Why Gnarly is better than Ucan


When it comes to choosing the best products for fueling and recovering from workouts, it’s best to look beyond the marketing hype.

For years, I used Ucan as a pre-workout fuel before long runs and race. At first, I felt that it helped my performance but I had no real basis to prove my theory. And it became a habit to fuel with Ucan. But earlier this year I had grown somewhat dissatisfied with the product and the bloating feeling that frequently accompanied it.

Thanks to a pre-pandemic trip to Utah, I discovered Gnarly Nutrition and its line of products designed with athletes in mind. I have started using Gnarly BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) before and during workouts and recovering with Gnarly Vegan as a shake. (Soon, I’ll be trying out the Gnarly Performance Greens, which stimulate blood flow, reduce inflammation and boost immunity.)

My first real experiment with Gnarly was at the Bel Monte Endurance Run 50K just before the pandemic effectively shut down races. I improved my time from the same race three years earlier by 45 minutes and finished as the third male/fourth overall.

While my training played a critical role in my performance, this was an excellent indication that the switch to Gnarly was paying off.

Getting Gnarly

When I endorse and promote a product, it is because I have used it previously and want to support the brand. That was the case with Gnarly. After having success with it, I reached out to the company and was honored to be invited to represent it as a regional athlete.

While Bel Monte was my last race to date, I have continued to use Gnarly and experienced continued benefits. I need to eat less before my long runs to fuel. My training runs are improving. My gut is feeling better.

Previously, I used to have a serving of Ucan, half cup of coffee, and a peanut or nut butter on one or two slices of bread before a run of a half marathon distance or longer. During the actual run, I would supplement with water or mix it with an electrolyte and have a couple of Honey Stinger gluten-free waffles or gels.

Now, I forego the Ucan but still have the coffee and bread with peanut or nut butter. I also start sipping on water with Gnarly’s BCAA mix. It comes in berry lemonade, fruit punch and lemon lime.

The mix has just 20 calories, is easily digestible, and has 5 grams of BCAAs and 35 mg of caffeine. According to Gnarly, it promotes recovery by reducing excessive muscle damage and developing muscle synthesis.

I follow the recommendations and have the BCAA mix before and during workouts, followed up by protein. That’s where Gnarly Vegan comes in.

The Vegan plant protein product is touted as a meal replacement. It has 20 grams of protein, 7 grams of healthy fats, 9 grams of fiber and 14 essential minerals and vitamins. It comes in chocolate (which is amazing!) and vanilla flavors.

Also worth noting, it only has 3 grams of sugar.

So in a way, I have ditched the pre-workout Ucan in favor of Gnarly’s BCAA and Vegan products. It’s a more strategic approach as those products are helping me recover in a healthy, non-GMO way.

A look at the ingredients further shows why I am sold on Gnarly.

Read the labels

Gnarly does not use artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors. They also leave out gluten and soy, which as a Celiac I heartily endorse.

So what’s in Gnarly’s BCAAs? A combination of leucine, isoleucine and valine, along with recognizable ingredients like blackberry juice, caffeine from green tea leaf, stevia, beet juice and red algae.

And in Gnarly’s Vegan protein mix? It’s made out of pea protein isolate, cranberry seed protein and chia seed protein.

For Ucan’s Energy powder mix, the second ingredient is xanthan gum. It is made from corn, which is one of the most genetically engineered foods. Xanthan gum is safe when up to just 15 grams are taken. However, its known side effects include intestinal gas and bloating — not exactly what you want to be dealing with at the start of a training run, race or FKT attempt.

Gnarly’s Vegan uses guar gum, which is made from legumes, but it the sixth-listed ingredient. Also notable is that guar gum is high in soluble fiber. And, of course, legumes are much more healthy and easily digestible than corn products.

In conclusion

While the Utah-based Gnarly brand may not be as well known as Ucan or other similar companies, its high-quality products are specifically made for athletes.

Using Gnarly has been a game-changer for me. That goes beyond the successes at Bel Monte and my fastest known time accomplishment in May. I can tell that I am getting stronger and healthier by using the organic ingredients in Gnarly products, rather than the highly processed corn replica found in Ucan.

If you are an athlete looking for great-tasting, natural mixes that help improve your health and performance, look no further than Gnarly.

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