The days of forcing rock-hard, chalky nutrition bars reluctantly down your throat are mercifully a thing of the past. In their place modern nutrition provides myriad nutritional choices to suit the palate and nutritional needs of nearly anyone who leads an active lifestyle. Gels, gummie blocks, liquid nutrition, the choice is seemingly endless. Among those leading the charge towards active nutrition that actually tastes good is Berkley, Calif.-based company GU. For more than 20 years, GU has taken a science-based approach toward keeping endurance athletes energized during their endeavours. The fruits (no pun intended) of this more than two decade long effort is an extensive product line nutritional products for pre-, during and post-athletic activities.
To me, the single most important litmus test in a nutritional product is whether or not it tastes good. If a gel, block, bar or drink tastes terrible, you’re far less likely to eat it, especially several hours into an endurance event. Bottom line – the best nutrition product in the world is useless if you don’t actually consume it.
If taste is the chief indicator of the success of a product line, then GU has succeeded by nearly any measure. GU products are available in a mind-numbingly array of choices. This ensures that no only will you find a flavor that suits your palate, but more than likely lots of different flavors which together can help stave off taste bud monotony.
The core of the GU product line is their GU gels. Each 100 calorie GU gel contains a mixture of carbohydrates, amino acids, electrolytes and an herbal blend which includes ginger to help soothe your stomach. This mixture helps replace lost nutrients from exercise as well as minimize the onset and feeling of fatigue, In addition, the stomach calming effects of ginger are a nice added benefit when, four to six hours into an intense workout, keeping any calories down can be a challenge.
GU gels come in a variety of flavors. My personal favorites are peanut butter, a very close approximation of the real thing but with much thinner consistency (easier to swallow when thirsty); mint chocolate, a great subtle variation to the typical chocolate flavored stand-by; and the hint of tartness and fruit flavor of Mandarin Orange and Lemon Sublime add some flavor variety to mid-activity nutrition.
Due to long intense training sessions that come with triathlon and Ironman training, the Roctane Ultra-Endurance product line is the one which I find myself using the most. Each GU Roctane gel has the same 100 calorie count as a regular GU gel, but is packed lots more nutritional goodness. A GU Roctane gel packet contains three times the electrolytes, more amino acids, and ten times the histidine compared to the standard GU gel. As an added bonus, most of the items in the GU Roctane line-up also include a bit of caffeine to help keep me energized deep into a workout. While I genuinely like all of the flavors in the GU Roctane gel lineup, my favorites are vanilla orange which tastes like an orange creamsicle; cherry lime; and island nectar which always reminds me of a delicious fruit drink my wife got me hooked on from her days growing up in Hawaii.
Chomps are GUs more recent (2009) foray into workout nutrition with a bit more “substance” to them than gels. The texture and mouth-feel of Chomps are somewhat more dense compared to CLIF SHOT BLOKS, but they’re still very edible (I like to chase them with a bit more water to prevent dehydration). GU Chomps are available in a number of different flavors, all of which I enjoy. But I absolutely love the unique Peach Tea flavored Chomps. The only problem with the Peach Tea Chomps is that they’re highly popular among my training partners. On group rides, I find myself fending fellow riders off, lest I end up with only one or two chews per bag.
GU Electrolyte Brew Tablets
Don’t get me wrong, water is great. It’s a necessary for life and its essential to stay hydrated, especially in high-altitude environments like Colorado. However, in prolonged activities, you need to replace more than just water in your body as precious electrolytes are sweated out (even during cold weather activities like snowshoeing). Many companies created drinks that are so saccharine sweet you’d swear you can actually feel your teeth rotting on the spot. GU’s answer to this dilemma is GU Electrolyte Brew Tablets. These tablets, when added to your water, add precious electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and much more mild palatable flavor to your water. Sweetened by Stevia instead of sugar, each GU Electrolyte Brew Tablet only adds 10 calories to a bottle of water, good for the waistline, but not so good if you’re trying to replace calories in a workout. The tablets come in a highly-portable small tube which easily fits into jacket pockets. Simply open up the canister, drop a tablet into your water and voila, you have a tasty beverage. The tablets mix quickly and easily into water while creating a mildly effervescent drink. Easy mixing is huge boon for me, since shaking up a water bottle on a bike can create opportunities for “disagreements” with gravity. Much like the GU Chomps, the peach tea is my go to flavor the GU Electrolyte Brew, followed closely by lemon lime (I’ve yet to try out the Strawberry Lemonade for which I have high hopes).
If I had to pick nits with GU, my only complaint about their otherwise excellent product line is that their somewhat confusing labeling of caffeine content. Caffeine is a known performance-enhancer and can be great when you’re just feeling exhausted or tired or just simply need an extra kick to work a little harder. While most of the GU packages are clearly labeled as to whether or not they contain caffeine, the actual amount of caffeine is not readily noticeable while glancing at packaging. This can require a detailed search of ingredients and the “fine print”. Moreover, the amount of caffeine seems to vary slightly from product to product, meaning it’s a bit more challenging to ascertain how much each one contains.
All in all, GU has put together a great selection of nutritional products that work exceptionally well for endurance athletes. Their science-based approach, combined with a wide selection of unique flavors that actually taste good, means that you can exercise harder and longer. Whether your goals are to finish an Ironman or just go a little further on your favorite snowshoeing trail than normal, GU will you help you get there.