October 31, 2012

Exercise

Introduction to Superstarch – Part II

by Peter Attia

Read Time 7 minutes

In part II of this series, as promised, I interviewed one of the nations top trainers of professional athletes to provide a “real world” look at how athletes are using Superstarch.  As excited as I’ve been using Superstarch and sharing my experience with endurance athletes, I was really interested to know his experience was, both personally and professionally, using it with the type of athletes I don’t work with.

As you’ll see in this interview, he gets just as much joy working with and helping troubled high school athletes in disadvantaged schools as he does working with the best football players and track and field athletes in the world.  It’s been a huge honor for me getting to know him and learning about the conditioning and training of athletes in sports I can’t really relate to.  Most amazingly, I’ve come to realize that whether you’re a Heisman Trophy winner, an avid cyclist, or a weekend warrior, we all struggle with the same problems when trying to refuel our bodies.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, your athletic background, and what you do today?

My name is Ryan Flaherty and I am the founder of Prolific Athletes LLC, a sports performance training company based in Carlsbad, California, that specializes in teaching athletes of all levels to be fast and injury free. We train all types of athletes including professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB, Olympic Track and Field athletes, NCAA All Americans, and high school athletes all the way down to middle school all-stars. Our facility is focused on two very important athletic principles, which are speed and injury prevention. As a kid growing up I was not considered fast. I vividly remember when I was playing in a Little League baseball game and I was thrown out at first base when I hit a line drive to center field. Those familiar with baseball know that should never happen. As I was jogging past my coach back to the dugout I asked him what happened and he told me, “well, apparently you forgot to unhitch the trailer from behind you.” Aside from my coach needing a lesson in coaching kids, he was right, I was slow. Shortly after my embarrassing experience in baseball my mom made me join a track and field club at my middle school. At the time I was so frustrated because I was the only one out of all my friends that had to run track. But, looking back on it today I can emphatically say it was the best ‘athletic’ decision my mom ever made for me. My youth track coach, Paul Clark, spent countless hours with me to develop proper sprint mechanics and running form. The hard work paid off and soon I was one of the fastest kids in my middle school, then high school, and then college. I played football at Utah State University and was one of the faster players on the team, despite my size (I weighed 255 pounds). My speed combined with my size was not common and I was fortunate to have a great college career. The competitive advantage I had was that I learned at a very young age a secret that not many people know: speed is not something you’re necessarily born with, it is actually a skill that can be learned.

I am fortunate to now teach the youth athletes I work with what I was able to learn at a young age so they can reach their full athletic potential. Along with speed training, our philosophy equally emphasizes injury prevention. At the end of my football career I suffered several knee injuries that forced me to retire prematurely. Because of the injuries I became very motivated to understand the reason why they happened. I educated myself on ACL injuries while I was in graduate school and realized the archaic training I was getting from collegiate and professional strength coaches is what led to my knee injuries. Their programs were based on getting bigger, lifting heavier, and training harder. Much like nutrition, these “experts” or coaches were indoctrinated in old-school science and methodology. Today, a big part of what I am passionate about is being able to deliver the latest and greatest in science and research to the athletes I work with and help them to avoid injuries. Every athlete I work with is given an in-depth biomechanic movement analysis, movement screen, and we review past injuries before I design their unique training program. The information we gather gives me what I need to know to ensure that we are going to pinpoint their imbalances and develop those weaknesses to build a strong, balanced athlete.

What type of athletes do you work with?

Athletes that I train range from a 12-year-old kid who plays for the local Pop Warner (youth football league) all the way to Pro Bowl NFL quarterbacks. We have multiple programs that we offer for youth athletes that teach them how to sprint properly, change-of-direction speed, stimulus response training, flexibility, and core strength. Our High School programs offer the same as the youth training and here we introduce weight training. We also have a large NFL combine training program that prepares future NFL stars for the NFL combine and draft. I work with over 100 NFL players including: Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, and Vincent Jackson. I also work with several Division 1 programs as a consultant to their strength staff.  And, we recently launched our Non-Profit that trains a local inner city high school that is nominated based on their need. We train their athletes for a year, train their coaches on our training programs, and we give their weight room a makeover. This past year, Kearny High School (San Diego) was chosen and it was an amazing experience for us. 

Prior to using Super Starch, what sort of products did you use yourself?  What about your athletes?

Over the course of my career I have tried a lot of supplements. I’ve used whey protein, casein protein, egg protein, branch chain amino acids, glutamine, creatine monohydrate, waxy maize, pre-workout supplements…the list goes on and on. I am not a big proponent of supplement use with my athletes because it’s a slippery slope with the lack of research associated with a majority of these products. I emphasize getting their nutrients from food as opposed to using supplements and I preach high fat, low carbs, and eliminating sugar from their diets. Most recently, however, I have become a huge fan of Super Starch.

