Rich and I were excited when we heard about Supersapiens – an energy management system that tracks glucose levels using an easy-to-apply biosensor. Supersapiens are now partnering with Ironman in 2021 as the official Real-Time Energy Management System Sponsor in Europe so we were excited to give it a try. As ambassadors, we were gifted with a month’s trial pack and here is our honest explanation and review.
The app collects glucose data from the Abbott Libre Biosensor and enables you to track your glucose levels in real time and analyse your data. I had seen these types of biosensors used in the medical world before, as my Auntie was diabetic and used them to manage her condition. However, it intrigued me to think they could be used as a tool in endurance sport.
How does it work?
The small biosensor is worn on the back of the upper arm and uses a thin, flexible filament inserted just under the skin to accurately measure glucose levels inside the body from the interstitial fluid.
The process of applying the biosensor is very easy and explained on the website and app with simple step by step instructions. The first time I applied the biosensor, it hurt a little on insertion (for about 10 seconds). I blame Rich because I let him apply it. I applied the second biosensor 2 weeks later myself and it didn’t hurt at all. Then you just connect to the (free) Supersapiens app, use bluetooth to scan your biosensor, it takes 1 hour to warm up and then you are syncing and away. I am not always the best at technology and I found the whole setup process incredibly easy.
Data, data, data
As triathletes, we love to track and analyse data. Numbers, numbers, numbers….For many of us they are a crucial part of the training cycle, making gains and progressing towards our goals.
Nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon. It is something you simply have to get right in order to succeed, especially when training for endurance events such as 70.3 and Full Ironman triathlons. Fuelling correctly can be the difference between a podium finish and a DNF. As the body’s preferred energy source, glucose plays a key role in athletic performance. So here is a system that enables us to analyse our nutrition and figure out what fuel works best for us. If ever Rich or I feel disappointed by a training session, one of the first questions we ask each other is whether we fuelled correctly. When training multiple times a day, or training on top of a busy work/home schedule, it is crucial to fuel properly before, during and after each workout.
The Supersapiens app is easy to use and syncs easily to the biosensor via bluetooth. It gives live data but also provides insights collected over time…such as your daily and average glucose exposure and your glucose variability (the ups and downs of your glucose levels on the live graph). Significant changes (steep upward and downward movement) can impact your energy levels. The optimum fuel should provide less extreme ups and downs and more stable, sustainable energy. You can imagine the difference in the graph if, for example, Sophie ate a bowl of plain porridge and oat milk, whilst Rich devoured two bowls of coco pops with a large orange juice and a side of nutella on toast.
Our initial data
After the first few days of tracking data, we both made a few adjustments to our diets based on the results. Rich decided his glucose levels, in general, were a bit higher than he liked so he cut out some of the processed sugar he was eating. He switched to 80% dark chocolate as his treat and started buying the healthiest, low sugar, brand of peanut butter for his morning porridge. Meanwhile, my glucose levels were a little lower than I would like. I had already cut out all processed sugar and was controlling my calories in an effort to get down to race weight. After tracking my glucose levels, I realised that I needed to slightly increase my calories to fuel my workouts properly. I lacked energy during a number of my tough morning turbo sessions and my live graph reflected this.
After making some small adjustments, we were happy with our glucose levels . Now it was time to experiment with different foods to find out what best fuels our training. One of the obvious choices for use was to continue to eat porridge in the mornings. We trialled different breakfasts, and for us, we found porridge the optimal fuel to give us more sustained energy.
The biosensor and app is helping us to monitor how we fuel our workouts and demonstrates which foods work best for us. My energy levels have improved and I feel confident that I can check the app to see if I am keeping on track. It has been a learning curve for us and we feel that this app could help lots of athletes work on their fuelling strategy. In all honesty, the biosensor doesn’t come cheap. For example, a trial pack that contains two 14-day biosensors for up to 4 weeks of glucose data and costs 160 euros. Meanwhile, the Ironman training pack, twelve 14-day biosensors for up to 24 weeks of glucose data costs 780 euros. However, if you have the resources to buy, it is an incredibly useful tool. Triathlon can be an expensive sport. If you are in the position to buy an £8000 bike then perhaps you are willing to invest in your nutrition to figure out the optimum fuelling strategy for you.