When I started mountain biking with more intent, as more than something to do after school, having something to eat became a little more essential. In the middle of my schooling, my family moved. We stayed in the same city, but it was to somewhere further away from my riding buddies and the trails I knew. Would this mean the end of my mountain biking? Surely not. The city of Sydney is blessed with tight valleys declared as reserves or National Park. These valleys haven’t been able to be developed easily, and provide off road joy in the urban sprawl. They also provided an offroad way for me to get back to my favourite testing, tech singletrack.
As rides became longer, and encroaching on the three hour mark, I realised a mueslie bar in the packet wasn’t enough. Bananas didn’t last long in the early hydration systems. But GU was available. Later, as I ended up getting a road bike too, there was an essential item in the jersey pocket. A GU. Guaranteed to help you out of any hole you may put yourself in – or so we thought. GU has been around a long time, and is well known.
These days, GU is available in ten flavours. You can have it without caffeine, with caffeine, or with double the amount of caffeine. We all react differently to stimulants, so it is good to have these three options. Some people don’t cope well with caffeine. Personally, I need a lot just to get to normal.
GU Energy Gels, like most gel based energy products, aim to deliver usable energy in a fast, compact way. Their mix involves fructose and maltodextrin, to help you get a quick hit then long last energy, respectively. Amino acids and antioxidants may help with recovery, mental alertness and lactic acid buffering. This is a similar mix to the GU Chomps, but delivered in a different manner.
Use of an energy gel is a personal experience. I find there are four reactions:
1. You use energy gels, and aren’t too fussy about what brand or flavour. It’s race fuel. It gets the job done.
2. Gels, their flavour, consistency, wrapper, ingredients and marketing are something to be ruminated upon. And much time will be devoted to this.
3. You don’t do gels.
4. You’re happy to use gels, but they mess around with your digestive system. Race day only, and you pay for it.
As far as these four types of people go, I think GU Energy Gels will work for three of them. I fall into the first category fairly solidly. I mainly use gels in racing these days, and typically towards the end of a Marathon or Stage. That is personal preference, and what works for me. However there is some reasoning. A leading nutritionist explained it fairly simply, stating that once your body has become accustomed to using such a ready for of carbohydrate, it does not utilise harder to digest energy sources so well. Proper hydration is vital for their success too. This is stressed on the package, so that shouldn’t be new information.
Gu’s give you about 418kj of energy, with 25grams of carbohydrate. Most of you will know what amount of energy you need. They work well on my stomach, and I have no problems with any of the flavours. So I’ll skip right to my thoughts on the product and its delivery in use.
Gu gets the job done. The packets are easy to reach for in a jersey pocket, and the tab can be opened easily with your teeth. The same tab also lends itself to being closed within a bidon lid, or taped onto your bidon for fast feeds. It is easy enough to get your whole 25grams of carbohydrate,. I have a generous mouth and can typically squeeze most of the product in, then stash the wrapper and take a swig of water. The thickness of the wrapper means excess gel doesn’t spray onto your glove, and can do a reasonable job as a tyre boot if required.
But it is still another wrapper. And they pile up in your pocket, and on trails, the world over. There are a few people I can vividly remember using gels on training road rides and ditching the wrappers on the side of the road. This is shameful behaviour, perhaps reflected in their angry reactions when I question their prima donna behaviour.
Thankfully, flasks are available, but the next step would be to provide GU Energy Gel in large bottles to decant into flasks. There would be less foil wrappers, which can only be a good thing.
All in, GU Energy Gel is a reliable product with a basic but proven ingredients list. There should be a flavour for everyone. It’s not isotonic, so stay hydrated to get the most out of it. More information can be found here.