The Disclaimer Biz
Let 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.
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?