What’s the Deal With Generation UCAN?

I’m a huge podcast fan and many of the podcasts I listen to have Generation UCAN as a sponsor. Endorsements by famous athletes, such as Meb Keflezighi, have added to its popularity. Generation UCAN is “powered by SuperStarch.” What is a SuperStarch? In Generation UCAN’s case, it’s corn, which is a complex carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index. This means they are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a slower rise in blood sugar and consequently, insulin level. Other common sports products, such as gels, use the simple carbohydrates maltodextrin (chains of glucose) and fructose. Unlike complex carbohydrates, these simple carbohydrates have a high glycemic index that cause a quick increase in blood sugar.

The main beneficial claim of Generation UCAN is that, by preventing insulin spiking, it won’t cause high and low sugars. This is kind of true. Since insulin rises in response to an increase in blood sugar, the slower rise in blood sugar with Generation UCAN could prevent something called “reactive hypoglycemia.” This is a rapid rise and then dip in blood sugar from a rise in insulin that can occur after eating carbohydrates. While this reactive hypoglycemia may be a concern outside of exercise, during exercise, it shouldn’t be a concern. This is because our body drastically reduces insulin levels during exercise so that the sugar can go to working muscles as a fuel source. This slower release of blood sugar may actually be a disadvantage to athletes, since during exercise, we want sugar in our blood stream as quickly as possible to help us continue the workout at a high intensity. Interestingly, the only study that Generation UCAN makes claim about had athletes consume Generation UCAN before and after, not during, exercise.

 If you’re getting low blood sugar during exercise, it’s probably as a result of not consuming enough carbohydrates rather than a sugar spike and consequent low from the gels or other simple carbohydrates you’re consuming during exercise. During endurance events, you should be aiming for roughly 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. This would equate to about 1 scoop of Generation UCAN every 20 minutes. My understanding is that this scoop would be mixed in with about 175 ml of water. If you’re sweating a lot, this may be a good way to also meet fluid needs, but if your fluid needs aren’t this high, this amount may be unattainable to consume. Generation UCAN also claims to decrease gastric distress. I’m not really sure where this claim is coming from. While it would certainly be better than a super concentrated source of carbohydrates like juice or pop, it should not have any advantage over sports drinks that have a low carbohydrate concentration.

 Where Generation UCAN could provide a potential benefit is being used as a snack before exercise, while preventing reactive hypoglycemia that can occur from eating simple carbohydrates. However, there other ways to get in simple carbohydrates before exercise without getting reactive hypoglycemia. Some strategies include having carbohydrates 5-15 minutes before exercise rather than a longer time window pre-exercise, or having larger amounts of carbohydrates, such as more than 60 grams, rather than smaller amounts. Finally, the post-workout products from Generation UCAN, such as the UCAN with protein or snack bar, didn’t impress me. The protein content in these products is 7 grams and 4 grams respectively. Most athletes will need more like 20-30 grams of protein post-exercise. This could be achieved better by having a regular meal post workout or a snack such as Greek yogurt with berries or cottage cheese and an apple slice.

 While I don’t think taking Generation UCAN during exercise will be detrimental to performance, unless it’s not providing you with enough carbohydrates, I don’t think that it provides any advantage to athletes as an in-race fuel over other products such as gels and sports drinks. My recommendation, try different in-race fuelling products to determine what works best for you.

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2018-08-26T16:36:23+00:00 August 28th, 2018|

About the Author:

Learn to fuel your health and performance with Megan Kuikman, Registered Dietitian. Megan provides professional nutrition advice that you can trust. To work with Megan, call: 519-802-9445 or e-mail megankuikmanRD@gmail.com.