Several months ago a big package of GU energy gels showed up at my doorstep. It was tens-of-thousands of calories to consume, but I was determined to eat it all. Not in one sitting, but over the course of two months of training on the bike.
GU has been in the energy gel business since 1991, their mission is to help athletes go faster and longer than ever before. Top endurance athletes have been using their products to get on the podium for the last twenty years, so there is no denying that GU works. But what makes GU different than the dozens of other energy gels on the market? According to their marketing department, the following:
- Carbohydrates - GU provides athletes with a shot of 100 calories in the form of 70-80% maltodextrin and 30-20% fructose (The ratio depends upon the flavor.). Why maltodextrin? It's a complex carbohydrate, and studies have shown that some complex carbs are actually digested faster than simple sugars like table sugar and honey.
- Amino Acid Blend - GU features a unique blend of amino acids to combat muscle fatigue, accelerate the conversion of carbohydrates into usable energy, and maintain mental focus.
- Electrolytes - Sodium and potassium to ward off cramping
According to me, the difference all comes down to flavor, texture and type of carbohydrate delivered.
Flavor & Texture
I was able to test three different flavors, Peppermint Stick, Peanut Butter and ROCTANE Island Nectar (slightly different formula, including caffeine).
Peppermint Stick sounded gross, until I actually got hungry on the bike - then the rush of sugar combined with Peppminty breath-freshener became delicious. Four hours into a ride I was squeezing the Peppermint Stick package as hard as could to digest all the possible Christmas flavor. What sounded unappetizing at the start of a ride, became a nice treat under caloric deficit. The texture was consistent with most other gels, not too thick, not too thin and required a good sip of water to take down.
Peanut Butter was my favorite flavor of the bunch as it most resembled real food. The texture and flavor of the gel tasted as if you were squeezing actual creamy peanut butter into your mouth, albeit just a little bit sweeter and with no roof-of-the-mouth suction. I love peanut butter, hence I loved this gel. The thicker texture required a little more water than normal.
ROCATANE Island Nectar was the easiest, most liquid gel of the bunch. It could be downed with one quick squeeze and without water if necessary. This became my go-to gel for harder efforts or before an extended climb. The ROCTANE formula provides almost double the electrolytes, caffeine and amino acids of the standard GUs, while maintaining the same caloric and carbohydrate ratio. The Island Nectar delivered 35mg of caffeine which is the right amount for someone my size (145lbs) - I get too jittery from other gels that offer almost twice that.
GU Energy Gels are comprised of 70-80% maltodextrin and 30-20% fructose. Maltodextrin has been shown to digest faster than less complex sugars. It also tastes like a normal sugar to my body and is palatable throughout a ride and over several weeks of use. Long-term use is a very important distinction of GU Energy gels over other companies. If a certain type of sugar does not agree with your digestive system, you will find yourself eating less-and-less on the bike, bonking sooner and running on empty. However, what type of sugar works for me, may not work you and warrants personal experimentation.
I highly recommend GU Energy Gels to anyone looking for a gel with a consistent, palatable carbohydrate makeup, yet with with a variety of flavors and textures.
Check GU Energy out online at guenergy.com