October 22, 2012

Exercise & Physical Health

Introduction to Superstarch – Part I

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.


  1. Hi Peter,
    Probably someone has already mentioned this, but the list of links to comments on the right side of each page seems to be missing now. This is a great tool to keep track of comments to different posts throughout the blog. Just FYI.


  2. An excellent, very imformative presentation.

    However, you should know that ‘Bonk’ and ‘Bonking’ has an entirely different meaning this side of the pond in the UK, as you said but did not explain. Over here, it is slang for sex ! 🙂 Read the right ( or should that be the wrong ? ) way, some of the comments above abbout bonking in races were hilarious. Though maybe that’s just my warped sense of humour.

    I thought you should be told, as we say.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    • Ah, yes, sorry for the confusion…I guess on your side of the Atlantic what we calling bonking you probably call call “hitting the wall.”

  3. Hi, Peter:

    Another T1 diabetic question here (a little tangential, perhaps, but your slide on insulin response to SS triggered it).

    I’m almost two months into an attempt at a ketogenic diet — following all your (and Phinney/Volek’s) dietary guidelines but failing to reach ketosis (according to my meter). Despite very conscientious efforts to stay in range, my blood sugar regularly goes higher than 6-7 mmol/L, as a result of non-food-related variables — including, perhaps, the physiological stress of changing my diet so radically. Do elevated BG levels and/or the insulin taken to lower them block the production of B-OHB? If so, do you happen to know the rough BG and/or insulin concentration levels at which this would occur?

    I’m not feeling miserable, but neither am I experiencing the great benefits of ketosis that I’ve been reading about.

    Very interesting video! I’m not enough of an endurance athlete to be interested in high-tech dietary interventions, but your lecture style is terrifically engaging.


    • Thanks, Peter … yes, I’m familiar with both Bernstein’s book and the Sweet Life blogs.

      Unfortunately for me, neither my GP nor my endocrinologist is particularly knowledgeable about low-carb/ketogenic nutrition, and none of the specialists I’ve had has ever been available for “working closely.” 🙁 So I’m doing this on my own, with all my info coming from books and the (always risky) Internet.

      I realize you’re not able to provide individual advice — hence my attempt at a more generic wording with my question! — but if you happen to have any relevant medical connections in Vancouver, BC, I’d be most interested.


  4. We made some turkey gravy with superstarch last night. I’ll be dipped if it didn’t come out perfect.

    • According to the company, heating Superstarch beyond a certain temp, perhaps 200 F can cause the structure to denature and revert to just amylopectin. Check in with them on the details.

  5. Loved every geekin’ moment of it. I’m a LCHF keto-adapted ultra runner looking for a good fueling solution for very long runs and races … have just started to play with UCAN and am thrilled to know [thanks to you] that it won’t disrupt my hard-won state of ketosis. Am looking forward to giving it a full-blown try at my next 24-hour race in three weeks.

    Thanks for the good work. Excited to see the follow-on interview too. 🙂

  6. I went on a low carb diet about a year ago. I went wheat free about three months ago. I recently had my yearly physical and my HDL went from 46 to 63 and my LDL from 70 to 80 with my triglycerides going from 48 to 33. All this with no real change in exercise levels just diet. I eat butter, red meat, fish, chicken, coconut milk…

  7. Peter, I am SOOOO not a runner or serious body builder. I do Doug McGuff’s “Body by Science” weightlifting once a week — lifting very heavy weights for a 56-yr-old, overweight (280-pound {wince}) woman, but not for an actual bodybuilder. Maybe someday but, fer shure, not yet! I do an hour of water aerobics twice a week (and sprint like hell for … well, I’m up to nearly two minutes total over a couple of bursts). I am not considering taking SS and certainly don’t foresee taking up running pretty much ever. Those descriptions given: I *absolutely* read (and benefit from!) your great-long blog entries and all the comments, every single time you post! I found you through Gary Taubes (who saved my life, as I see it!); and your blog is an important part of my focus on health, whether or not your entries apply directly to my situation. Please keep doing great-long posts — they are beyond valuable!

