Posted Friday 25th March 2011 –
Whilst GU have been around for a long time (they were the guys who brought the first energy gel to market back in 199) it’s only recently that they’ve been available to purchase in the UK. It’s the most popular selling gel in the US and has what seems like an almost cult following amongst endurance athletes over there, it’s also the official gel supplier to Team Radio Shack for 2011 so we were keen to see how good it really is.
Here in the UK we only get a choice of 6 flavours compared to the 9 available in the US but out of the 6 available they’re should be something to suit all tastes. As well as the flavour variety you can also select the amount of caffeine you’re taking by picking different flavours. The choice is –
- Chocolate Outrage with caffeine
- Jet Blackberry – with double caffeine
- Lemon Sublime – caffeine free
- Strawberry Banana – caffeine free
- Tri-Berry – with caffeine
- Vanilla Bean – with caffeine
Besides the caffeine content all the gels are based on the same formula, in GU’s words, designed to help Energise, Sustain and Recover.
Like many gels they contain a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates, in the form of fructose and maltodextrin, designed to give you a more immediate energy hit from the simple carbs whilst the complex carbs help maintain your energy levels over time. Along with the carbs you’re also getting electrolytes to help proper hydration but it’s really the additions beyond these basic ingredients that make GU a bit different.
In each sachet they’ve also added citrates (potassium citrate, sodium citrate and citric acid) designed to help speed the conversion of carbohydrates into energy and reduce acid build-up in muscles. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine have been included to serve as another fuel source as well as aid in recovery and according to GU can improve mental performance and reduce fatigue by limiting the central nervous system’s production of serotonin. You’ll also find the amino acid histidine to help neutralise lactic acid build-up in muscles; antioxidant vitamins C & E; chamomile which works as an anti-inflammatory during and after exercise; ginger to soothes the stomach and a host of minerals from sea salt.
The science certainly sounds impressive and with 20 years of experience tweaking the formula we’d expect GU to have it pretty sorted so how do they work in practice?
First up the consistency is slightly thicker than most of the other gels we’ve tried, the plus side of that is if your out of breath you can squeeze some in your mouth and still breathe through your mouth without gel spilling out.
Probably the most important factor in choosing a gel is going to be the taste which is where we were impressed by the GU gels, the flavours are quite strong, they don’t seem to be sickly sweet like some gels and they actually taste like they’re named. We particularly liked the Chocolate Outrage and Lemon Sublime flavours but none of them were unpleasant and we’d happily use any of the flavours.
Each gel contains 100 calories so in theory should give you enough fuel for around 30 minutes or so of exercise, GU recommend using one gel every 30-45 minutes to keep you’re energy levels fully topped up but obviously if you’re using energy drink or energy bars as well you’ll need fewer gels. We’ve tended to use them more towards the end of events when you need that extra lift to get you to the finish or when we know were approaching a long climb. The caffeine flavoured gels do seem to give an additional lift but that’s from a decaff coffee drinker who can notice the caffeine in a regular cup of coffee so others may not notice this as much.
It’s hard to say for definite that they give you an extra boost over and above other gels on the market but after using them on a few sportives as well as on longer training rides and in races GU do seem to be onto something with their gel formula. That coupled with the taste and choice of flavours definitely make them one to consider and we’ve grown rather fond of them.
The only slight negative is the price of the gels in the UK, with an rrp of £1.50 per sachet they’re a fair bit more expensive than gel products from the likes of Science In Sport or High 5. However, they can be found cheaper on line and for the performance and taste we think they’re worth paying a bit extra for.
We’ve used GU gels on a number of rides now and they’re quickly becoming a favourite choice when it comes to energy gels, flavours and consistency are good and whilst we’ve not done any particularly scientific tests on their effectiveness they definitely seem to have a slight edge over some of the other gels we’ve tried.
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GU Energy Gel available in single sachets, taster packs and 24 sachet boxes, prices start at £1.35 for single sachets.