Supersapiens is a blood glucose measurement system that’s been embraced by triathlon but banned in cycling races – but how does it work?
A recent rule amendment from world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, introduced a ban on in-competition use of devices that capture information on metabolic values such as glucose and lactate.
The move has generated a lot of buzz around tech from one company in particular – Supersapiens. The brand’s patches have been seen on more and more athletes’ arms including Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo Visma and EF Education-Nippo in the world of cycling.
In triathlon, the tech is being used by top athletes including members of the BMC Pro Triathlon Team while Supersapiens has also recently gone into partnership with Ironman and is the title sponsor of this year’s world champs in Hawaii. So what is this technology that’s been embraced by athletes yet has the UCI worried?
The Abbott Libre Sense Biosensor
All the data used by Supersapiens is collected using the Abbott Libre Sense biosensor. This small patch that sticks to the back of the upper arm has a thin, flexible filament that inserts just under the skin. This allows the sensor to access your interstitial fluid, which surrounds the cells of the tissues just below your skin. By analysing this fluid, the device can measure your glucose levels in real-time.
Each sensor patch starts transmitting minute-by-minute data one hour after application and lasts up to 14-days. There’s also a sweatproof, waterproof protective patch available that’s ideal for swimmers to help protect the patch.
Seeing The Data
The data gathered by the sensor is pushed to the Supersapiens smartphone app and the brand also has a wrist-mounted reader on the way. Garmin users can also make use of the data, either by updating software on Garmin 530, 830 or 1030 Plus head units or via a Garmin IQ app for smartwatches that will mirror from the Supersapiens app.
What Does It Mean For Performance?
Traditionally, dialling in your race-day nutrition strategy has been a case of relying on anecdotal evidence, reading research studies, seeking expert advice and – fundamentally – a whole lot of trial and error. Even if you nail your nutrition goals for a single event, replicating this exactly in another might not yield the same results.
As glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel while exercising, knowing your body’s glucose levels on demand means you can see exactly how what you eat and drink affects you while resting, training or racing.
That means ensuring your levels are topped up prior to a race and avoiding glucose spikes and troughs during training or events by knowing when you need a top-up of energy – and how much is required.
All this is aided along by the app, which analyses your glucose response during workouts and helps you stay in the right performance zone based on the intensity of your event. It’s also designed to help you replenish after exercise.
So how much of a performance boost could this give you? By banning Supersapiens, the UCI is clearly worried that the tech will provide an unfair advantage during competition – a ringing endorsement that of its efficacy.
It does come at a price, though. Supersapiens’ three-month plan will set you back €450 and while there are savings to be had on six-month plans and monthly subscriptions, it’s still a serious investment. However, if you’re an athlete whose performance has been limited by nutrition issues, it could be a game-changer.