  8. One thing I’m trying to find more about where SS is concerned is to what extent it will give potential for muscle growth. Taking the view that carbohydrates are ‘necessary’ for muscle gains with resistance training, would the post-workout protein variant be a way of getting these necessary carbs without leaving ketosis?

    I’d like to stay in ketosis, but gain some muscle, and if this were possible using super starch, I’ll be trying all I can to get hold of some (in the UK).

    • I’m not sure that view (as logical as it sounds) is backed by science. In fact, Volek has published work directly contradicting that. That said, I use SS + protein post lifting 3 times per week. Look forward to hearing about your experience.

    • I’ve read that you also use it during some of your longer workouts, but not pre-work out. Is there a reason for that?

      During your longer workouts, do you just keep a bottle of SS+water (or whatever) mix and sip on it starting at a certain point? I haven’t seen anything about using SS during a workout, only fuel pre- and post. As a long distance runner, my general question would be, what’s the amount/timing you intake of SS during a long workout.

      • For 3+ hour rides, I generally consume a pack every 2 hours or so. See my posts on the interplay of exercise and ketosis for some particulars by workout.

    • Henry,

      My main training partner and myself have been using a ketogenic diet for the past 7 weeks. We are both athletes and already in “good” shape. We started this with the intent of taking it beyond the typical 10days -3 weeks we had used it for in the past ( in an attempt to accellerate fat loss to move down a weight bracket in wrestling).

      In the past 7 weeks we have both gained a noticeable amount of muscle while decreasing total body fat. I dont need a caliper.. the fat loss is VERY obvious as is the muscle gain. The fat loss was expected; the muscle gain was not. I use to tell people it was impossible to gain lean mass on a keto diet because thats what i had read. In our 2 cases its just not true.

  9. Hi Peter,
    I am a dietitian and I am currently researching glycogen storage disease. What is the name of the supplement that was created using the hydrothermally modified starch for treatment of children is GSD? Also, have you heard of patient’s with GSD using UCAN?


    • Reach out to the folks at UCAN directly. I don’t recall the name of the sister company, but UCAN spun out of it, I believe. Yes, many kids with GSD are using SS.

  10. Peter,

    Wow, awesome place you have here! I am constantly referring people to your page. I wish you would have started this page 3 years ago but more importantly i hope to see what the next 3 years will bring!

    I am having trouble finding answers to my question of

    ” is it simply total, daily perhaps, insulin output (i dont think thats the right term) that dictates my staying in ketosis”?

    I know some people are more sensitive to carbs than others. Timing also seems to play a part. In your personal studies were you able to determine a “ceiling limit” of carbohydrate that you could consume and remain keto-adapted? Ive read the articles and see that you were consuming around 90gms but did you try more? is there theoretical benefit?

    If i were to consume 70gms/day of cho would i be better off eating it in one meal and then returning to ketosis or am i better off having the cho trickle in throught out the day? with ucan it seems the blunted insulin response is the ticket? could i mimic the insulin response and total cho intake via simply having one bite of oatmeal, every hour on the hour? Boy, that sounds a little much but i think you can see where i am going with this. How about a slower digesting cho paired with fat to slow digestion rates? would it be possible to consume increased amounts of SS if you were to even further increase the absorbition via smaller (but more frequent) dosages? Using the above example of oats..you could potentially do the same thing with super starch? can i be walking around with high muscle glycogen levels, training hard and still be keto-adapted? is there a major flaw in this reasoning? please feel free to tear this apart if im overlooking the obvious.

    Is there an advantage to consuming SS peri-workout as opposed to simply having the muscle glycogen in place ahead of time via consumption of SS or other glycogen replenishing cho? Is the SS “brain fuel” or simply a little bump to my muscle gycogen reserves?

    I am a strength and conditioning coach, gym owner and washed up athlete 🙂 .

