Gluten Free Fitness


Generation UCAN: Gluten Free Sports Supplement: Part 2


In my previous post I rambled a little bit about Generation UCAN, both the product and the company.

This post will discuss a bit more in depth about athletes and reactive hypoglycemia, and my personal experiences with reactive hypoglycemia and with UCAN products so far.  The next post will be after I have had a chance to complete additional testing with the UCAN product line.  UCAN has been very kind to supply the product for testing free of charge.  My opinions were and are not influenced by anything or anyone.


Reactive hypoglycemia is not fun.  In a nutshell, it’s when your blood sugar drops after ingesting carbohydrate.  When you are hypoglycemic, you can feel dizzy, clammy, break out in cold sweats, get confused, and potentially more fun stuff.  Really not fun at all if you happen to be moving at the time, particularly if you are out on your bike.

Interestingly, reactive hypoglycemia appears to happen in up to 30% of endurance athletes (or more).  (Granted, these were small sample sizes to be sure, but interesting nonetheless.)  Additional reviews show that some athletes have the feelings of hypoglycemic episodes without actual hypoglycemia by definition (blood glucose levels < 70 mg/dl with symptoms of hypoglycemia that are alleviated by ingestion of food.)


I have had episodes of feeling hypoglycemic (“bonking” in the cycling world) as has my husband.  I also have had an oral glucose tolerance test (for which the importance of when diagnosing reactive hypoglycemia has been questioned) and during this test my blood sugar (after drinking a sickly sweet orange flavored nasty drink-on an empty stomach) went from 80 fasted, to 113 30 minutes after drinking the gross stuff, then dropped to 57 mg/dl at an hour after drinking the nasty orange drink like substance and was still at 54 mg/dl 2 hours post drink.

Yuckers.  Thankfully I was only sitting in a crappy plastic chair at the lab and didn’t have to pedal or avoid obstacles.

Sports drinks and sugars

So, obviously something is up and the potential to feel crappy after ingesting a bunch of sugar is there.  Fortunately, given that I believe in the easiest way to eat a healthy gluten free diet, I don’t eat a bunch of sugar on a regular basis.  But, many sports drinks on the market are essentially simple sugars.  And when you have the potential to see a blood sugar drop like that, simple sugar is something you generally want to be very cautious about.  Even when you are out for a long bike ride or other endurance event.

Since I generally ride for 3-4 hours on weekend mornings, and get in 7-10 hours a week on the bike, having other options is important.  I always have a mix of protein, carb, and fat for “real” meals.  When riding, I stick to fruits and nuts to provide a slower digesting source of sugars, and look for drink products that supply electrolytes without carbohydrate.  (Then I got stuck out on a ride, ran out of food/fluid, and bought a Gatorade G2, figuring that was the least of the evils.  I promptly had a stomachache from the osmolality and barely made it home.  Good times.)


Which made the idea of Generation UCAN and SuperStarch even more appealing to me personally.  SuperStarch provides carbohydrate without simple sugar and the reactive hypoglycemia that can go along with it.  As some of you may know, I dislocated my left elbow the day after Thanksgiving, which took me off the bike for a while.  I did some testing of Gen UCAN with my lifting activity and cardio (intervals) in the gym while I was off the bike.

I’ve informally compiled a combination of how I felt along with some glucometer readings, just for grins.  This is in no way truly scientific, but gives a pretty good snapshot of how my body reacts, anyhow.

On mornings when I went to the gym and lifted weights, pre workout I drank half a packet of UCAN protein enhanced sport drink, which is a blend of whey protein and SuperStarch.   The chocolate was quite good, the vanilla…not so much.  Vanilla is very chalky.  You expect UCAN to taste somewhat chalky considering the SuperStarch, but the vanilla was VERY chalky.

This is something they are working on reformulating strictly for taste.  (Just to recap from my previous post, UCAN’s products have been independently tested and found to be free from gluten.  They are also pursuing gluten free certification.)

An improvement in blood glucose level

Subjectively, I felt “good” and had energy to get through my workout without feeling over sugared and jittery.  As an example, my fasting blood glucose level was 88 mg/dl.  I had my drink, went to the gym and lifted for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of high intensity intervals on the elliptical.  An hour after my 2nd half of UCAN (with another .5 scoop of protein added in) my glucose reading was 84.  Those numbers held in that same region for all exercise of that nature.

As a reference, I experimented by eating a lot of simple carbohydrate one day after lifting (to the tune of over 100 grams of carb from kettle corn and Chex) and an hour later my glucose reading was 123 mg/dl.  That’s the highest I’ve ever seen it.  I’ve not yet tried the same amount of carb from SuperStarch to see the difference in blood glucose levels, (honestly, it’s just not as much fun but I will do it in the name of science) and plan on trying it sometime in the next couple of weeks.