How did you learn about Super Starch?

I was introduced to Generation UCAN by you, (Peter Attia). I had actually never heard of it prior to you giving me some to try on my own last year. At the time I was struggling in my own personal training after making the switch to a higher fat, low carb, no sugar lifestyle and it made a big difference for me personally.

What did you notice, personally, when you switched from other sports nutrition products to Super Starch?

I have always struggled figuring out when and what to eat prior to workouts. I became accustomed to either having an upset stomach while I was training or, to avoid a stomachache, I wouldn’t eat and would bonk in workouts. It was a constant struggle to figure out the right combination of certain foods or supplements and timing my digestion to optimize my own performance.  I never quite figured it out, until I found Super Starch. I take it about a hour prior to my workouts and it doesn’t upset my stomach, it gives me steady energy, and I get a carbohydrate source that allows me to keep burning fat stores.

What have your athletes been telling you about the changes they’ve noticed since switching to Super Starch?

I have about 20 NFL athletes that are currently using Super Starch. I train a NFL athlete for a total of 5 months throughout the year. Every workout is very important to their overall improvement and missing one of those workouts can be a major set back in their progress. I have had so many athletes over the years miss workouts because of getting nauseated or because they didn’t eat and they crash halfway through. So, for a lot of these athletes Super Starch is a big deal. I would say the overwhelming response I get from them is that they feel like they can make it through our workouts without getting nauseas, they feel like they are stronger at the end of the workout, and that they love the fact that it’s so convenient for them when they are on the road travelling or running short on time.

Have you or your athletes found any downside to using Super Starch?

The problem I experience most with Super Starch is the chalky taste. I usually have them try making a smoothie with Super Starch, almond butter, heavy cream, almond milk, and ice. It is so good that they usually all come back with rave reviews of the smoothie and that helps with the chalky taste issue.

A lot of the athletes you train seem to exercise so much – many of them are professional athletes – why do they even care about fat burning?

A big misconception is that elite athletes don’t struggle with weight issues. I have professional athletes I train who have struggled with their weight for years. Most of these guys have a target weight that they have to be when they report to the NFL team they play for and if they fail to meet the weight expectation, they can either get released or fail their physical. I have actually seen the biggest benefit of Super Starch with the 300+ pound NFL athletes because it gives them an energy source that will keep them burning body fat while they train. This past summer I had a defensive tackle from a NFL team go from 340 to 315 pounds just by using Super Starch and removing all other supplements that contained sugar from his diet.

Have you encountered athletes who do not benefit from Super Starch?

The athletes that have not benefited from taking it have been the ones who either haven’t enjoyed the taste and didn’t continue, or guys who didn’t give it a chance because they didn’t feel a more immediate effect. Supplements these days usually make the athletes feel the effects in their workout after taking it only one time. Whether it’s the caffeine or beta alanine, the effects are pretty immediate. The thing about Super Starch is the effects are not very noticeable unless you struggle with GI distress, which Super Starch immediately helps with.

What do you see as the most important factors necessary to give athletes and parents of youth athletes the best information possible to make an informed decision about what sports nutrition products they use?

Some products out there have incredible marketing and I see so many parents giving their kids crap and thinking because Michael Jordan is on the commercial it must be great. (Cough) Gatorade. I think educating parents on the truth behind other products and comparing them to Super Starch in a simple way is a start. In order to make a nutrition product something that athletes can’t live without, it needs to serve a purpose in their life or they won’t care about it. So, that’s where I think the benefits of no GI distress come in to play for a lot of my athletes. Once I was able to show the difference between eating a heavy meal or drinking a UCAN shake and how much better their stomach felt during the workout, that was a selling point for them. Now they can’t train without it and they are telling their teammates, family members, and so on.

What do you see as the benefit of Super Starch for average people and their relatively more moderate exercise regimen?

I think the benefits would be the exact same benefits as the athletes I work with: it’s convenience for people who don’t have the luxury of being able to time their meals with meetings, the fact that it will keep them burning fat and not spike insulin levels, and providing a steady carbohydrate energy source.

Photo by Kolleen Gladden on Unsplash

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150 Comments

  1. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the great site. I was hoping you could help me with some nutritional advice. I am competing in the Australian Ultimate Frisbee National Championships this week. My team will play 8 x 90min games of Ultimate over 3 days. I will play about half of each game which will involve running, turning and jumping at 80-100% intensity. It is very energy intensive and by the end of day one quite exhausting. I’m trying to work out the best way to feed my body over the 3 days and in the lead up. Currently I eat a relatively low carb diet with a full complement of veggies, legumes and meat, but no grains, fruits or starches. I have purchased a tub of SS for consumption during the tournament.

