is the revolutionary part of Superstarch. Sugar and carbohydrate ingestion triggers the release of insulin. Insulin then helps shuttle sugar to the liver and muscles for storage. When sugar floods the blood stream, like after eating sports gels, insulin levels spike to corresponding high levels to clear the sugar and store it. Once glycogen storage hits its physiological maximum (yes, the body is only able to store a finite amount), any additional carbohydrate is converted into fat. A good way to think about insulin is that it triggers storage. Another way to think about it is that at too high of levels it forces the body in a sugar-dependent state. Fat burning shuts down.
As I said, the body is only able to store a certain amount of glycogen. In comparison to fat, it’s peanuts. So from an endurance perspective, there’s a choice. Do you want to go the simple sugar route, reduce fat oxidation, have to refuel constantly, and put blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride? (see Figure to the right) Or, would you rather a fuel that keeps blood sugar (and therefore insulin) in check, allowing the body to then tap into tens of thousands more calories worth of fat? (For a brilliant analogy check out Peter Attia’s blog on Superstarch where he compares this scenario with an oil tanker truck.)
The trick to Superstarch is its slow release. Instead of opening the blood stream flood gates, glucose instead trickles in like a steady tap. This minimizing the significant insulin spike associated with most carbohydrates. And by keep insulin in check, the body can tap into fat stores, maintaining a more constant stream of energy.
How much so?
Generation UCAN commission a study by Oklahoma State University to answer this question. And what were the results? Superstarch outperformed maltodextrin (a common ingredient in sports gels and other sports nutrition products) when it came to 1) controlling insulin, and 2) superior fat oxidation.
Insulin response from Ingestion of Superstarch vs. Maltodextrin
Fat Oxidation Following Ingestion of Superstarch vs. Maltodextrin
Let’s come back to why this all matters. When it comes to endurance (or even everyday energy) we want consistency. I prefer a constant stream of energy that won’t result in a blood sugar crash (i.e. hitting the wall) at mile 25 of the marathon or at the end of a half-IRONMAN.
And my race results show this. Since I began using Superstarch, I cut my marathon time by about 25 minutes over the course of just one year. It’s also fueled huge improvements in triathlon, helping me come in second in my age group last year in my second-ever half-Ironman distance race.
So, want to give Superstarch a shot? Want to better control blood sugar and enhance fat burning? Go to https://store.generationucan.com/CMTRAINING or use the discount code “UCANINSPIRECM” on your order at http://www.generationucan.com and receive 10% off. Stock up for the upcoming year and fuel your best performance.