    My current sport/devotion is grappling (folkstyle/american wrestling and brazillian jiu-jitsu). I have found that as long as my training doesnt revolve around really high lactate-type training sessions (read: a typical wrestling practice) and instead is a more carefully planned template of skill work, low-volume strength work, reactive/dynamic strength work while avoiding lactate realms and finally most work being done in aerobic intensity zones then my lactate thresh hold continues to rise, along with all of the other performance markers we use (run times, fast/heavy lifts or lifts performed at 50-90%1rm, broad and vert jumps, various weight lifting movements etc).

    with wrestling, work low seems counter intuitive at first..until you realize that it is possible, as you know, to reach a heightened state of improvement via other means. power output is a must in wrestling but i find that in such a mixed sport one does not need to be preoccupied with lactate power/capacity if you are able to improve skill, aerobic capacity and power,LT and short term power. Im not taking anything away from the lactate demand of a sport like wrestling (you need it) but more and more I find the american training system of “just do everything as hard as you can” really doesnt cut it for most sports. wrestling/grappling isnt any different.

    Thanks for letting me share and sorry for the single question that turned into 20 of them 😉


    • To a first order approximation, pancreatic output of insulin certainly plays a big role in determining if and how much the liver converts fat into ketone bodies. So timing of meals that stimulate insulin matters and so, too, do other factors. For example, while exercising insulin levels are depressed, so one might tolerate a higher amount of “daily carbs” if ingested while exercising (assuming the type of exercise is vigorous enough to suppress insulin secretion and/or increase insulin sensitivity). You may find my posts on the interplay of exercise and ketosis helpful.

  11. Hi,
    Just starting using SS 1/2 hour before my 2-3 hr. cycling. Too small a sample size so far, but I rarely need more than water to sustain my ride pace.

    My question is post-ride. I drink a protein shake with 20-30 gram of fat and 40-50 grams of protein right after the ride. I then eat some eggs cooked in coconut oil an sausage an hour or so later. I’m definitely eating low carb (less than 50 grams a day).

    Q1: Do I need to add some carbs or calcium (supplement or cottage cheese) to the post ride protein/fat shake?
    Q2: What’s an inexpensive way to monitor if I’m maintaining ketosis and to what level?

    Thanks for all the help.

  12. Now that’s a quick reply!
    Am I correct is thinking the science shows a positive correlation between calcium levels and the body’s predisposition to use fat as its preferred energy source?
    Does the science show a correlation between post-exercise blood glucose levels and the body’s ability to restore/repair muscle?

    My Q1 was based on this information that I’ve seen in multiple places and am now trying to chase down the science.

  13. Hey Peter,

    Other than the 2011 study…

    Ingestion of a high-molecular-weight hydrothermally modi?ed waxy maize starch alters metabolic responses to prolonged exercise in trained cyclists

    …..has there been any other research into the performance effect of superstarch.

    The The metabolic responses look very interesting but the performance observations from that study were underwhelming.

    From the study….

    Time trial performance

    Upon completing the 150-min cycling bout, cyclists performed a time trial at 100% VO2peak to fatigue. Paired-samples t tests revealed that there was no difference between the HMS and MAL trials (HMS 125  28 s, MAL 136  27 s, P ¼ 0.66).

    Doug Robb aka @HealthHabits

    ps Big fan of NuSI

  14. I feel sort of out of depth discussing these things with you guys (a lot of very smart people here!) but I have a pretty dumb question… at around 18:00 minute mark you discuss the fact that it is basically physiologically impossible to ingest sufficient carbohyrdates without getting “gut-rot”… I guess what has me scratching my head is that I have ingested PLENTY of carb rich foods, sodas, sugars, etc without vomiting, cramping, or other stomach problems (except for an ever-expanding waistline). Mind you, I’ve never done so during a serious endurance exercise. Is there something about the products you’re discussing that makes them less digestible than other forms of carbohydrates? Is there something about endurance sports that makes food absorption more difficult? I’m sorry if this is an obvious question but I think I am missing something here. Also thank you very much for doing this I love reading your posts!

    • Sam, it’s mostly a function of the demand for substrate once glycogen stores are depleted. So this only applies to marathon and ultra-distance (which is my athletic background). It becomes impossible to ingest comfortably and digest calorie for calorie the demands of these activities, if you have to rely solely on glycogen. Even with the eating you describe, I doubt you were trying to ingest more than about 1 gm/hour — hour after hour — while under significant metabolic demand (i.e., when your body is preferentially sending blood to non-splancnic circulation). So certainly, someone can sit down and eat 100 gm of carb in 30 minutes and feel ok, this is not really possible when running/biking/swimming, and doing so hour after hour.

