Generation UCAN Sports Drink Mix Review

The Disclaimer Biz

Generation UCANLet me begin with a ridiculously long disclaimer. I am not a nutrition professional, but I bring to this post what each of you also possess: a lifetime of experience with food, drink, and other nutrient-delivery methods. When it comes to what we consume, I’ve learned that we’re each an experiment of one. What works great for your body may work just alright for someone else’s. And, the nutrition formula that suits each of us best can and does change through the course of our lives, too.

Like any review we publish on iRunFar, I write from the perspective of what works for me, not from the perspective of what could or should work for anyone else. Nutrition is so much more personalized than a pair of running tights or a shirt, so that’s probably why this is iRunFar’s second-ever review of a nutrition product. (Bryon once reviewed gels. Go figure.) That said, chances are good that, if I prefer a product, some of you will find it an equally good fit. But, should you decide to use Generation UCAN’s sports drink mixes or any other nutrition supplements, use them because they work for you.

What is Generation UCAN?
Generation UCAN’s website
says that the company’s two sport drink mixes, one designed for before and during exercise and another that’s protein-enhanced for after a workout, are composed of what they call SuperStarch. According to the company, SuperStarch is a complex carbohydrate (ground up, hydrothermally-treated, non-GMO corn) that, during exercise, metabolizes slowly, prevents the insulin spikes and drops that accompany the digestion of simple sugars, and allows the body to partially fuel itself with stored fat.

The Sports Drink Mix comes in three flavors: Cran-Raz (cranberry and raspberry-flavored), Lemonade, Pom-Blue (pomegranate and blueberry-flavored), and Plain. The Protein-Enhanced Sports Drink Mix is available in Vanilla and Chocolate. Besides the corn starch, each has some additional flavoring ingredients. The Protein-Enhanced Sports Drink Mixes also have whey protein. The products contain no caffeine, sugar, or gluten.

The company makes several recommendations for the use of their products. They recommend ingesting the Sports Drink Mix 30-45 minutes before a long training event or race. For events of several hours or more, they recommend using a second Sports Drink Mix serving midway through the exercise period. Then, they recommend consuming the Protein-Enhanced Sports Drink Mix within 30 minutes of completing an endurance outing.

All the drink mixes are very fine powders, and each come with slightly variable mixing instructions. Basically, you mix a serving with a certain amount of cold water in a bottle and shake like heck. You can also add the mix to a smoothie or more creative drink combination.

Why I Chose Generation UCAN
I chose to test the Generation UCAN sports drink mixes for two reasons. First, I experience rapid shifts in my blood-sugar levels. You know someone like me: someone who feels best when they eat moderate amounts of food every few hours, who always keeps a snack at close hand, and who stores a gel in their sports bra on almost every run just in case. I wondered if the Generation UCAN mixes would stymie the blood sugar-based bonks I sometimes experience while running.

Second, when I discovered UCAN last winter, I was in the early throes of training for the Marathon des Sables, a week-long race in which you carry a backpack containing all the food you’ll eat that week. That is, if the Generation UCAN products fulfilled their claims, I might be able to rely a bit more on my body’s stored fat for racing fuel, rather than carrying a heavy load of traditional race nutrition.

I tested these mixes on long runs and races for six months, and now the Generation UCAN Sports Drink Mix has become a regular part of my pre-long run or race nutrition plan. Let me elaborate on my experiences.

Testing Generation UCAN in Training
First, let’s talk about the mixes’ consistency. The Generation UCAN powders feel different in my mouth than pretty much every other powder. Basically, no matter how hard you shake your mix and water, you can still feel the powder in your drink. For me, the consistency was a non-issue before and after workouts, but it did bother me a bit mid-workout.

