This post will discuss a bit more in depth about athletes and reactive hypoglycemia, and my personal experiences with reactive hypoglycemia and with UCAN products so far. The next post will be after I have had a chance to complete additional testing with the UCAN product line. UCAN has been very kind to supply the product for testing free of charge. My opinions were and are not influenced by anything or anyone.
Reactive hypoglycemia is not fun. In a nutshell, it’s when your blood sugar drops after ingesting carbohydrate. When you are hypoglycemic, you can feel dizzy, clammy, break out in cold sweats, get confused, and potentially more fun stuff. Really not fun at all if you happen to be moving at the time, particularly if you are out on your bike.
Interestingly, reactive hypoglycemia appears to happen in up to 30% of endurance athletes (or more). (Granted, these were small sample sizes to be sure, but interesting nonetheless.) Additional reviews show that some athletes have the feelings of hypoglycemic episodes without actual hypoglycemia by definition (blood glucose levels < 70 mg/dl with symptoms of hypoglycemia that are alleviated by ingestion of food.) This paper gives a ton of information about athletes and hypoglycemia.
I have had episodes of feeling hypoglycemic (“bonking” in the cycling world) as has my husband. I also have had an oral glucose tolerance test (for which the importance of when diagnosing reactive hypoglycemia has been questioned) and during this test my blood sugar (after drinking a sickly sweet orange flavored nasty drink-on an empty stomach) went from 80 fasted, to 113 30 minutes after drinking the gross stuff, then dropped to 57 mg/dl at an hour after drinking the nasty orange drink like substance and was still at 54 mg/dl 2 hours post drink. Yuckers. Thankfully I was only sitting in a crappy plastic chair at the lab and didn’t have to pedal or avoid obstacles.
So, obviously something is up and the potential to feel crappy after ingesting a bunch of sugar is there. Fortunately, given that I believe in the easiest way to eat a healthy gluten free diet, I don’t eat a bunch of sugar on a regular basis. But, many sports drinks on the market are essentially simple sugars. And when you have the potential to see a blood sugar drop like that, simple sugar is something you generally want to be very cautious about. Even when you are out for a long bike ride or other endurance event. Since I generally ride for 3-4 hours on weekend mornings, and get in 7-10 hours a week on the bike, having other options is important. I always have a mix of protein, carb, and fat for “real” meals. When riding, I stick to fruits and nuts to provide a slower digesting source of sugars, and look for drink products that supply electrolytes without carbohydrate. (Then I got stuck out on a ride, ran out of food/fluid, and bought a Gatorade G2, figuring that was the least of the evils. I promptly had a stomachache from the osmolality and barely made it home. Good times.)
Which made the idea of Generation UCAN and SuperStarch even more appealing to me personally. SuperStarch provides carbohydrate without simple sugar and the reactive hypoglycemia that can go along with it. As some of you may know, I dislocated my left elbow the day after Thanksgiving, which took me off the bike for a while. I did some testing of Gen UCAN with my lifting activity and cardio (intervals) in the gym while I was off the bike.
I’ve informally compiled a combination of how I felt along with some glucometer readings, just for grins. This is in no way truly scientific, but gives a pretty good snapshot of how my body reacts, anyhow.
On mornings when I went to the gym and lifted weights, pre workout I drank half a packet of UCAN protein enhanced sport drink, which is a blend of whey protein and SuperStarch. The chocolate was quite good, the vanilla…not so much. Vanilla is very chalky. You expect UCAN to taste somewhat chalky considering the SuperStarch, but the vanilla was VERY chalky. This is something they are working on reformulating strictly for taste. (Just to recap from my previous post, UCAN’s products have been independently tested and found to be free from gluten. They are also pursuing gluten free certification.)
Subjectively, I felt “good” and had energy to get through my workout without feeling over sugared and jittery. As an example, my fasting blood glucose level was 88 mg/dl. I had my drink, went to the gym and lifted for 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of high intensity intervals on the elliptical. An hour after my 2nd half of UCAN (with another .5 scoop of protein added in) my glucose reading was 84. Those numbers held in that same region for all exercise of that nature. As a reference, I experimented by eating a lot of simple carbohydrate one day after lifting (to the tune of over 100 grams of carb from kettle corn and Chex) and an hour later my glucose reading was 123 mg/dl. That’s the highest I’ve ever seen it. I’ve not yet tried the same amount of carb from SuperStarch to see the difference in blood glucose levels, (honestly, it’s just not as much fun but I will do it in the name of science) and plan on trying it sometime in the next couple of weeks.
This past weekend I went out for a 2 hour bike ride. Fasting blood glucose level was 88. Drank UCAN and protein, went for my ride, (only drank water while out) and after the ride blood sugar was 87. Pretty darn stable. Had I ridden any longer I would have had some additional nutrition. Definitely no sense of bonking while I was out. This was a steady endurance/tempo ride, so low-moderate intensity. For higher intensity riding I would likely have needed additional calories sooner. This is just my experience, so remember that your mileage may vary.
We are all biochemical snowflakes, and what is working for me may not work for you. The best thing to do is try to track your intake as well as your response as best you can so you can see what is or is not working and make changes accordingly.
UCAN posted this on their Facebook wall last weekend. This is why I love what this company stands for.
Yes you can.
Next post about Gen UCAN will be after I do some more testing. Until then, and ss always, if you need more info on living a healthier Gluten Free and Fit life, there’s lots of resources on Gluten Free and Fit 101 that can help. Have at it.
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