    Do you have any thoughts on what I should eat during the day at the tournament as lunch and also what would be best to eat afterwards to refuel for the next day? I am confident that my current diet will supply enough energy through fat burning for 1 day of the tournament, but worried that I may not be giving myself the best opportunity for recovery heading in to days 2 and 3.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  2. Hello Peter,

    You have inspired me to go Keto-adapted (or now). Thank you.

    I am considering using super starch after methodically reading your posts on it.

    I hope you can comment on my idea for how to apply it:

    I do some interval style training on a fasted stomach — something like the newly famed “7 minute workout” for 45 minutes — then break and then do some intense cycling for about 1 hour.

    Typically, I have some water and electrolytes between intervals and biking and a protein shake afterwards.

    However, I was thinking about doing the protein shake with SS in-between intervals and biking. From what I understand, my insulin levels would be low during the intervals (via the fasting) and without some agent like SS, the protein shake might spike them before I start biking or, worse, be converted to glucose (which would be a real waste) while biking.

    Do you think it is possible / probable that taking a protein shake with SS in-between intervals and biking might work to fend off both insulin spiking and the misappropriation of the protein?

    Thanks in advance,

    Shawn

  3. Hi Peter,

    I have a personal observation that is a bit curious to me. Maybe it’s a spurious thing but maybe there is an explanation you can suggest. I began a ketogenic diet about 4 months ago, kind of abruptly from a low fat/low cal diet. The transition wasn’t terrible actually, but my crossfit/HIT style workouts became pretty hard to do. I started using a scoop of SS 30 min prior to my workouts with great results. The interesting thing is, there was a profound appetite suppression post workout. Prior to using the SS I would trpiccally come home from a workout and eat, but on workouts with SS on board, I will come home post workout without the slightest desire for food for several hours. I track my food intake, and so I noticed that on days when I consumed the SS prior to a workout, I ran a large calorie deficit. I eat when hungry, I do not try to purposefully restrict calories, so this was in no way deliberate. It really seems that the combination of the keto/ss/workout really suppressed appetite. I have not tried to consume ss without working out but if I workout and forgo the ss, I still get pretty hungry about an hour after the workout. It also seems dose dependent. Lately I have tried using half a scoop, and it seems like the effect is still there but less pronounced then with a whole scoop. Along with the suppression in appetite, I feel really energetic, almost euphoric. I would love your take on this. It makes me kinda want to start poking my fingers and measuring things 🙂

  4. Hi Peter,

    First my experience and then a question; well no – let me start by saying what a great blog. Thanks so much for the information.

    I’ve been hearing a lot about SS (Ucan) and decided to try it myself. Two weeks ago I ran a 50km and had a mix of SS before the start. I knew it was going to be a longish day so I carried some more SS in powder form. At about 2 hours into the run I mixed what I had but I couldn’t mix it properly so I took a lot of it in powder form. Not very nice to take – but all good. After about 4 hours I started to take small sips of coke (up to then I only drank water) and within minutes started to feel quite gassy and uncomfortable. I got to the finish in a slowish 5:15 and while walking to the car I started to feel terrible. Long story, short, I have never been so violently sick. Couldn’t stand, couldn’t sit; just uncontrollable retching.

    Fast forward to today. Another 50km but this time a trail race. Same as before; I took Ucan before the event but this time I carried a properly mixed bottle. For 5 hours I was just dandy. At the 44km mark I had run out of drink and food so I took a small nougat and within minutes I could feel the terrible symptoms appear again. To give you an idea of HOW sick I was, it took me 2 hours to do the last 6km (and my marathon PB is 2:37!) because most of the time I was on my hands and knees.

    And now to the question: I don’t expect you to waste your valuable time on answering in detail. Is there anything I can read on the side effects of a Starch / Sugar combination ? I have done a search and have come up with “never mix starch and sugar because while there is starch in the stomach, the sugar just sits and ferments”.

    Any leads / links for me to read?

    Thanks.

    ps – and lesson learnt – I will never do that again.

    • Bruce, let’s start the obvious, as you note: lesson learned! I have not seen this reaction before, but I suspect the osmotic load and, perhaps, the fructose content of the sugar-drink so late in the race/event are the problem. But, wow, that sounds like a horrible reaction. Do you think you can just go with SS the whole way, plus some BCAA, like BioSteel?