This past weekend I went out for a 2 hour bike ride.  Fasting blood glucose level was 88.  Drank UCAN and protein, went for my ride, (only drank water while out) and after the ride blood sugar was 87.  Pretty darn stable.  Had I ridden any longer I would have had some additional nutrition.  Definitely no sense of bonking while I was out.  This was a steady endurance/tempo ride, so low-moderate intensity.  For higher intensity riding I would likely have needed additional calories sooner.  This is just my experience, so remember that your mileage may vary.

We are all biochemical snowflakes, and what is working for me may not work for you.  The best thing to do is try to track your intake as well as your response as best you can so you can see what is or is not working and make changes accordingly.

Yes you can.

Next post about Gen UCAN will be after I do some more testing.   Until then, and ss always, if you need more info on living a healthier Gluten Free and Fit life, there’s lots of resources on Gluten Free and Fit 101 that can help.  Have at it.

Generation UCAN: Gluten Free Sports Supplement: Part 1

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Generation UCAN is a sports supplement company I recently was made aware of, and the more I’ve learned about their company philosophy, people who comprise the company, and products; the more I like them.  This is an introduction to them, and part one of a series because there is so much to share with you about the company, the product and the science behind it, and then my testing of it that it will require a few posts.  Plus I blabber.

First of all, you’ve got to love that name.  After all my talking about “do what you CAN do” of course I dig the statement that “Generation UCAN is an idea, a feeling, an attitude, a fresh perspective. We are a new generation with a ‘Today’s the Day’ mentality…We intend to empower minds and prove that “can’t” is a thing of the past. After that, we plan to host charitable fundraisers, tackle childhood obesity and stick a flag on Mars.”  Right?!?!

The main unique component in the products that UCAN makes at this point is called SuperStarch.


It is a complex, slowly digesting form of a specially processed (non GMO) corn starch.  SuperStarch was formulated originally for one of the founders of the company’s son, Jonah, who was unable to process carbohydrate like most of us can.  He was requiring feedings every two hours, and his family wanted to find a way to make him less dependent on constant influxes of food.  Scientists were commissioned, and SuperStarch was formulated.

From UCAN’s website:

This complex carbohydrate provides a steady release of glucose, keeping blood-sugar levels (energy) steady much longer. This discovery is like gold for our athletes. But for Jonah, it just meant a chance to sleep through the night. It meant a chance to get out and play baseball or on the ice and play hockey in the cold Connecticut air with his parents watching proudly. It meant a chance to live.

So what does this mean to us?

Again from UCAN’s site:

Generation UCAN powered by SuperStarch puts the body in its ideal performance state, allowing for:

  • Optimized performance with energy when you need it, without the spike and crash.
  • Sustained energy with extended delivery of glucose, keeping you above baseline longer.
  • Enhanced fat burn from suppressed insulin response, tapping into your body’s fat stores.
  • Speedier recovery as your body begins rebuilding with our protein enhanced products.
  • No gastric distress, by emptying the slowly quickly and digesting slowly in the intestine.

I want to mention that Dr. Jeff Volek has been involved with the testing of SuperStarch, and if you have heard anything about Dr. Volek, you probably know that he is known as a low carb guy for sure.  The majority of his research and writings have been dealing with the benefits and usage of a low carbohydrate diet.  When UCAN wanted their product tested, they wanted a skeptic.  Someone who would truly test the product with no preconceptions of its efficacy.

They found that in Dr. Volek, and an independent double blinded study SuperStarch was found to be the carbohydrate that really doesn’t act like a carbohydrate.  It gives the beneficial aspects of carbohydrate on performance, but without an insulin spike that can be detrimental.  If you are interested in the sciency stuff, there is a lot of information on UCAN’s website that you can peruse.  It’s really interesting (if you are a nutritional science nerd like me, that is.)

Gluten free

Plus, UCAN’s products have been independently tested and found to be free from gluten.

They are also pursuing gluten free certification.  They currently have 2 main lines of products, an electrolyte/SuperStarch blend sports drink mix (primarily for endurance cardio events, like cycling/running/etc) and a recovery powder (a whey protein and SuperStarch blend, can be used prior to or after activity dependent on what you are doing.)  There are additional products in the pipeline which will be coming soon.

This information was all very cool for me to learn personally.  I have reactive hypoglycemia, which means when I ingest a large amount of carbohydrate, my blood sugar tanks (as in, goes too low) afterward.  My husband has the same issue, and we both experience it primarily related to exercise.  Fueling a long bike ride of greater than 2 hours can be a challenge.

