October 31, 2012

Exercise & Physical Health

Introduction to Superstarch – Part II

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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  1. Hi Peter,
    I was waiting for part II to ask these questions.

    I recently started trying low carb and I feel great. It’s been a couple months and I’ve lost significant weight. However, I’ve been a bit afraid of getting into the usual muscle building routine from back when I was starting college (best shape I’ve ever been), so my weight training has been lighter than what I’m used to. I have also been incorporating intermittent fasting in the last couple of weeks and have really seen great results.

    Anyways… my questions are the following:
    Is glycogen essential to muscle building? What is the role of glycogen when muscle hypertrophy occurs? Bodybuilders always talk about ketogenic diets when they are ‘cutting’ but not many see it as sustainable when it comes to building muscle. In fact, creatine monohydrate, which I have seen great results with in the past, I believe relies on glycogen stores to work and that’s why it’s hard to find any creatine supplement without a lot of sugar. So, with this low carb diet, I have noticed I am struggling more than usual when getting through a tough workout. If so, would that mean Super Starch could be highly beneficial in muscle gains?
    Also, a bit off topic, but I have been working out fasted and frankly I’ve been seeing better results even though it makes the workouts a bit tough. I feel fine doing it, but would that make Super Starch a good pre-workout supplement that doesn’t affect my fasted state as much as sugar would? The idea behind working out fasted is the fact that I will not only burn fat doing, but also HGH is at higher levels.

    I love what you do and, like everyone here, I appreciate all the work you put into this blog.


    • The questions you ask about SS haven’t been tested in clinical trials. I can hazard guesses, but I don’t know. I think it makes sense to do an experiment on yourself under reasonably controlled conditions. I don’t use SS pre-workout, but I know a lot of folks do, and really like it in that capacity. I use it during really long workouts and post-workouts. Post lifting, I add about 8 gm of glutamine.

    • From the UCAN web page…
      “Our protein-enhanced drinks are consumed either before or after activity to achieve ideal performance and metabolic states. Consuming SuperStarch post-exercise helps maintain glucose levels, enables fat burn, and optimizes recovery using nutrients efficiently to restore glycogen stores and rebuild muscles. Available in Vanilla and Chocolate.”
      I think that answers the question…

  2. Another great blog – ?I enjoyed reading about the work with the younger kids ( this stuff is for everyone)

  3. As usual, Peter, not only are YOU the man, you surround yourself with others who’re also, clearly, amongst the best at what they do. It’s a shame that the information that Ryan has learned and teaches probably isn’t more available to the rest of us. Oh well, I suppose, that like the information that NuSi is going to get out there, that’ll change over time. Thanks for all that you do, it really makes a difference to a lot of us out here in the trenches.

    • Ryan is such a special guy. Every time we speak I learn something new about how he’s challenging the conventional wisdom in speed conditioning and injury prevention — the 2 factors that seem to play the greatest role in differentiating successful careers from less successful ones in pro sports.

  4. Peter:
    I’ve been ketogenic since about March. I don’t eat anything special prior to 30-60 mile bike rides (sometimes a couple tablespoons of MCT oil), or anything at all during them (unless we stop for breakfast, then an omelet or bacon and eggs). I seem to feel plenty strong (though having recently turned 60, I don’t burn roads up). What effect might I expect from adding some super starch?

  5. Hi Peter,

    The amount of fat that’s burned by lean tissues depends on the relative availability of glucose vs. fatty acids in the circulation. If you increase glucose availability/oxidation, you decrease fat availability/oxidation. To hypothesize that fat oxidation will continue undiminished in the face of increased carbohydrate oxidation (from the super starch) is to hypothesize that total energy expenditure is increased. Personally I find this unlikely, and there certainly isn’t any evidence to support it currently.

    I think a more likely explanation for the fat loss that some people experience on this product is that very slowly digesting starch may alter gut-brain communication, similar to other types of fibers. Increased nutrient delivery to the distal small intestine has endocrine/metabolic effects that may reduce food intake and body fatness. This may be one of the reasons why bariatric surgery is effective.

    • Great point, Stephan, and certainly worthy of more study. Unfortunately, there are so many unresolved questions at this point. But it will be very important to have this addressed. I think I might even take your point one step further: the change in composition of the product (and especially if combined with a dietary change that removes sugars and simple/refined carbs) may actually alter several aspects of gut flora that changes both permeability and conversions within the body. I know many folks are actively looking into this broader point, and I’m eagerly awaiting the answers.