Now, taste. I have read other athletes’ descriptions of these mixes as having a subtle flavor compared to various sports drinks. However, on my taste buds, the mixes presented significant almost all enjoyable flavorings. Among the Sports Drink Mixes, the Pom-Blue was easily my favorite. I could drink that stuff all day. I also dug the Cran-Raz and Lemonade flavors. The Plain flavor? On my taste buds, it’s neither plain nor palatable. I could still taste it no matter what kind of smoothie I mixed it into. Among the Chocolate and Vanilla Protein-Enhanced Sports Drink Mixes, the flavors were, for me, an even draw of awesome.

Here’s what went down when I tested the drink mixes according to each of Generation UCAN’s recommendations for use. Since I started consuming the Sports Drink Mix before long workouts last December, I’ve not had a single blood-sugar bonk. If you’ve gone on long mountain runs with me in the past, you’ve probably had to, at some point, sit on a rock while I eat 500 calories and recover from a bonk. This never feels fun and I have been elated to shut that nutrition door with the use of the Sports Drink Mixes before my workouts.

With regular, repeated Generation UCAN product use before long runs, my body learned to run on less traditional fuel. When I first started using the mix, I needed to fuel normally with my traditional fuels. However, after about two months of using the product either once or twice-per-week for a long run, I could complete those runs (18-25 miles and, in most cases, with a weighted pack as Marathon des Sables training) on one serving of the Sports Drink Mix beforehand and 1, 2 or 3 gels during the run. This is in contrast to similar training runs that previously required about 2 gels per 90 minutes of exercise.

For me, eating almost nothing for three to six hours during a run presents one side effect: hunger. While my energy is good, my stomach rumbles! I find myself drinking more water on these runs to put something inside my belly.

I also used the Sports Drink Mix during some of my long runs, as per the company’s recommendations. I began testing the mixes mid-run after I had already been using them before my long runs for several months. I could not detect a difference in consuming a second serving mid-workout. I tested the mixes midway through both runs of up to 6 1/2 hours in length. As previously mentioned, I was not bothered by the mixes’ consistency when I drank them before or after my workouts, but I had trouble with drinking them midway through a run. Drinking 16 or so ounces of Sport Drink Mix and water leaves what feels like a chalky coating in my mouth that is bothersome during a workout.

Finally, I tested the Protein-Enhanced Sports Drink Mix after about a dozen workouts. In all but one case, I mixed the powder into a smoothie. After 12 tests, however, I returned to using my beloved, other post-workout recovery powder (which I have used for the 6 years I have been an ultrarunner). I felt that the Generation UCAN mix performed the same as my “old reliable” mix in terms of starting the recovery process. In this case, apparently, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks when the old tricks are just as good.

Generation UCAN in Racing
For me, the higher energy output of races requires the use of more traditional fuel than long training runs, even when I’m consuming Generation UCAN’s Sports Drink Mix before the race. I’ve now tested the Sports Drink Mix at 6 races (a marathon; two 50ks; a 3-day, 95-mile stage race; and a 7-day, 150-mile stage race). Before using Generation UCAN, I would normally consume about 200 calories per hour of traditional fuels (and aid-station food/drink in some cases) in a 50k race and up to 300 calories per hour in stage races. At the Marathon des Sables, the 7-day stage race, I ran well and felt strong on between 150 and 200 calories per hour of traditional fuel after having a Sports Drink Mix prior to each stage of racing.

In Summary
Nutrition is 100% unique to the individual. We each have to find a nutrition plan for life and sport that suits us. Generation UCAN is good stuff for me when used before a long run or race. When I drink a serving of the Sports Drink Mix as per company recommendations before long events, my energy levels remain even. In addition, after several months of regular Generation UCAN use, my body now requires less traditional fuel during those events, especially during training runs. I am a regular Generation UCAN Sports Drink Mix user.

Call for Comments

  • If you’ve used Generation UCAN, what did you think?
  • How do you most often fuel during your runs?
  • Does your in-race nutrition differ from your normal long-run nutrition?

 

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor, the author of ‘Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,’ and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world’s wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 30 comments

  1. Trailrutger

    I race and train on Roosvicee, which is a concentrated fruit juice with hibiscus fruit.

