GU Energy: The Review
GU. If you haven’t heard of GU, you probably haven’t participated in any sort of endurance event in, I don’t know, the last decade. Check out any road race, trail running event, triathlon, bike race – if it’s an endurance event, GU is likely to be right there in the thick of things. As the slogan on their website (Balancing work and Training is your job – Balancing nutrition and hydration? That’s ours) states, GU was made to help fuel you during any sort of endurance event. Their products provide energy in the form of simple sugars and carbs, allowing your body to quickly replenish depleted energy stores. Keep in mind, there is some debate raging over the usefulness of GU’s products during long distance endeavors – nearly everyone agrees that you must hydrate and replenish lost nutrients, but no one agrees on which product to use. The answer is: whatever works for you. I will tell you from personal experience that I enjoy the GU product lineup, have for quite some time now, and that for the sake of *ahem* science, I just went ahead and tested all of them – partially to bring you this unbiased review, and partially because they are delicious… and taste like candy.
To begin with, GU does NOT offer just the original product – I believe we’ve all had a taste of the paste, so to speak. If you haven’t, it’s a gel like substance, somewhat the consistency of really thick honey or clear toothpaste. After years of attempts and training programs, I can usually eat just about anything (and have) in the first 16 miles or so of my run. I’ve carried all sorts of food, and even once ran to meet my friends for pizza… and then ran home. I don’t recommend that approach. After mile 16, it’s extremely difficult for me to absorb nutrients – it’s almost as if my body just wants to reject any solid food I attempt to eat. Eating GU solved this for me – the gel is extremely easy to swallow, and the packets are very easy to carry just about anywhere on you during a long training session. Since the gel isn’t for everyone, GU branched out into a number of other products, all of which have the same goal of delivering energy to you quickly and easily, even when eating isn’t exactly the first thought on your mind.
As you can see, my first experience (and only experience for a long time) was the original GU product – these little 100 calorie packets are still a favorite of mine, and come in a crazy wide variety of flavors, both with AND without caffeine. That debate is so hotly contested that I don’t even want to start, so I’ll let you check out GU’s Take on the the whole caffeine issue. Needless to say either way you slice it, GU’s got you covered. I’m partial to all the chocolate flavors of GU, but I’ve also had great success (for me, success means I was able to eat it on mile 20 and not throw it up) with any of the coffee flavors they offer as well. My wife is really partial to the vanilla varieties, and one new flavor – salted caramel – is really, really tasty. They really do taste like candy to me, so I’ve grown accustomed to eating them.
Since I’m kind of a nerd about this stuff, I was actually really, really excited to find GU Chomps in my local food store. Chomps are essentially GU, but in solid form. During really long runs, it sometimes helps me to have something to keep the saliva glands active in my mouth – especially on really hot summer runs. GU packets are awesome, but you hit them up once an hour, and they are gone in only a few seconds. Chomps can be held in the mouth for quite sometime, and have a consistency somewhere between a large gummy bear and a jelly bean. I find all of the flavors to be delicious, especially the new watermelon flavor – it tastes like watermelon bubble gum. The other thing that I like about the chomps is that you can space out your intake so that you slowly take in your carbs, instead of all at once. It’s probably just a mental thing for me, but I like having that measure of control. Just a word to the wise – keep them in their little pouch until use. I’ve had them go so stale that I couldn’t digest them, and I’ve also had them melt down in my pocket, nearly ruining my good pair of running shorts on race day when I absentmindedly put one directly into my pocket.
If you haven’t quite learned to enjoy eating during a workout (or are just past the point where you can even think straight), GU has you covered with a few options for a liquid carbohydrate source. There are quite a few drinks which tout high electrolyte counts on the market already, so I think GU will probably stick to additives to plain old water for the time being; not only is the packet easier to transport, it mixes easily into whatever bottle you handy, without adverse side effects. I tested a couple of different flavors of GU Electrolyte Brew during my workouts (trail running, cycling, and road running) to find that I while I really enjoyed the flavor, they tended to make me thirstier than when I started. I liked them better when I was able to drink water from one source, while spacing out my GU Brew intake from another source. I basically carried the GU mixture in a bottle, and hit up water fountains along a local trail in between swigs. I could see this being a handy approach to running marathons – carrying the GU Brew of your choice, and hitting aid stations along the way. GU Brew also comes in a recovery form, which was awesome ’cause it tasted like chocolate milk. I only wish it had more protein – at only 8g of protein, it’s got roughly half the amount of protein as other recovery drink competitors.
ROCTANE is the newest addition to the GU lineup as a whole, and comes in enough varieties that it should almost be marketed under a separate banner. ROCTANE is available from GU in not only gel and energy drink, but in capsule as well. While I didn’t receive any capsules for testing, I will probably give them a go on my own, as it seems extremely handy to just down a quick pill with a mouthful of water. GU included ginger in the capsule as a way to combat nausea – this is handy for running in places where the usage of THC to combat nausea from long runs is frowned upon. As for the comparison between ROCTANE and regular GU, I didn’t feel any measurable effects between the two – in fact, on one training session I didn’t quite pay attention to which gel packet was which, and couldn’t really feel the difference. If anything, on a workout in which I used only ROCTANE, I did feel as if my recovery was somewhat speedier (my perceived exhaustion lowered at a faster rate), but that could have been due to training as well. Of the ROCTANE lineup, I most enjoyed the beverage side of things, especially with caffeine added. As I mentioned above, I’m not getting into the caffeine argument, but I do know it works for me.
To conclude, whether you want to suck it down, drink it, eat it, chomp it, or even swallow it in pill form GU has you covered. Their products are designed to aid in refueling athletes who compete in distance endeavors – I can’t put a ton of science behind my claims, but I’m a big fan. They’ve been helping me through races for years, and it’s always a pleasure to see new flavors and forms on shelves in stores. If want to know more about the science behind the GU formula, head on over to GU’s website for more info. They have quite a few pages on not only the science behind their product, but also the need for refueling during any intense activity; this tells me that they have a passion for serving the needs of the individual athlete first, and selling you a product second. With the variety of flavor choices and product types in the lineup, I’m pretty sure there’s a GU for you. Cheers.