Beyond Caffeine and Pre-Workout: Why Games Athletes Travis Mayer and Emily Rolfe are Turning to Carbs Instead
Emily Rolfe admits she was hesitant to take carbohydrates in drink form at first.
“I was pretty reluctant to take carbs…because, you know, I don’t like the sweet taste in my mouth, and (with a lot of products) it tastes like you’re just drinking sugar all day,” This attitude led to Rolfe not being 100% on board when husband, Kyle, suggested she take UCAN’s SuperStarch before and during her long training sessions.
The up-and-coming CrossFit athlete listened anyway, and quickly realized the product didn’t have that sugary taste she disliked so much. Not only that, but her long training sessions started to feel more productive than when she relied on a traditional pre-workout and caffeine from a coffee to carry her through training.
That was back in 2015, long before Rolfe was a two-time CrossFit Games athlete.
Six years later, Rolfe is a UCAN athlete and is more dedicated to their products than ever. While she still drinks one coffee a day, she doesn’t take any other pre-workout products except the SuperStarch powder, which she drinks in liquid form before each session. She also makes use of UCAN’s protein and electrolyte products, as well as their on-the-go gels, often utilizing them during and after training sessions.
“Ususally, like 90 minutes or so into a strength piece you’re like, ‘alright I’m getting hungry, like I’m ready to eat’, so it almost allows that to be suppressed and then I am able to go a little bit longer.”Travis Mayer, Seven-Time CrossFit Games Competitor
Rolfe isn’t the only Games athlete who relied on UCAN to help her survive and flourish through the recent CrossFit Games, where she finished 15th overall. Seven-time Games athlete Travis Mayer, who placed 12th this summer, is another.
Mayer discovered UCAN in the final months leading up to the 2021 Games when his agent gave him some samples, and today the UCAN powder, gels and bars have become a staple in his training and on competition days.
What Exactly is SuperStarch?
SuperStarch, proprietary to UCAN, is a low-glycemic, natural, non-GMO, complex carbohydrate uniquely designed to deliver long-lasting energy in a time-released manner, without the spikes and crashes you often get from sugary or stimulant based nutrition products.
Stimulant-based energy, like caffeine, excites the brain and increases the feeling of being alert, but it doesn’t deliver consistent fuel to the muscles to allow you to push hard through an entire workout. Sugar-based energy gets released into your bloodstream all at once, followed by a crash, and requires frequent refueling to sustain energy levels.
SuperStarch, on the other hand, delivers consistent energy over time, keeping blood sugar levels stable, allowing the athlete to perform at a higher level longer.
Five Reasons Rolfe and Mayer Take UCAN
1. Push Through Long Training Sessions
The first thing Mayer—who takes the UCAN Energy powder 40 minutes before a training session instead of a traditional pre-workout—noticed was how it helped him push through longer training sessions.
“Usually, like, 90 minutes or so into a strength piece you’re like, ‘Alright I’m getting hungry, like I’m ready to eat,’ so it almost allows that to be suppressed and then I am able to go a little bit longer before I feel like I need to get food in,” said Mayer, who also takes a UCAN gel during longer aerobic sessions.
He added that he would recommend it not only for high level athletes like himself, but for anyone who is training hard and struggles with feeling hungry or drained during or after training sessions.
2. Energy without the Crash
UCAN was originally designed for children with life-threatening hypoglycemia as a way for them to get a steady-release of carbohydrates over several hours to manage their blood sugar.
This was one of the big selling points for Rolfe, who found that, unlike other pre-workout products she dabbled with in her early CrossFit days, UCAN helped her avoid the crash she often felt mid-way through her training sessions.
“It gives me that steady state and not that crash,” she said, adding that UCAN products are also easy on the stomach, helping her to avoid that nauseous feeling she might get from eating other types of food during a long training session.
She added: “It’s easy to digest because it’s liquid, really. It’s like a shake. So when you don’t really feel like food, that’s what I’ll take first.”
3. Quick and Easy
Beyond helping him get through long training sessions, Mayer also grew attracted to UCAN’s bars and gel products, as they’re easy for him to take quickly in between sessions, or when he’s in the car and needs to “get fuel in right away,” he said.
Rolfe agrees and said the same is true of their protein. It’s quick and easy to add to her shaker if she’s feeling a bit hungry during a training session “to keep me a bit more satiated,” she said.
Though both Rolfe and Mayer are more concerned about fueling for performance than anything else, Mayer is adamant that if something doesn’t taste good, he’s probably not going to stick with it.
That’s why he doesn’t drink coffee.
“Everyone around me always seems to drink it. And I’m like, ‘You know what, maybe today is the day.’ Nope it’s still not there…It’s the taste. I can’t get over the taste. I don’t like it,” he said.
The taste of UCAN, on the other hand, is one of the main reasons he has stuck with it.
“It tastes really good, and that’s kind of the big key component. Sometimes a lot of things out there just don’t taste good regardless of what the product is. If it doesn’t taste good, (it’s) very hard to continue to keep taking. You tell someone, ‘Hey, drink fish oil, straight up…Nah,’…You have to have stuff that tastes good,” he said.
5. Great for Game Day
During regular training days, Rolfe adds one or two scoops of the UCAN Energy powder to her shaker bottle, but she increased that to three scoops at the Games this summer to help her get through the long days.
Both she and Mayer also relied on gels—a more concentrated version of the SuperStarch—in Madison, as they require no mixing and can be ingested quickly.
Rolfe even tucked it right into her bathing suit during the swim event, and “slurped” it back during the transition between the swim and the kayak, an event where she made up a ton of time on the kayak portion and placed fourth.
“That’s why I went so fast on the kayak…A little second wind there,” she said with a smile.