    I mix it with water and salt, this works very well for me.

    No stomach issues what so ever.

  2. Rob Timko

    Spent 50$ (Boy, this stuff is really expensive for just corn starch!) on it a few weeks ago after being diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia (which caused some super super bonks with my maltodextrin+water nutrition plan). I learned quickly that you can't use it like you would maltodextrin+water, where you can fill a bottle in high concentrate with say, 500+ calories. Hell, I tried cran-raz in just a 2 packets to 16oz ratio and it was terrible (gritty, clumpy). I still have a bunch left, so I'm going to keep giving it a try, but it's going to take a bit to get used to the consistency and taste. Going to give Vitargo a try as well.

  3. Sidney Chen

    I've been using UCAN sport drink and recovery mix for the past 3 months after reading Sunny Blende's Jan/Feb 2012 Ultrarunning article. My results are similar to yours- it evens out my energy so there is less of a roller-coaster effect and I need fewer mid-run calories, which further reduces the energy spikes and lows.

    As for mid-run hunger, I find a few nibbles of a BonkBreaker (and lots of water) helps to keep that at bay. Regarding mid-run use of UCAN, I've been choking it down (not fun), but I want to try riffing off of Dave Mackey's trick of making Vitargo "gel" that he describes in his latest blog entry. I'm thinking the slighly chalky consistency would be ok as a gel (with a water chaser), but I'm finding that I like my drink to go down easy. A UCAN "gel" might be a good way to refuel mid-run.

    The recovery mix worked fine, but I've gone back to my old standby, Endurox, primarily for the lower cost and the results didn't seem that much different than Endurox.

    Overall, I really like UCAN, especially for 3+ hr runs. It is a bit spendy, but I find it worthwhile to not ride the energy roller-coaster.

  4. Linda Quirk

    I have been using UCAN for over 2 years and believe strongly in it's benefits especially to endurance athletes. One component that seems to be missing from all of the above posts is that for UCAN to be more effective it helps if you've trained your body to be Metabolically Efficient. By doing this you teach your body to tap into your fat stores before carb stores. Sports dietician Bob Seebohar has written a few books on how to utilize MET. You can download these at http://www.Fuel4mance.com.

    I have successfully completed Racing The Planets 4 Deserts Grand Slam in one calendar year becoming the first American woman and oldest person to do this. I did it fueled by Generstion UCAN. It was also my nutrition for the Keys100 and Javelina 100 last year.

    I use it pre-race and also during a race. During a race I have it mixed into a gel consistency (1 packet mixed with water until I get the consistency I like). I only use the chocolate because for me the taste holds up in heat.

    Happily for me I have been able to eliminate gels and carbo loading from my race regime. Post race if able to I like 0% Greek yogurt with blueberries and a little Agave.

    Totally am a UCAN believer…best product on the market! We have a discount code if anyone is interested in trying UCAN. At check out enter Runwell2012

    1. D_Lucas

      Wonderful insights Linda,

      I am about to try ucan for a 100 miler this week (it's in 2 days). I would greatly appreciate any insights as to how often, how much, and especcially, convenient ways to carry it for the run. I'm planning to have a half cliff bar every hour in addition to the ucan mix. Please contact me at [email protected]

  5. Seamus Foy

    I used Vitargo in a few training runs, and then during my first ultra, the Bear Mt. 50. A lot happened that day, but I never bonked. It definitely passes through the stomach quickly, though I will try Dave Mackey's gel preparation next time.

    I think the way to go might be UCAN before long training runs to help the body shift to fat burning, and then Vitargo for carbs during the race. Supposedly you can consume 500-1000 calories of Vitargo per hour. That's not necessary, but if 1000 is possible, 400 sounds pretty good.

