Initially I did well and then I experienced the carbo downfall equivalent to the Rick Santorum scandal. Yes, I sinned and it was uuuugly.
This leads us to Tiffany's question number 2:
Which program will help to lean out while still being able to perform in CrossFit?
As I established before, I do well on a low carb high fat diet. Well enough that I produce ketone bodies rather quickly. No cravings for sweets, stable mood and blood sugar level. If it wasn't for all the high intensity stuff I was doing at that time I could just stayed in ketosis, leaning out and not needing any carb refeeds. Alas, for all the fast-paced stuff I was doing at that time, the refeeds were necessary.
But as soon as I went on a carb refeed I go through a carb/ sugar addiction relapse. Causing me to submit to carb cravings on low/no carb days. I would kick myself out of ketosis and feel miserable. I wanted to stay in ketosis but I needed to replenish my internal carb storage as well without causing in insulin tsunami in my system.
Reminder: Too much insulin in our system inhibits the metabolization of fat as fuel.
In very simple terms: Lots of sugar --> lots of insulin --> burn less fat, even gain more fat
Enter Generation UCAN
One of them is Martijn Doekes an avid ultra-runner and endurance nutrition geek. Since race season was upon us we talked about topping up on carbs.
Before race day endurance athletes usually like to carbo-load. Unlike a carb refeed which is rather carb replenishing approach, athletes are not so glycogen depleted and try to pre-load to have as much extra fuel as possible in the race.
So for my own carb replenishment I was thinking about avoiding all sweet tasting carbs and just go for starchy stuff or white rice to lessen the carb hangover effect.
Martijn on the otherhand told me that he was experimenting with some kind of superstarch by Generation UCAN from the US. Apparently the starch which is made out of corn would only cause a minimal insulin spike and therefore was going easier on the liver while it's still being completely absorbed in the blood stream. Although it was low GI-carb, the absorbtion was fast enough for it to serve as energy fuel for long endurance races.
I gave Martijn the get-out-of-here look and he sent me an article by an M.D. named Peter Attia who is also an ultra-endurance athlete trying to compete mostly in ketosis.
According to Peter Attia's article UCAN did not kick him out of ketosis. I delved deeper into the matter to understand how it works.
(WARNING: Some nutrition geekery. Skip next paragraph if you're not interested)
As most of you know the body needs to break down all sugars (fructose, maltose, sucrose etc.) into the simplest sugar molecule glucose to be able to use it for energy. To be able to store the glucose in our muscles and our liver glucose needs to re-assembled to a storage matrix called glycogen. Most high-tech sports drinks usually contain maltodextrin, a sugar which is made of 3-20 glucose molecules which is still high-GI and causes an considerable insulin spike.
The secret why UCAN does not cause an insulin spike is because it's an incredibly gigantic sugar molecule structure which does not appear in nature. It is actually 200-20,000 times bigger than natural occurring sugars . Because of it's size and weight molecule the superstarch is metabolized differently which causes the pancreas to NOT release much insulin.
MY UCAN EXPERIENCE:
I decided to follow this protocol:
- Induction phase:10 days of low carbs (max. 30g a day), moderate protein (ca. 65g/ day), fat until satiety aiming ideally for ketosis
- Followed by carb refeed week
--> still low carb and high fat
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat: low carb, 40g/ day
Thu & Sun: Refeed - 60g UCAN + 30 g of normal carbs in form of white rice
Speaking of force-feeding. The taste of UCAN needs some getting used to. It is chalky... I correct: it is chalk. But I found out that it tastes better when mixed with full fat yoghurt or whey a shake. The following day after the refeed I was waiting for the cravings to kick in. And yet, I felt absolutely fine... I correct: I felt great.
No carb hangover but still felt fuelled. To my surprise I was not even as bloated as on normal carb-refeeds. And my appetite and weight stayed stable the day after which probably means that UCAN does not retain as much water in the gut than regular carbs. Over the next weeksI did lose some weight and my strength numbers went up. So I probably lost fat rather than muscle, an observation Peter Attia made as well..
As you might have already guessed, this kind of re-feed is SO. NOT. PALEO. It's a neo-nutrition hack. But it again this is the realm of sport nutrition and we are focusing on performance here. And it worked well for all the Crossfit, powerlifting and HIIT shenanigans I was doing then.
Martijn himself was actually so convinced of the product that he worked on making it available in Hong Kong. If you want to try the super starch you can get it at:
Lantau Basecamp in Mui Wo
I should mention at this point that I'm not affiliated with UCAN in any way. In fact I'm not using it at the moment because due to work I had to cut down my workouts and do not need carb refeeds at the moment. But I still believe it's an effective non-Paleo product which can be included to the 20% of times you might not be Paleo.
In Part III I will discuss ketosis: How I stopped carb-refeeds, went through the induction phase, struggling to become fully keto adapted, and what it takes to stick to a ketogenic diet.