  5. Cycling…
    I am a amature cyclist…but I would like to do a lot better on my rides and that is to say, stay in the groupe on group rides, but I run out of energy very fast, 12 miles and I can already feel the drop or lower energy level, I will finish the ride usually way behide the group, the average ride on Saturdays is 31 – 47 miles, speed on Saturdays groupe rides are 20 mph but I will drop to 14 – 17 mph, I do ride once a year on a centry ride 100 miles this year average speed as per Garmin 910xt 12 mph and a double metric centry 145 plus miles, Garmin 910xt speed 12.1 Savannah Ga. too Augusta Ga., I would like to finish a little better and I’m curious about ketosis would this help ? as a rule I comsume very little suger fruit would be my biggest offender and no wheat or patsa, with my weekly exercise schedule two rides on the weekend, weather and work permitting, weekends 31 -47 miles Saturday and hopefully a ride on Sunday 60 – 70 miles and maybe a spin class thrown in there every now and then, My question is, would ketosis help a guy like myself or is it that I am not training hard enough ? and would I stay in ketosis all the time or just for the longer rides ?

  6. i follow a ketogenic diet and follow my macros very closely. i’m wondering, if i keep my net carbs to 20-25 daily, how can i account for the occasional use of ucan superstarch given that a serving of it exceeds my total daily carb count? i know that it’s a slow-releasing starch that shouldn’t interfere with ketosis. i’m just wondering how i can account for this in my macro tracking. thank you in advance.

  7. Hi Peter

    I have been following your blog for a while, I get a little lost in some of the more technical information but feel I have a good grasp of the basic concepts you write about. I have super starch and I have begun experimenting with BCAAs, I am a little confused on how/when to use these two products. I think I understand that SS will probably be most beneficial once I start longer training sessions–right now I’m just working out about an hour several times per week, but I still feel like I get something from it. In late march I will start longer workouts (tri season) how best to use BCAAs? How best to combine the use of both products? I got some samples of Biosteel and I was really pleased with the product! Thanks for this blog, I don’t remember how I fell onto the site, but the information has changed everything for me.
    Best
    Elizabeth

  8. Hi Peter,
    So glad to see your back to posting, I so enjoy your family photos (your children are gorgeous and I surmise as smart as their parents!).
    Soooo, any comment on the latest weight loss discovery, that seems to benefit mainly women (Yea!!!), from the primula tree? I know, probably just grasping for straws.

    • Ellen, the only thing I can say today is that more than ever I am amazed at how difficult it is to understand the complexity of fat regulation in women. It’s hard enough in general, but in women, presumably, due to the role of sex hormones, the complexity is greater.

  9. I’m into the 4th month of my first attempt of a ketogenic diet. Based on the BHB blood testing I’m averaging 1.2 mmol/L with a standard deviation of 0.52 mmol/L. I precipitate in ultra mens masters bodybuilding age 60 to 69.


    I’m thinking about including SuperStarch as a pre-workout supplement to increase my glycogen levels for the anaerobic activity of weight training. My daily consumption of carbs is about 25 grams. My question is have you measured the impact to your ketosis state when you used SuperStarch?

    Thanks,
    Jerry Bruton

  10. OK I have been limiting my intake of carbs with generally wonderful results – anecdotally speaking, because I haven’t had blood work done… No rice, pasta, etc. No sugar except as occurs in carrots, peas, and an occasional can of V-8. I used to get shakey when hungry, not anymore. My biking is MUCH improved – I don’t run out out of gas at 10 miles now, and am much “stronger” with much better endurance. So I am a happy convert.

    I hope you can address a question, though. I can’t find again where you mention SALT… I sweat a LOT during a two-hour ride here in KC, MO where it’s often in the 90’s in both temperature and humidity. How can I gauge my required salt intake? My feet/ankles swell almost daily to mid-shin height – too much salt? not enough? I probably don’t drink enough water, but I read various places that too little salt is more dangerous than not enough. And I do routinely get muscle twitches and even light-headedness sometimes. I’ve experimented a little with electrolyte supplements, but they seem to exacerbate the puffy feet. So I’m a little worried I’m doing damage….

    Thanks in advance.

    A

  11. Peter,
    Great info, but I’m a little confused on one point. You made it clear that you use SS during your rides not before. What I read in one of the responses and in all the studies was that UCAN intends for their product to be used before and after work outs.
    I recently made the switch to a ketogenic diet (6 Weeks ago) and am currently experimenting with drinking BP Coffee before workouts and water during. Todays ride was good but I was wiped out after. Was starting to bonk after 2.5 hours.
    I found this blog last night and am going to try SS. My thoughts are to try the BP Coffee before, SS during and SS w/protein after workouts. Is this a good place to start? any thoughts are appreciated.
    Best,
    Georg

  12. Doctor,

    Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication to the actual science, not just the marketing facade at the forefront of products. I have learned a lot from your site, and continue to learn, not to mention pass along your information. Hopefully I can change the views of a few people about what we eat with your help.

