Energy gels are a popular source of fuel for athletes. Runners, cyclists, tennis players and a wide range of team sport athletes rely on these portable, carbohydrate-rich pouches to fuel up before and during their training sessions and competitions. UCAN Edge is an innovation in energy gel technology. It contains steady-release carbohydrates instead of simple sugars, delivering long-lasting energy without causing the spike and crash in blood sugar levels. Edge also digests easily without causing the GI distress that many athletes experience with sugar-based fuels. Keep reading to learn more about this unique innovation in sports nutrition and what sets it apart from all other energy gels.
The Problem with Traditional Energy Gels
With so many options out there, it can be hard to know which energy gel is best. There a variety of brands that offer a number of different flavor options, but there are a couple fundamental issues that athletes face with traditional gels, no matter the brand.
Energy Crash Most energy gel formulas consist of simple sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose, dextrose) with an emphasis on providing quick energy. To be effective, the rapid but short-lived energy provided by these products requires frequent use during exercise and their manufacturers often recommend consuming them before you exercise. However, sucking down a sugary gel right before you workout may not offer the benefit you’re looking for.
“Eating or drinking something with fast carbs before exercise can cause sudden hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) during exercise, resulting in fatigue,” says Catherine Yeckel, Ph.D., a human metabolism and nutrition researcher and an assistant clinical professor at Yale School of Public Health. “This situation often requires the person to stop exercising and ingest more fast carbs to counter the drop — a vicious cycle.” Even gels that are made with real food often rely on a lot of sugar for energy, which can then lead to a big crash in blood sugar levels. Blood sugar regulation is vital for someone who is active in order to maintain steady energy and consistent metal focus. Runners often “hit the wall” in the late stages of their marathon because their blood sugar drops too low after miles of sugary gels.
Stomach Issues The repeated use of traditional energy gels during exercise comes with its own set of challenges for athletes. Because simple sugar-based formulas consist of many individual sugar molecules in solution, they exert a high osmolality in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The osmotic force in the stomach negatively impacts gastric emptying and increases GI distress. In order to aid digestion, athletes are forced to chase these energy gels with water, which can lead to bloating or the need to use the bathroom during exercise. Maltodextrin, a key ingredient in many energy gel formulas, is a carbohydrate with less osmolality than simple sugars.
However, because maltodextrin is rapidly assimilated like simple sugars, this was not a paradigm shifting innovation in the sports nutrition industry and it shares many of the same concerns as sugar-based products. “Although theoretically drinking maltodextrin should allow for increased delivery of carbohydrate and water because of better gastric emptying, experimental results have proved disappointing,” says Dr. Jeff Volek, nutrition and exercise researcher and kinesiology professor at The Ohio State University.
The Innovation Behind UCAN Edge
What sets UCAN Edge apart from other energy gels is LIVSTEADY, the patented carbohydrate in Edge that delivers steady, long-lasting energy without a spike & crash in blood sugar. This one-of-a-kind ingredient was originally developed as a medical food for kids with life-threatening hypoglycemia, and a number of clinical trials showed that it also provides desirable benefits for athletes and active people. LIVSTEADY is not a sugar or fiber. Chemically it is a complex carbohydrate or starch that is completely absorbed as energy.
LIVSTEADY is an extremely large glucose polymer with a molecular weight of 500,000-700,000 g/mol. Since molecular weight and osmolality are inversely related, LIVSTEADY exerts a very low osmotic pressure in the gastrointestinal tract and is rapidly emptied from the stomach into the intestines. As a comparison, simple sugars and maltodextrin, the carbohydrates found in most energy gels, have a molecular weight between 100-500 g/mol. The high molecular weight and low osmolality of LIVSTEADY make it gentler on the stomach than the types of carbohydrates found in popular energy gels.
“I’ve tried every single gel out there and I could never find anything that sat well in my stomach,” says Emma Bates, professional marathon runner. “The simple sugars would always cause me to throw up during my races. With UCAN Edge, I’ve never had to worry about my stomach. I’ve felt so much better throughout the runs compared to taking other gels, where I would feel this burst of energy, but then it would be so short-lived. What I really like about UCAN is that I don’t feel an immediate change, but I notice my body just feels better for longer.”
How to Fuel Your Workouts with UCAN EdgeWhether you’re strength training, going for a long run, or playing pickup basketball, we recommend consuming an Edge Energy gel 15-30 minutes before your workout. For longer workouts over 90 minutes, have a gel every 45-60 minutes during exercise. Here are some additional tips for fueling your workouts with Edge:
- A single, 70-calorie Edge gel will deliver about 1 hour of steady energy during exercise. Because the energy from Edge isn’t rapid, if you’re consuming additional gels during your workout, you will want to time your fuel a little bit before you need it. For example, if a single Edge gel lasts you 1 hour, take an additional Edge every 45 minutes during exercise. Figure out how long one serving lasts, then take each additional serving about 15 minutes before you need it.
- Because of the properties of the LIVSTEADY ingredient in Edge, no additional fluid is needed to help with digestion like with sugary gels. The consistency of Edge is more liquidy than a traditional gel and you also don’t need to worry about consuming extra water to help it get out of your stomach.
Greg McMillan, a running coach who has worked with thousands of runners from first-time marathoners to Olympians, recommends Edge to all of the runners he coaches “Edge allows my runners to fuel with a simpler process. They don’t have any GI distress, they have better energy later in their races, and after they finish running they’re not so hungry that they’re raiding the pantry cabinets.” Adina, an avid exerciser and Edge user, finds a benefit in using Edge for all types of workouts to help her achieve her health and fitness goals. “The UCAN Edge has been a lifesaver! For my busy regimen of strength training, yoga, running and cycling, the Edge keeps my blood sugar stable and I am able to endure all of the fitness activities I enjoy without being tuckered out. The bonus? NO SUGAR and that is a WIN for me.”