A new approach to fueling for distance


Bruce showing off his favorite product for long runs!

If you are a long distance runner, chances are you have consumed some type of energy gel to fuel your miles. Most likely, this gel (or chew, bar, bean, etc) is a simple carbohydrate source based on fructose, sucrose, or maltodextrin. These carbs work really well at saving you from a low blood sugar crash because they are small molecules, meaning your body can easily absorb and use them. Your blood sugar quickly goes back up and your body has a source of fuel. The downside to using these sugars is that a cycle emerges: low blood sugar crash, sugar source taken in, high blood sugar spike, repeat.

What is the disadvantage here? At first glance, it seems the only problem with this cycle is that you have to continually take in energy during longer durations, meaning you pack a few gels for a long training run rather than just one. Is that really so bad? Well, there are actually worse biological side effects occurring.

When your blood sugar spikes, your body releases insulin, a chemical responsible for helping your cells take in and use sugar as fuel. With a moderate amount of blood sugar, insulin does its job and stabilizes your blood to normal levels, and your cells get the fuel they need. With high blood sugar spikes, however, the increased amounts of insulin needed begin to present issues. Insulin has other jobs, which include increasing fat storage enzymes while simultaneously blocking fat releasing enzymes. Essentially, your cells begin storing extra sugar as fat while blocking your body from burning its fat sources as fuel. As a runner, the last thing you want is to force your body to make room for more fat storage, which it would be happy to do.

Generation UCAN, a new nutrition product, is made from a totally different carbohydrate source- superstarch. This molecule is larger than simple sugars, meaning it takes longer for the body to break it down. The effect here is no spike in blood sugar or insulin response, but rather a stable level. The lack of insulin response means that your body can convert to burning fat for fuel, because your body has enough fuel in your stored fat to last several marathons!

Bruce, a member of our staff, avid marathoner, and the head coach of our distance training programs has tried UCAN with great success. Before trying UCAN  Bruce felt sick toward the end of long races or training runs and was tired of consuming countless sweet gels. He tried UCAN and found that his hunger was managed and that his stomach was not sick, even during long marathon training runs. His advice? “Take the powder in small doses rather than large doses [of water] so that it’s thicker and easier to down quickly.” Otherwise, you may end up taking in too much liquid before a run and, as Bruce kindly puts it, “spending a lot of time behind a tree for the first mile.”

“For me, it just goes down really easily,” Bruce said. “While it’s not delicious, I think the taste is fine. And I haven’t had one bad stomach reaction.”

The product is most beneficial for runners doing longer distance races, as the need to fuel increases when you are planning to run for more than an hour and a half. If you’re interested in trying the product, stop by the store to check it out! You can read more about the science on the UCAN website.

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