    If it isn’t too much trouble, I have a few quick questions. Do you have any feelings towards CarboPro (https://carbopro.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=58) as compared to Generation UCAN SS? Looks similar, costs less, which unfortunately is an important consideration for me.

    Secondly, there is a percentage of fat vs glucose burned at all times, but in running ultramarathons, it seems that after, say 27 miles, does the percentage of fat burning decrease? It seems that I needed more fuel for my last 50K that I thought I would. I ran with one Omnibar and a few cashews and almonds/almond butter, with water and some SCAPS.

    Thank you so much for all of the hard work and for taking the time to read/respond to my questions!

    -Kyle

    • Hey, Kyle:

      I’m not Peter, obviously, but I think I have some insight to the issues here. The whole point of UCAN SS is that it is a high tech product that ends up in solution/suspension in the gut, steadily slowly absorbed, not causing any blood glucose peaks. And no GI distress because molecular weight of 500,000 to 700,000, so the osmolality in the gut is not an issue.

      I went to the CarboPro website and although they say essentially their product is a polymer of glucose, they don’t have a lot of scientific backing. The molecular weight is “about 1000” which compares poorly with SS of 500,00- to 700,000. With glucose having a molecular weight of 180, essentially the CarboPro polymer only has about 6 glucose molecules strung together. A solution with the equivalent glucose concentration in the gut would have 500 to 700 time the osmolality of SS!

      I have no axe to grind with SS. I’m just an interested consumer like you. The high price sucks. But at lest the science behind it is sound. I don’t think it’s a big scam. The CarboPro sounds similar, but only superficially. I think you would do better doing what I used to do, and still might — make sushi rolls or small rice balls, maybe with some egg in them (watch out for bacterial growth in long hot waits). Or coconut. And wash down with water.

    • @Kyle: just a follow up to the diy sushi suggestion — I have used brown rice to slow down the GI uptake. And small constant nibbles to flatten out the carb absorption/glucose spike, hopefully, which is doable off a top tube bento-box or rear jersey pocket on a bike. Ultra runner situation would have a pouch/pocket, no? You could research Korean rice rolls for a variation on the sushi taste and palatability.

  13. Hey Peter:

    I’m fully keto adapted now, and trying to work out a viable fuelling strategy for 1/2 IM and Full IM races this summer. I have managed to get the raspberry Superstarch from and Edmonton supplier, but I find the Stevia taste off-putting. The Canada suppliers don’t have the solid bars or the plain SS powder. But the UCAN people are reluctant to supply me directly, keep on referring me to the Canada list, despite my explanations, frustrating. Another technical problem is that making the solution ends up more like a suspension, I find — I’m not sure that blending it well is a guarantee that coming back from the swim I won’t find the sludge settling out and clogging my drinking straw. My aero bar mounted drinking system is not very conducive to shaking the bottle either.

    In the interests of better quantifying the timed intake of SS, is there any information on ingesting the SS as a solid? Maybe cooked up into a starch ball pellet or poured into gelatine capsules, or powder into a gelatine wafer wrap (into the mouth,… gag) and washing down with plain water or Skratch solution or something like that. The end result should be the same, no? — powder and liquid in the stomach > duodenum > small intestine. More accurate titration, no gummed up bottles. Water replacement is much more reliably available during the race, too.

    Any thoughts on this scenario?

  14. Hi Peter, great info on UCAN! I play beach volleyball and it’s primarily an explosive sport. I’m wondering if this product would be helpful for me as a keto adapted athlete during my tournaments. I haven’t been able to find much research on a sport like mine where you are max jumping a lot and sprinting for short bursts.

    Thank you for all work that you do,
    Benny Hammond

  15. I read some of the research on your product and as someone who is perpetually on a ketogenic diet, I see lots of anecdotal information on how superstarch can maintain fat metabolism. However, I have not been able to find anything on testing before/during/after usage with regards to Ketone levels, (i.e.,Ketone MMOL via blood testing). Is there anything out there on this topic?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am very intrigued and plan on trying the product to ‘hopefully’ enhance short duration and intense training but am curious if any of the aforementioned testing has occurred.

    The last item, which is very nerdish, is related to the mTOR pathway mechanism. Some of those I work with have various neurological dysfunction which is well treated with a high fat / low carbohydrate diet, hence my interest in any clinically based opinions on ‘mTOR’.

    Kind Regards,
    Mikel

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