  15. It sounds like this product is better used for longer training say two plus hours. But would this product provide a substantial bennifit to me while i only practice two hours per day and spend anywhere from five to twenty minutes in a race?

  16. Hi Peter,
    I’ve been following your blog for some time now after reading Taubes’ eye opening book “Why We Get Fat”. You say you use BCAAs during weight training. What product do you use because I have a no flavor BCAA powder and there is no way in hell I could drink that straight. It’s way too bitter. I use bulk powder as it is more cost effective than pills.

    Thanks so much for all the effort you put into your blog and educating the public. Can’t wait to see what NuSI will bring to the table!

  17. Peter,
    thanks for turning me on to UCAN. i have been on VLC diet for approx 2 months and have really struggled with my higher intensity cycling workouts prior to using superstarch. for instance, 2×20 threshold intervals were a real struggle to complete and power was dramatically lower (15%) than pre-VLC diet levels. that changed when i started using SS. threshold power during intervals has improved and is now approaching pre VLC levels. i’m not sure if i can attribute it entirely to SS or there has been some ‘adaptation’ effect, but i am certainly feeling better about the diet change and impact (or lack thereof) on higher intensity cycling performance.

    one question — if i’m trying to optimize ketosis for fat metabolization, should i avoid using SS as a post-workout recovery supplement? the concern would be that i’d be metabolizing some glucose when i could be back metabolizing mostly fat…


  18. Really love your blog, the data is presented in a way that I fell like I can grasp. Most data I have seen in the past is beyond my highest grade achieved, this is a breath of fresh air and I feel like I can eliminate that ” throw it at the wall and see what sticks” approach I feel like I have been doing with my diet .

    Nothing feels better than understanding the plan.

    That said, I have a couple more questions. I added in the heavy cream for a calorie boost and saw an immediate increase in my keytone throw( urine sticks). I am switching to the blood meter, and I believe you said that you meter daily? How necessary is this? I get the desire to constantly ” make sure” but I am concerned tha I might carry this same desire to see it daily into the VERY expensive blood sticks.

    Also, my exercise is an aggressive regiment of heavy Olympic style lifting and explosive cardio( CrossFit). In my switch to LCD and Nutritional Ketosis I have seen a dramatic loss of stamina. This has not manifested itself into a loss of strength but it may come, is SS a potential answer to this type of workout? I realize you have said you feel it best suited for aerobic but wanted your thoughts on this if possible?

    • It’s certainly note “necessary” to meter daily, but I’m the most OCD person on earth, and I love to measure responses constantly. But it’s a costly habit!
      Though it took a while, I can do every form of exercise I did on high carb without many carbs, but it a long time to adapt.

  19. Peter:
    Thanks for the great information. I have recently moved away from First Endurance EFS shots to Vitargo. AS an ultra runner, my concern is amino acids. You mention you add BCAA to your UCan mix. Can you speak to the need for l-glutamine? I notice that EFS shots have L-Glutamine, Lecine, IsoLeucine, and Valine. The closest I can find to this is Hammer Nutrition’s Endurance Amino. It has L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine and Glutothione. Do you think the latter supplement will suffice in addition to a super starch, to protect muscles during long events and training runs? Thanks again for your great site.

  20. Hi,
    On the UCAN website SuperStarch is described as: “SuperStarch is a complex carbohydrate (derived from non-GMO corn) that uniquely stabilizes blood sugar and causes virtually no reaction from the fat-storage hormone insulin.” So, that sounds a lot like the properties of jerusalem artichokes, due to the inulin? So I was wondering wether artichokes (beside being prebiotic) does not interrupt nutritional ketosis? I have searched for an answer high and low on the internet, but can’t seem to find it, so I hope someone here can help. Couldn’t even generate at result searching this side for “inulin” or “polysaccaride”!
    BW Gunhild

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