  6. I do my Crossfit workouts at 6am. At best, I’m up at 5:30am prior to the workout and I have never found a productive source of energy that I can consume shortly before the workout and not have to “deal” with it during the workout. I saw that an Olympic gymnast kept honey on hand for some quick energy throughout the day and got to thinking that it or agave syrup might be an answer. I’ve taken a tablespoon on some mornings and have seen a difference, but I know that is not the best solution. Would Superstarch be worth trying in this scenario? I am not out to break any records, just get my daily dose of athletic fun, post a respectable performance, and then head off to work ready to handle it.

  7. Thank You Dr. Attia for the amazing information you have on your blog-I have enjoyed reading everything I can! I Have a question: Can super starch help me in my Crossfit (anaerobic) training? Above Mr. Flaherty mentioned it helps NFL players keep from getting nauseous in their workout-an occasional problem I have-and in part one, you mentioned improved recovery, which I am VERY interested in. Could super starch help with shorter, intense workouts? Also could it help guard against GI problems associated with occasional gluten ingestion (…read: cheat meals? 🙂 …)


  8. Hi Peter!

    First of all, let me just start by saying I’m a HUGE fan and I believe your research and experimentation is unparalleled. It’s guys like you, Mark Sission, Wolf, Lalonde, and Volek that make this wellness journey so enjoyable.

    Currently, I’ve focused on a minimalist approach to getting results. Think CrossFit meets P90X meets interval/body weight/sprint/gymnastic/metabolic conditioning style workouts. I’ve been experimenting with Keto and I’m wondering what your take on a product I take that has a combination of fructose, MCTs, l-carnitine, and magnesium and potassium (energy and endurance formula)~ 50 cal/serving and 12g sugar…I only use the stuff on the higher intensity workouts (crossfit style high reps/rounds/intensity/sprints)

    Thoughts? I’d be interested in trying Super Starch, but was wondering what your thoughts are on the above type of pre-workout formula taken with a low-carb/keto lifestyle.


    • Hi Peter.

      Just learning all of this recently. I am in ketosis and really desire the shorter / higher intensity workouts (sprinting, tabata, etc).

      I am still confused on what the best approach is for me to ensure maximum energy for these types of exercises. Would UCAN SuperStarch work on such short notice? Or would I be better ingesting some form / dose of carbs some time prior to working out? And, if so, what kind of carbs are best for this?



      • It might, but it depends exactly on your state of adaptation and the exact exercise. Some of the stuff you do might be better served with creatine supplementation. Tabata is 4 min, so very glycolytic – hence I suspect SS would help if in a state of ketosis.

  9. Ps. It’s my understanding that the combination of the fructose and MCT’s releases energy slowly by utilizing MCTs first and then fructose secondary, and increases VO2max with without stimulating insulin release. Could that be the answer?

    • Tough to really comment on, Markus. The study compares a placebo of basically water to a “proprietary” cocktail of a dozen things, included in them fructose and MCT.

  10. Thank you, Peter, for a great post as always.

    Are there any books or authors that you would recommend for endurance training?

    What theories or training styles influence your own training?

    • I feel like so much of what I learned during my “formative” years may be incorrect. As a result, I tend to rely more on recent papers, than formal texts. On the sports nutrition side, I think what Tim Noakes in South Africa is doing is the cutting edge. On the training side, I’m still trying to figure out which side of the fence I’m on, with respect to above vs. below threshold training guidelines.

    • Peter, have you seen the identical twin project that Tim Noakes is supervising? It’s hardly a full trial, but it’s still a nicely-designed comparison that’s got a solid protocol (and diagnostics) behind it.

      It’s also approachable for the lay public (without being dumb) in a way that a lot of things aren’t in nutrition.


  11. Hi Peter,

    Thank you for all the excellent info you put out, it is sincerely appreciated. I dabble in ultras and would like to start tinkering with my diet & exercise to see if I can raise my aerobic threshold. Burning fat + super starch for 24hours sounds so much better than sucking down sugar constantly.
    – Is there a reliable at home method to determine your aerobic threshold for easy test/retest experiments?
    – Did your improvements in the “What I Eat” come from strictly diet/fasting modifications or did you modify your training as well?
    – Do you think low carb + LSD + some Crossfit would be a good place to start?