Also, I have had issues with osmolality of common commercial sports drinks (basically my stomach gets upset because the liquid doesn’t digest properly, that whole pesky sodium/potassium/sugar balance thing.) describes it well:

When eating foods with high osmolality due to high electrolytes, amino acids and simple sugars, why do people suffer discomfort?  When nutrition of high osmoticity is ingested, large amounts of water will transfer to the stomach and intestines. Large amounts of water in the gastrointestinal tract can cause distention, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and shock.  The body tries to keep the osmoticity of the contents of the stomach and intestines at approximately the same level as that of the fluid surrounding them.  There is great variation from one individual to another in sensitivity to the osmoticity of foods.

Um, yeah.  So I’m sensitive. What of it?

The upshot of all this is that there were lots of reasons that Generation UCAN products appealed to me.

(Side note: If you are doing exercise lasting less than one hour, you do not need a “sports drink” of any kind.  Yes, nutrition before and after.  But let’s not go nuts and replace all the calories you’ve expended if you are trying to lose fat, mmmkay?)

Then, there’s the company attitude and philosophy.  If you check out their Facebook page, you’ll see all sorts of inspirational quotes and pictures.

Generation UCAN is an idea, a feeling, an attitude, a fresh perspective. We are a new generation with a ‘Today’s the Day’ mentality.

You can see why I identify with this company’s perspective.  It’s like I’m talking to myself 😉

If you are interested, I highly recommend you spend some time clicking around UCAN’s website.  It’s super user friendly and intuitive with a ton of information.

See, this is why I’m splitting this stuff up.  I’m over a thousand words already, for Pete’s sake!

As always, if you need more info on living a healthier Gluten Free and Fit life, there’s lots of resources on Gluten Free and Fit 101 that can help.  Have at it.

Step Away From the Resolutions: Make a Lifestyle Tweak Instead


Step Away From the Resolutions: Make a Lifestyle Tweak Instead

Yup, it’s about that time again.

The time of year when drunken (or not) love is professed, lofty goals stated and unrealistic items wished for.

It may be a few years old, but my post on How to Avoid a New Year’s Resolution Fail still holds true.  Go ahead, go read it.  I’ll wait. Then come back.  I’ll be waiting.

Since that time, there is one more point that I think is truly crucial when it comes time to make a lifestyle tweak.  Or resolution.  Or goal.  whatever you call it, it’s really the same thing, right?

Make your goals, or resolution, or whatever…behavior/performance based, not just outcome based.

Now, what the heck do I mean by that?

Here’s some examples to show you what I mean, and this is one of my goals.

Outcome based goal: This year I will win my class in the Masters division in a local Figure competition.

Behavior/performance based goal: This year I will train and prepare as if I will compete in one Figure competition.  I will choose a date and comply with a nutrition, cardio, and resistance training plan in preparation.  Regardless or not if I actually choose to step on stage, I will reach that date in my best physical condition to date.

So what’s the difference?

In the first example, I cannot control who else is in my class, what condition they are in, the judging, the weather, or the alignment of the stars.  There are many factors that are not in my control that will affect if I can achieve that goal.  In the second example, each one of the items mentioned is strictly within my control (excepting any unforeseen injury, of course.)

Just for grins, here’s another personal example.

Outcome based goal: This year I will improve my time in a metric century (cycling terminology for 62 miles, 100 kilometers)

Performance/behavior based goal: This year I will follow a properly periodized cycling and resistance training program to increase my average speed and power on the bike

The difference between these 2 examples is that there may be a hellacious wind on the day of the metric, which is entirely possible here in south Florida and could absolutely affect the time it takes me to complete the distance.  That would certainly affect the outcome, but not the process I completed to get there, which is really the important part anyway.

Take care of the process, and achieving the goal take care of itself.  Without completing the processes and behaviors day in and day out, the goal(s) will never get achieved.  (Unless you find the goal fairy, in which case please give her my email.)

Also, as much as possible, make your behavior based goals these 5 things:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

I’m not sure if that’s what the person who came up with the SMART acronym had in mind, but that’s what I use it for.  So, instead of saying “I will drink more water” say “I will drink 3-4 liters of water daily.”  Or, instead of “I will exercise more” (let’s say your exercise is exactly nothing at the current time) you may not want to set a goal of hiking the Grand Canyon.  Maybe start with “I will walk around the block once after dinner every night, and by the end of the next month I will go around twice.”  See what I mean?

Don’t get caught up in the resolution hoopla.  Decide to make changes, whenever you feel as if you are ready to give yourself the kick in the rear you need.  ‘Cause really that’s the most important part, not the date on the calendar.

If you’d like to share your lifestyle tweaks, feel free! If you’d like some assistance in tweaking your tweak to make it SMART, leave it below and we’ll help out.

If part of your tweaking involves a healthier spin on your gluten free life, there’s lots of resources on Gluten Free and Fit 101 that can help.  Have at it.

Even with all that, Happy New Year!!