  6. Eric Colorado

    I actually ordered some last week but I haven't received it yet. I heard about it through this blog: http://waroninsulin.com/ it's kind of cool, this guy is in a state of nutritional ketosis because he basically doesn't consume carbs. I'm going to give this a try for a 50km next week (cross fingers).

  7. MikeC AK

    Meghan, I had similar "blood sugar" issues, bonking frequently, irritable… incorrectly diagnosed as insulin sensitivity, actually a Gluten/Dairy intollerance/Allergy. Just food for thought(ha).

  8. Paul Reynolds

    Vitargo,in my opinion,is lightyears ahead in terms of providing energy without gut issues. I make up a bottle with a thick mix and also carry water to hydrate. You can also make up small bags of the powder to mix with the water from aid stations aswell,if you need to. If you put the powder into your bottle first,then some water,it will mix perfectly.

  9. Helen McMillan

    I use UCAN before and during long runs – I was having major issues with my stomach and this has really help. I mix in a drink bottle with ice and shake and it works great. Have been using for quite a few months now. As long as I stick to just this I am good.

  10. Jake Lawrence

    I've used UCAN as a gel, following Dave Mackey's instructional video. It worked well, but was a complete mess when consuming on the trail/race. The problem I find is when UCAN gets even mildly warm it is very unappetizing. If your race has a drop bag location it would be wise to pre-mix your UCAN refuel, keep it as iced/cold as possible. My recommendation is to take two packets an 1-1.5 hours before your race start time. I use the plain, one scoop of EFS drink, and one NUUN tab in 20 oz. Decent consistency, good flavor, keeps you fueled for at least 3 hours of mountain running.

    1. Sidney Chen

      Both UCAN and Vitargo are food products, albeit highly processed ones derived from cornstarch. If you have issues digesting cornstarch, then you might have an issue w/these products, but you should check out the info on their websites. Same goes for mixing w/medication. Note that UCAN was originally developed for medical use, but its use for athletes was recognized early on.

  11. Sammy Kim

    Linda mentions a high fat, low carb diet in her post above. Meghan or anyone else who has tried UCAN, have you also been on a high fat, low carb diet (<50g carb per day, ,1.8g/kg protein per day)? If so, which UCAN product did you try and what did you see before/after? Thanks!

    1. Linda Quirk

      Sammy, I follow Bob Seebohar's MET program eating lean meats, fruits and vegetables. I have eliminated most breads, pastas, potatoes, etc., but still get my carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. I do not eat a high fat diet rather have trained my body to tap into my own fat stores before needing to use my carbohydrate stores. Hope you visit Bob's website http://www.Fuel4mance.com to see the work he is doing. You can purchase his online books as well as webinars.

  12. Martha

    I've been trying a low-carb, high fat diet for a while now. It allows me to run and/or exercise 2+ hours in the morning before eating anything (couldn't do this on my prior standard diet). In a race, I need fewer calories (for example, last November I ran a 50-miler on 5 gu's and a 3-4 PB&J sandwich quarters. Also used Vespa). I'm really excited about trying UCAN – ordered some today. I'm hoping it will help me cut body fat, and also make fueling for longer ultras even easier.

  13. Mike Papageorge

    So I'm not Linda, but I figured I would chime in and mention that, from what I recall, volek and phinney mention that superstarch is okay if you are in ketosis (in The Art and Science of Low Carb Performance).

  14. Chris

    I have been using Vitargo with success, but have purchased some ucan to try this weekend. I see it has electrolytes, but not really a full compliment. (No calcium or magnesium.) I am assuming I should still pop the endurolytes, but am worried this may mess with the system and the balance I've worked out. Has anyone had this experience? Do they just rely on the ucan electrolytes for their needs?

  15. Sidney Chen

    You might want to check out Sunny Blende’s Jan/Feb 2012 Ultrarunning article- she compares Vitargo and Ucan and explains the differences between the two.

    As for electrolytes, although Ucan has some sodium, it is not promoted as an electrolyte replacement. I use S-Caps when necessary along w/Ucan and have had no problems.

