UCAN Science

UCAN Science: A Deep Dive Into SuperStarch®

Guest speaker: Dr. Cathy Yeckel, MS, Ph.D.

Professor: Yale school of Public Health

Research areas of focus: exercise physiology and metabolism, glucose-challenged populations ranging from pediatric to elderly.

SuperStarch® Origins

  • SuperStarch® was originally developed for an infant with a life-threatening form of hypoglycemia
    • His condition required him to eat every two hours in order to maintain his blood sugar levels, otherwise he would face a  hypoglycemia crisis
    • Essentially, could not create his own blood sugar
  • SuperStarch® was developed to deliver a slow and steady source of glucose so that this child could consume a one-time serving and sleep 8 hours straight
    • Eliminate need to re-feed in order to maintain blood glucose levels
    • In 2009 the child slept 8 hours through the night

SuperStarch® Basics

  • SuperStarch® is a real food
    • It is a high molecular weight glucose polymer, a type of complex carbohydrate
    • Designed from a non-GMO cornstarch through a patented heat and moisture cooking process
      • Starches are very large molecules that contain many glucose units
      • SuperStarch® is a  very complex molecule that takes the body’s enzymes a relatively long time to “chip away” at the molecule to release its energy

SuperStarch® Metabolism

  • Carbohydrates are a very important source of food
    • “Carbohydrates” describe a spectrum of food, with varying qualities
    • SuperStarch® is a large polysaccharide, a starch
      • The stomach handles this molecule relatively quickly
        • Has a low osmotic pressure
        • Does not pull a lot of water with it into intestines
      • Enzymes break down SuperStarch® molecules that result in a slow release of glucose
        • When glucose is slowly released, the beta cells in the pancreas don’t have to secrete a lot of insulin
      • As a result of slow absorption of glucose from SuperStarch®, blood sugar levels are maintained stable
  • Traditional “quick acting” carbohydrates vs. SuperStarch® carbohydrates
    • Fast acting carbohydrates = simple sugars
      • Rapidly available for energy use
      • Carbohydrate needs tend to be “overshot” when using quick-acting carbohydrates in exercise context
        • Lots of smaller doses taken at frequent, regular, intervals because it’s hard to dial in how much you actually need
        • Causes blood sugar spike because of how much sugar is available at once
    • SuperStarch® glucose comes on very slowly
      • In sports context, there’s never been a carbohydrate comparable to the time-release fashion of SuperStarch®

Blood sugar and exercise relationship

  • A big blood sugar response causes a big insulin response
      • Insulin signals to pull the sugar into the muscle as well as burn the available sugar for fuel
  • What happens when you “come down” or “crash” from a blood sugar spike?
    • Body interprets it as a hypoglycemic threat
      • Has nothing to do with actual calories available; is actually body’s response to preventing perceived threat of hypoglycemia
    • Most often, the decline in blood sugar after a spike triggers the body to eat, which can result in overfeeding
    • If you don’t have big waves of blood sugar, you’re much less likely to be triggered into eating
    • SuperStarch® allows blood sugar to come down very slowly, so an extreme hunger response doesn’t really happen

Carbohydrate Confusion

  • There is a current trend to “fear” consumption of carbohydrates
    • Health messaging vilifies carbohydrates, when there are only a few classes of carbohydrates that are fast-acting
      • There are very few circumstances where we genuinely need fast-acting carbs
      • Problematic because they deliver a lot of calories (surplus) and rapidly leave the system, often triggering hunger
    • There is no need to cut out an entire macronutrient
      • Vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, and fiber are also carbohydrates that provide an array of nutrients, minerals, and healthy calories
  • What benefit does SuperStarch® have over other complex carbohydrates in an exercise setting?
    • There is data that suggests complex carbohydrates, like lentils, eaten a few hours prior to exercise can be beneficial for performance
      • Not always ideal to eat this kind of food 30-45 minutes prior to exercise, as the fiber can make it tough on the stomach
    • SuperStarch® can be taken 30 min prior
      • Easy on the stomach

SuperStarch® Benefits

  • Stable blood sugar: the ability to deliver energy without a large surge in blood sugar
    • SuperStarch® helps keep blood sugar stable, and because it doesn’t overwhelm the system with glucose at one time, it does not force the body to deal with glucose if it doesn’t need it
    • Because insulin response is low with SuperStarch®, it doesn’t dictate what the body burns at a given time
    • With SuperStarch®, muscle has the ability to preferentially burn fat when called for, and preferentially burn carbohydrates when called for, because its not busy managing a surge in blood sugar
  • Long-lasting energy: refueling
    • Fast-acting carbohydrates leave the system very quickly because of a big insulin surge
      • Requires constantly having to take carefully timed fuel
      • Moves body toward having to burn carbohydrates
    • SuperStarch® provides stable blood sugar, but enables muscle to dictate which fuel (fat or carbohydrate) to burn because there’s not a big insulin response.
      • Muscle has potential to make adaptations that it needs to for the type of training your doing
      • Can shift to glycogen for increasing intensity, shift to fat for less intensity
  • High fat-burning potential
    • SuperStarch® creates an environment to enable fat burn
    • Fat tissue is  very sensitive to insulin. Designed not to compete with glucose
      • If you can keep blood sugar stable (and therefore insulin low), the muscle has delivery of fatty acid to be burned. It’s not impeded by a competing fuel (carbohydrate)



Bhattacharya, K., Mundy, H., Lilburn, M., Champion, M., Morley, D., & Maillot, F. (2015). A pilot longitudinal study of the use of waxy maize heat modified starch in the treatment of adults with glycogen storage disease type I: A randomized double-blind cross-over study. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases., 10(1), 18.

Bhattacharya, K., Orton, R., Qi, X., Mundy, H., Morley, D., Champion, M., . . . Lee, P. (2007). A novel starch for the treatment of glycogen storage diseases. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease., 30(3), 350-357.

Roberts, M., Lockwood, C., Dalbo, V., Volek, J., & Kerksick, C. (2011). Ingestion of a high-molecular-weight hydrothermally modified waxy maize starch alters metabolic responses to prolonged exercise in trained cyclists. Nutrition., 27(6), 659-665.