October 22, 2012

Exercise

Introduction to Superstarch – Part I

by Peter Attia

Read Time 2 minutes

Occasionally, I have alluded to a product I use to improve my athletic performance.  This product, derived from corn starch, is called Superstarch and is produced by Generation UCAN.  Many of you have asked a lot of questions about it, and so at last I’d like to take the time to really explain this technology to you.

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you probably already know one thing about me: I don’t do bumper stickers. I tend to leave that to the really smart folks who can take complex topics and turn them into slogans.  Instead, I tend to like the nuanced explanations.  In keeping with that spirit, I decided to create a presentation to formally introduce you to Superstarch.

In reality, if you want to understand why you’re better off consuming Superstarch instead of Gatorade, Powerade, goo, gel, or other “sports nutrition” products out there, you need to know how they work. I know, I know, most people don’t want to understand this sort of stuff.  And they certainly don’t want to read a 10,000 word post on the topic.  But if you really want to understand the remarkable evolution in sports nutrition, you sort of have to understand the whole evolution of these products, which is why I put this video together.

Jeff Volek introduced me to Superstarch.  After using it for a few months, and being completely blown away by it, I wanted to know more. I was introduced to the co-founder, Peter Kaufman, and soon I was poring over their patents in an effort to understand how in the heck they made this stuff. Once I understood this, I never looked back.  Today I simply refer to Superstarch as “superior technology.”  If Superstarch is the latest iPhone, all other sports nutrition products are rotary phones.  They simply don’t belong in the same sentence.

But to understand why I would make such a strong statement, you should not just take my word for it. In Part I of this post (i.e., the video, below) I’ll walk you through the nuances of how our bodies use stored energy (i.e., food and internal stored sources) to generate motion (and life, actually). Once you understand the basics I’ll explain why Superstarch is a step-function improvement over all existing products.

In Part II, I will share an interview with one of the most prolific trainers of professional athletes, who has not only transformed his training with Superstarch, but also that of some of the highest profile athletes in the country.

In the end I believe you’ll come to appreciate that this technology, while originally developed to save the lives of children with a very rare genetic disorder, is going to revolutionize sports nutrition as we know it.

The link to this video can also be found here, for those reading this post on email or those wishing to view it in a larger format.

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user's own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.

261 Comments

  1. Hi Peter,

    I am on day 10 of the keto diet and have experienced amazing results already. I’ve been stuck at 25-35% body fat for several years despite several times getting into very good cycling shape, and so far I’ve been averaging more calories per day on the keto diet yet have lost several pounds of body fat. Crazy! I have some questions about high intensity training (cycling) in a ketogenic state, as it has been a little tough for me so far, but I will read a bit more to see if I have missed some info. The main thing I wanted to ask is, how did your ascent of Palomar improve when you got your weight down to 75 kg? Also, why can’t I find you in any of the usual places on the web (USAC, Strava, etc.), are you racing under a pseudonym? I did find one Eddy Merckx division result at Fiesta Island–pretty solid time for a conventional setup!

    Thanks!

    Chria

  2. As a pulmonologist and keto-adapted triathlete, I enjoyed your post “How a low carb diet affected my athletic performance (Part 4)” in which you describe your self-experiment with cardiopulmonary exercise testing before and after keto-adaptation very much. You finish the post with some very important questions: “The real question is how can you get the best of both worlds? That is, is there a way to reap the benefits of keto-adaptation of on the aerobic side, without any of the anaerobic cap costs?”. You finish the excellent post with the remark: “In short, I believe the answer is yes, and I look forward to writing about this in great detail in the near future.” I guess you are referring to SuperStarch supplementation prior to exercise. I was curious whether you have once performed cardiopulmonary exercise testing in a keto-adapted state with and without SuperStarch supplementation, because I could not find such a self-experiment in your SuperStarch-posts. There are two possible explanations for the reduced maximal workload in the keto-adapted athlete. Is it due to decreased glycogen muscle stores, the lower activity of glycolytic enzymes or a combination of both. Only if decreased glycogen muscle stores are the reason for a reduced maximal workload in the keto-adapted state, improvement of the maximal workload can be expected after SuperStarch supplementation. I will do this self-experiment in our pulmonary function lab but was just curious whether you or someone else has done this experiment before.

  3. How does regular corn starch compare to UCAN’s SuperStarch? osmolality, blood sugar spike/crash, etc. I’ve dug into multiple results pages on Google, read several journal papers and many blogs, but couldn’t find anybody showing similar studies comparing regular corn starch v maltodextrin, SS, or simple sugars.

