Wednesday, January 26, 2022

UCAN vs. Maurten for Marathon Fueling

In my long quest to find the optimal fueling solution for my needs, I have found Maurten and UCAN to be the products that work best. How are they different? Can they be used together? Let's discuss. 

Disclaimer: These products work well for me, but each runner has unique needs. This review is based on my personal experience.

Maurten Products
I have tried all of the Maurten fueling products. They have 2 types of gels and 3 drink mixes. There are no flavors:

  • Gel 100
  • Gel 100 Caf 100
  • Drink Mix 160
  • Drink Mix 320
  • Drink Mix 320 Caf 100
UCAN Products
I have tried most of the UCAN products, but the ones I will discuss are:

Hydration
Above we have 3 different gels and 5 liquids. Even though there are 5 liquids, the only product above that provides hydration with electrolytes is the UCAN Hydrate. The Maurten Drink Mix does NOT provide electrolytes. Therefore, if I am looking to carry an electrolyte drink during a training run or a marathon, I opt for UCAN Hydrate. However, if it's cold (below 45) I find that I do not need an electrolyte drink as long as I have pre-hydrated the day before.

I therefore recommend UCAN Hydrate during runs that are above 45 degrees and in the days leading up to the race. I also drink it on a daily basis just to keep my electrolytes in check in the summer months. My favorite flavors are Berry and Watermelon. 

Fueling: Differences between UCAN and Maurten
While both of these fuels are easier to digest than many other products on the market, they are very different from each other. UCAN Energy Powder uses SuperStarch, its proprietary formula for slow-release energy. The advantage to using UCAN over Maurten is that the energy is released slowly, over a long period of time and prevents spikes and crashes in blood sugar.

Maurten uses a hydrogel technology that makes the fuel super easy to digest and quickly accessible as you run. The advantage of Maurten is that it allows you to take in more calories and carbohydrates over the course of your run, which has shown to enhance performance. The more you can take in and use, the better off you will be.

Fueling for Training
For my long runs, I sometimes use Maurten and I sometimes use UCAN. One of the main training benefits of a long run is training the body to use fat for fuel and not carbs. With UCAN Energy Powder, the slow release energy doesn't overwhelm your system with carbs, so your body still gets the benefit of learning how to burn fat. Some runners do their long runs with no fuel so that they can get this fat-burning benefit. I think training with UCAN provides the same benefit. There was a direct correlation with my long runs feeling stronger and better with UCAN than before when I used Honey Stinger gels. 

I use Maurten in long runs when I want to "practice" my race fueling. I don't use UCAN Energy Powder on race day; I use Maurten gels. So it's important to train my body to digest those gels. 

When I use UCAN, I drink a full serving of the Energy Powder 30 minutes before I start. If the run is longer than 2 hours, I carry a Maurten gel with me and I take that when I have 5 miles left to go. Usually my long runs last a maximum of 2:45. If your long runs last longer, I would recommend two gels on top of the initial UCAN serving. My favorite flavor is Lemon and I have tried them all.

Now, there's also the UCAN Edge gel. I think this is probably a good product (I tried it once) but the orange flavor contains erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol that upsets my stomach. The strawberry banana flavor does not contain erythritol and I plan to experiment with that one in my next training cycle. 

Fueling: Before a Race
The Maurten Drink Mixes are excellent for drinking the evening before a race or the morning of a race. Make sure you mix it with the correct amount of water: 500ml. I don't like drinking a ton of liquid right before bed (for obvious reasons) so for a half marathon or full marathon I drink half a serving of the Drink Mix 160 the night before. The 320 might also be a good choice, but I have never done it. The difference between the two is that the 320 has 320 calories and the 160 has 160 calories. The taste is similar with the 320 being more thick. They have a light taste and they are as easy to drink as water.

No matter what the distance (5K-Marathon) I drink the Maurten Drink Mix 160 starting 3 hours before the race. For half and full marathons I end up drinking the entire serving during the 3 hours leading up to the race. I can see how the 360 or even the 360 CAF would be a good choice, but since my stomach is sensitive, I prefer to stick to the 160. I also eat an English muffin with almond butter to go along with my Maurten Drink mix.

Before discovering Maurten, I always had the UCAN Energy Powder 30 minutes before the race. This worked well until one time when it was just too much for my stomach during the Harrisburg Marathon in 2020. 

Fueling: During a Race
I once tried fueling with the Maurten Drink Mix 360 during a marathon so I wouldn't have to take as many gels. It had worked well during training and it's a good way to get in the calories easily. However, I didn't find myself to be all that energized during that marathon so I decided to abandon it for racing. It was only one time though, so I may decide in the future to go back to it. If you have problems with gels, carrying the Drink Mix 360 during your marathon would be a great solution. With 360 calories and the option to have a caffeinated version, it's solid fuel.  Here is how I fuel during races, given that I already drank my Drink Mix 160 starting 3 hours before the start.

5K and 10K: 1 Maurten Caffeinated gel about 20 minutes before the start

10 Miler: 1 Maurten Caffeinated gel about 20 minutes before the start, 1 regular Maurten gel at mile 7

Half marathon: 1 Maurten Caffeinated gel about 20 minutes after the start, 1 regular Maurten gel at mile 8

Marathon: Starting with the Caffeinated gel, alternate the two types of Maurten gels every 40 minutes. Supplement with Honey Stinger Energy chews. 

Remember, this is the fueling approach that works for me and every runner is different. Consult the official Maurten Fueling guide to see their recommendations. 

Conclusion
Both Maurten and UCAN have their place in my fueling and hydration. I use:
  • UCAN Hydrate for my hydration needs
  • UCAN Energy Powder for my long training runs so that my body burns fat for fuel
  • The Maurten Drink Mix 160 to top of my energy stores before a race
  • The Maurten gels (both Caffeinated and regular) to fuel immediately before and during a race
UCAN is a slow-release fuel with the benefit of not having to fuel as often and avoiding blood sugar spikes and crashes. Maurten is a fast-acting energy source that allows you to easily digest and use a large amount of carbs which has shown to enhance performance.

Save 10% on all UCAN products by using this link.  If you'd like a free sample pack of UCAN, please DM me on Instagram (@elizabethclor) and I will send you a link for that. 

3 comments:

  1. Love UCAN for pre race. I've switched to SIS gels for in race. You can drink it without any liquid. Although the packaging a bit bulky compared to others. For longer events I like Tailwind too.

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  2. I like UCAN energy before races. I just feel like it gives me an extra bit of pep. I was so excited when the Edge gels came out but they were a flop for me. I'd be interested to try Maurten someday.

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  3. I have to admit I don't use anything and maybe i'd get my sub 2:50:00 if I experimented more. I've used those Power Gels from Power Bar is a couple of marathons in the past and never felt it made a difference compared to doing nothing at all so I kind of tossed the gel thing aside. As long as there is an electrolyte drink on the course (typically Gatorade Endurance Formula) I feel that's what I'll do. I'm sure if I spent the money and experimented I could learn more though

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