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Tech & Wearables

Reviewed: What The Heck Is A Supersapien, Anyway?

We tested and reviewed the new platform from Supersapiens that could change the way triathletes fuel. (Yes, it involves some serious biohacking…)

Review Rating


Basics

By inserting a tiny filament into your arm, a wearable patch device allows you to monitor your blood glucose in real time while the Supersapiens platform helps interpret the data.


Pros

Bluetooth transmission is essential for real-time use

Rock-solid connectivity/data storage

Excellent visual platform

Good data analysis

Some non-smartphone device connectivity (Garmin)

Cons

You need to stick a filament into your arm

Price

Changing patches/filaments every two weeks

Garmin device connection still requires a smartphone

Lack of concrete advice


Price

$150

Brand

Supersapiens


The next Big Thing for endurance sports—particularly triathletes—is almost certainly going to be constant glucose monitoring (or CGM). The long and short of CGM is that it allows athletes to track their blood glucose throughout their day and while training to better understand what foods and activities affect their glucose levels (and to some extent their energy levels). Supersapiens is one of the leading platforms for CGM and currently the best option for athletes. There’s a lot to unpack with CGM, so check out this story for more on the science behind it.

See the main takeaways of our review below, and for a deeper dive into the device, the user experience, and how you can use it to improve performance, read our member-exclusive review here.

Supersapiens: The Basics

First, it’s incredibly important to note that Supersapiens’ actual CGM device, the Abbott Libre Sense, is not available in the U.S. yet, as it’s still going through the FDA approval process. The bad news is that with no CGM device, Supersapiens basically doesn’t exist yet in the U.S. The good news is that one of Abbott’s other sensors, the Freestyle Libre is already FDA approved, so there’s a very very good chance Americans will be able to get into Supersapiens soon.

That caveat aside, there is some incredible tech involved in Supersapiens. First, you “install” the sensor yourself, by pressing down on a little plastic cup that drives a small, roughly 4mm needle into your tricep. The needle immediately comes out and deposits a small filament about the thickness of a beard hair into your arm and is covered by a patch (which you can then cover with another patch to prevent accidental removal while training/racing). The filament detects your blood glucose and then simultaneously stores it in the device for up to eight hours (for retrieval via a smartphone with a NFC reader), but more importantly also transmits it live via Bluetooth to your smartphone and some compatible Garmin devices’ workout data fields. Supersapiens currently supports the following, but it’s important to note that your smartphone is still required to be close by as a sort of bridge between the sensor and your Garmin:

  • Garmin Edge 530, 830, and 1030 Plus cycling computers
  • Range of Garmin smartwatches from the Forerunner 245 and the Venu to the fenix 5 Plus series and up (full list here under “compatible devices” tab)

The data is collected by the Supersapiens app that tells you everything: live glucose numbers, graphs, trends, variability, time in “zone,” and even allows you to catalog your foods and activities. The app also has a very well-laid-out learning library that helps you interpret the data (it won’t interpret any data for you, however; more on that below) and conduct blood glucose “experiments.”

Supersapiens: The Good

While we’ve tested one other CGM system, Levels (more on that head-to-head comparison here), Supersapiens has the absolute edge over the other platform simply due to its CGM device that allows actual real-time glucose monitoring. As athletes, we need to be able to see that information while we’re training to get as much use out of it. Of course being able to see it after the fact is wildly useful as well to help study trends not only while training, but also throughout the day, but the Bluetooth connectivity is key.

On that same note, being able to look at your levels in real time on a wearable (Garmin smartwatch) or a cycling computer (Garmin Edge 530, 830, and 1030 Plus) is far superior than being tied to looking at your phone while training. It’s still fairly limited (we’ll get to that below), but it makes more sense than simply having live data streaming only to your smartwatch for training and racing.

Also, while Supersapiens will never tell you what to eat or what not to eat (same with fueling), they do have excellent analytical tools that give more than just rising and falling numbers. The ability to clearly visualize variability and time in zones really helps you make your own decisions about how your activities and fueling affect glucose levels. Their learning library is not infinite, but rather it keys onto the most important points to help you make your own informed decisions.

Supersapiens: The Bad

There’s not much that’s bad per se about this system, but more like things that really need to happen to make this viable for triathletes at this price. First, the fact that you still need a smartphone to accompany your Garmin device is a little bit of a roadblock—particularly for running. Though one could argue that Supersapiens makes more sense on the bike (more on that in our extended reviewLINK), and very few people ride without their phones, so it’s not a huge deal, but on the run (or while racing), it’s definitely not ideal.

On that same note, it would be fantastic if the live glucose data showed up on the Garmin device in a widget or data field on the watch face. As of this writing, Supersapiens data only gets displayed on a workout data field, which is fine for the cycling computer, but for a smartwatch, it means you’d have to start an activity (or at least start to start an activity) to view your number. Otherwise, you have to view the very nice app in your smartphone.

Finally, under the there might be no way to fix this category: The lack of concrete advice on what to eat/precisely how to interpret your data/how to adjust your training seems like a huge gap. For something that costs this much and is this advanced, initially we were surprised that it didn’t have more specifics on what to do. The problem there, is that because this is technically a medical device (hence the FDA process), Supersapiens—and really any CGM platform—is super super wary about giving what could be interpreted as “medical advice.” For one, the user could have some underlying medical conditions (diabetes, for instance), and that advice could cause serious implications. Second, because we’re talking about nutrition, there’s the risk of some platform accidentally giving unhealthy eating advice that may “make sense,” given the numbers, but could lead to disordered eating.

Conclusions

So with the limitations in mind (no actual specific advice and some device problems that will likely be fixed), this is a fantastic platform—assuming you know what you’re getting into. The app and device itself are nearly as good as you’re going to get within the “no medical advice” framework, so no complaints there. The learning and data viz is fantastic, and if nothing else, you’ll become vastly more cognizant of how your body reacts to what you put in it and the output you put out. This is actually the point. You will be forced to learn a bit about nutrition, but you’ll also be forced to learn a lot about your body, as well. Being able to make decisions based on numbers and trends and zones and variability is great, but being able to apply those “lessons” and eventually maybe not need the device anymore would be priceless. There is a lot to gain from diving into CGM with Supersapiens, but just know it’s not going to hold your hand from the side of the pool.

Get a more in-depth look at our time testing Supersapiens here.