  4. Peter: Thank you for the informative post and lecture. I have now listened to the lecture three times, and it only gets better with each listen. I am a 53 year old ultra runner and cyclist (with a weight lifting problem). I am essentially re-born now that I have gone low carb — stronger than ever and psyched to continue the “experiment.” I have a question which you have likely answered elsewhere, or you haven’t answered because the answer is obvious: if the fat adapted body has tens of thousands of fat calories it can access (which I totally agree with), then why do we need to ingest fat as fuel before and during long endurance efforts? Thanks in advance. Art

  5. I did a “poor man’s” version of super starch ingestion last night. My rationale was to tweak my ketone adapted diet in preparation for a Half Marathon race– I was less than happy with a 10 k race performance 2 weeks ago, but in retrospect, maybe the pace of the race was more intense than ideal for a purely fat-optimised diet. So just for laughs after a slightly more CHO generous start to the day (22g late breakfast compared to usually negligible, but gradually increasing in the last week or so) I added hourly increments of small half slices of buttered toast in the late afternoon. Half hourly blood glucose monitoring revealed 30-60 minute post meal spikes of less than 6 mM, quickly flattened out within another half hour, except for a spike of 7.3 mM when I added a trivial (I thought) smear of jelly to the toast; again this flattened out to 5.5 within 60 minutes. Except for this mistake, I thought this compared well to the pre-marketing study where Superstarch created an initial slight post ingestion peak of approx 118g/dl (~6.6mM). I finally gave up and just before bed-time I had 1/3 cup of oatmeal which is about 8g of, I hope, reasonably slow release carbohydrate to top up my tanks during sleep.

    For reference I weigh 51kg; I had not exercised that day.

    This morning my pre-race fasting glucose was 5.5 mM and my BoHB was 0.5, suggesting residual keto-adaptation. I did not have a pre-race meal, like I would have done last year (pre-keto), as I did not want to disrupt my no eating before exercise routine of the past year. Well the race went better than my 10 k — in fact at 10 k my time was better than my 10 k race time of 2 weeks ago, suggesting maybe the quasi carbo loading allowed for a higher intensity than my pure keto preparation 2 weeks ago. But I was still 2 minutes slower than last year, for a multitude of possible reasons, including one more year under my belt lol. But I still won the 60-69 age group category. Post race glucose was 6.0, BoHB was 0.6.

    My inclination for another 1/2M would be to tweak the CHO supplementation a little further — I think I ran out of steam a bit with 5k to go.

    It was an interesting experiment, though. And it demonstrated that the piecemeal titration of CHO isn’t as trivial as I thought. And as for “poor man’s” version, I sure used up a lot of glucose testing strips! So Superstarch might be cheap in context.

  6. Not sure where to ask question this so Ive placed it here. When your fitness level increases as a result of training for endurance type events, what from a physiological standpoint is leading to that increase in performance? Is it you ability to inhale more oxygen? Your ability to transport oxygenated blood to the specific muscles being used for the given task? Your cell’s ability to process the energy substrate being used? Your ability to discard waste products as a result of metabolic activity? All of the above? And if so what is the weakest link in the chain?

  7. I am disappointed that the drink mix product has sucralose in it. I did away from sugar and chemical sweeteners a few years ago. I do use stevia. I also grow my own stevia. But I have noticed that a LOT of protein powders and drinks have sucralose in them. Why, why why?

  8. Not sure if comments are still being responded too, but here goes.
    I raced triathlon for many years at half a full 140.6 and was consistently in the top 5% or so. More recently I’ve been focusing on endurance and back country mountain bike racing. I race at a reasonably high level, having won a handful of 12 hour solo races and some big back country loops. I’ve always struggled with weigh having been anywhere from 165 to 240 lb in the last 20 years. I have mild hypertension for which I take a sartan. I switched to HFLC back in June. In general I feel better on this nutrition approach, but have not found that I can sustain the high level of effort in racing without using a sugar product (Tailwind, specifically). Can Superstarch be used for extreme efforts for long duration races effectively? Is there a protocol to adapt this? I typically require ~ 300 cal/hr of a product like tailwind or I start to get too far behind and crash. Subsequently I’ve adopted a low calorie low carb training approach then use Tailwind for very long intense efforts. Beyond the insulin response Superstarch would be highly advantageous just from a weight packing scenario as some races have no support and you have to carry the entire 2-3000 calorie supply on your back, a more dense nutrient source would be convenient.

    As an aside, I recently paced an athlete from mile 78 to 90 or so at the Leadville 100 run, he had been using Superstarch as his primary nutrition source, but he was suffering some of the worst GI distress I’ve seen a human endure during a race. My assumption is he had not trained with the product sufficiently to adapt his system, or is Superstarch counterindicated if you are not engaged in a HFLC lifestyle?

  9. Dear Dr. Attia

    IT is INCREDIBLY kind of you to answer all the questions here.

    My understanding is that resistant starch such as is found in a raw potato or an unripe banana ids fermented by large bowel flora into butyrate, and then absorbed.

    Is this correct and is this the same process that happens with the UCAN product ?

    Are there functional differences between this natural RS and the Superstarch ?

    Thx
    Jeff

  10. Hi!

    This information has really blown my mind. My question is, how can this diet be applied to an athlete who relies on anaerobic energy, would a powerlifter or an ‘explosive’ athlete benefit from a high fat diet, more specifically would training for powerlifting in a fasted state or on a high fat pre-workout be counterproductive…?

    thank you,

  11. I am just starting to adopt a Ketogenic diet and am wondering how you count UCan in my diet/target numbers. I came across a post where someone said he didn’t count his UCan intake because he burned it off right away….not sure if that would work.

    Before starting Keto, I have been using 3 scoops for a 3.5-4 hour bike ride (not eating anything for breakfast, this was my nutrition for my workout). On Keto, will I need less UCan?

    Any info you have that you can share would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Erica

Leave a Reply

Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon Pinterest icon Google+ icon YouTube icon LinkedIn icon Contact icon