  16. Martha

    Follow-up: UCAN has worked really well for me (so far I've used it for two 50k's and during long training runs, as well as the chocolate and vanilla flavors as recovery drinks.). It's also worked well for my friends who are eating a standard (medium-to-high carb) diet. If you want to eat some real food during the event and you're fueling with UCAN, just stay away from sugar – have something with a little fat & protein (PB pretzels, Bonk Breaker bars, nuts/nut butters). For mid-race use, I mixed it with just enough water to fit in a gel flask, which i carried with me. (Consume, then add a little more water from your bottle & shake to get the remaining amount out of the gel flask.) I think the LCHF diet and UCAN use are working – my body fat is at the lowest end of the range for women, but I have good energy.

  17. SteveK

    I was using Vitargo but now I am reconsidering because it spikes insulin levels higher than maltodextrin. It's one of the things they promote as being a good thing. However, during an endurance event that insulin spike essentially shuts down fat burning, causing you to rely more on carbs – and the vicious cycle repeats itself. My understanding is that, all things being equal, lower insulin levels promote fat burning so it's best to keep it as low (or as steady) as possible. I'm giving UCAN a try to see how it works for me.

  18. Brenner Klenzman

    Having just discovered UCAN, I have only had the opportunity to use UCAN in two Olympic triathlons this fall. I have a very sensitive GI, so pre-race and in-race nutrition has always been a big worry for me.

    If the first race I had a smoothie about 3 hrs before the race (soy milk, banana, egg protein) and a double-serving of UCAN. I brought gels for the bike, but didn't need them. I had really stable energy through the entire race, and could have kept going. My pre-race breakfast did bother me a bit towards the end.

    In my second race I had no pre-race meal (no food since 7pm the prior evening). I brought 1-serving with me to consume shortly before race start, and another in a bottle on the bike. This worked VERY well. I had my best race ever, and again, could have kept going. (And…wooohoo…a very happy GI system!).

    I was on a UCAN teleconference yesterday, and learned that my second race strategy is preferable since it puts your body into a carb-depleted state and into one where it's already burning fat for energy. UCAN encourages the body to burn fat for energy.

    In terms of mixing it, I'm using 4oz of water to 1-scoop. This produces a somewhat runny gel-like consistency, which I've found much more pleasant to consume than a more drink-like consistency. It also makes it easy to carry on the bike/run in a small gel flask.

    I'd have to say, I was a serious doubter going into this, but now I think it works so well I'm reluctant to tell my tri-club friends about it so I don't lose my unfair advantage!

  19. bigmikeede

    Hi Guys,
    I may be missing the point here but as this "super starch" digests in the large intestine rather than the stomach then surely it is just a resistant starch? In which case why not buy Bob's Red Mill Unmodified Potato starch (which I believe is about 80% RS and 20% water) and is cheap as chips? (or fries?)
    Cheers,
    Mike

  20. Betsypotocik

    Hello, reading the reviews of UCAN out of curiosity since I am a research nurse and did the research on the medical version invented for a rare disease called Glycogen Storage Disease. This disease does not allow the liver to release glycogen to the body for fuel. So, where to get the fuel needed? Cornstarch, which is administered to the body every 3-4 hrs, provides the needed fuel. There is a formula for this. Without this, the blood sugar plummets to 0. The cornstarch was modified to provide a slow release during the NIGHT and is fuel for 8-10+ hours for these people while sleeping. Read the science on the UCAN site, which is hard to argue against. Remember, this is modified cornstarch and needs to be taken as instructed. Any carbohydrate in too high a dose will cause an insulin spike, more isn't always better. Taking UCAN with energy bars etc. can easily cause an insulin spike. Use it by itself and go from there. The powder does breakdown in heat and should not be mixed with liquid until ready for use. Going from a certified couch potato to a sculler at the age of 57 works for me! Thanks, Betsy Potocik

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