    • Great questions:
      1. VO2 max with RQ is the best way to test this, unfortunately (besides empiric testing on yourself).
      2. Pure diet in my case.
      3. Yes.

  12. My experience with SS seems different than most. A friend sent me some of the pom-blu and I experienced some nausea and a lot of gas the next day. I have tried this twice with the same results. I did seem to have steadier energy levels but I do not know if I wish to tolerate the other effects.

    • Interesting. Is it true with all flavors? Also, have you tried mixing at a lower concentration? I find I need to mix it at really dilute concentrations (I use 1/2 a pack for 20 oz of water).

  13. Peter, the internets suggest that superstarch is just massively over priced waxy maize starch (mixed w/ whey protein in the case of a post workout mix).

    I’m always up for trying out new sups but resources are not finite. Any specific reasons to go w/ the SS over the generic?

    • Waxy maize is the starting ingredient of SS. However, unlike other waxy maize products, they run it through a 40 hour hydrothermal treatment which is what gives SS the unique properties it has according to their IP filings.

  14. Just received my Sampler packet, in time for my trip to back country Bangladesh:
    (Leave Hotel in Dhaka early AM, return Hotel late PM); hoping UCAN will help see me thru nice and easy over the 12 Hours in between! Will write with feedback on return late Nov.

    Indy M.
    Sunnyvale, CA

  15. I’m wondering if you are going to revisit the cholesterol series and complete the part on the role of pharmacologic intervention in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerotic disease and final wrap-up.


    • Dan, I’m dying to do so, but I’m just getting clobbered right now and, honestly, will be for another month or so. I definitely plan to do a part X, thought it won’t be a complete pharmaco-primer, as that would take another 10 parts.

  16. Listened to your superlative, thoughtful and informative interview with Jimmy Moore. You mentioned some variance in your LDL-P that ranged from 400 to 1200 or so at different times. Was wondering while I know from your writing that you do not think particle size matters, if there were any differences in particle size say at the lower LDL-P measurement than at the higher number, and what differences in your diet there may have been.
    In my case, when LDL-P is very low, particle size is quite small vs. when LDL-P is higher. I am talking about LDL-P of under 400 vs. 600 to 700. In both instances trgs low at 28-34, HDL around 60, HDL-P 37, and on Crestor and Zetia. Strongly dyslipidemic and believe there may be a genetic tendency towards small LDL-P.

    • Great question, Steve. I’m really struggling to figure this out. There just aren’t enough data beyond the small empirical sets (for me, at least) to fully understand this relationship between apoB concentrations, LDL-P, LDL-C, and particle size. Most lipidologists agree that once you know LDL-P, also else is secondary, but if you can’t get an NMR, how do you judge the risk most accurately? I’ll try to touch on some of these issues in Part X of The Straight Dope.

  17. Thanks for your response. I know for myself that with a lower fat content( but not aiming for low fat), the particle size falls. When the fat is increased the particle size will go up, but still on the low end of Pattern A. I think it is clearly genetics for me. When i eat carbs- whole grains, very little to no sugar, etc and before meds my NMR waa 1795 all small. Tried to just eat meat fish, chesse, and fruits an veggies only and it went down somewhat but still about 60% small. When i really restricted carbs and went heavy on the fat the particle size greatly increased to 2200, of which only 200 or so were small. With Crestor 20 and Zetia I keep the particle count at 600 or lower but still generate a lot of small particles. With not much carbs in my diet with TRgs of only 26 and HDL around 60 there clearly is something of a metabolic genetic oriented issue. At 61 with some CAD I am trying to get it as correct as I can. Like you I have an unfavorable family history. Good news the meds get me to goal. Diet is meat, fish, poultry,eggs, cheese, veggies with little fruit, some rice if eat Japanese food, and a baked potato here and there. No sugar except in 88% plus dark chocolate and no grains or oils other than olive or coconut.
    Your work is very helpful

  18. Hi Peter

    Great site! Does UCAN SS contain fructose molecules? If yes, how many grams per gram (weight fraction).


  19. Hi, quick question Peter, what happens all the fat we consume? why does this not get converted to fat in the body? assuming low to moderate exercise regime eg 30 mins walking per day

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