Before today’s post and giveaway, let’s wrap up the previous drawing: Oz Runner and mweston, e-mail me (email@example.com) your address – you’ve won the CLIF sampler boxes! And for the rest of you, there's another chance to win some holiday goodies today.
It’s hard to believe that GU has been around for almost 20 years.
When the Berkeley-based company’s original energy gels debuted at race expos in 1991, they were somewhat revolutionary: portable packets that provided the nutrients of an energy bar, with a texture that was almost as easily digested as fluids. They were a one-of-a-kind item, and once runners got past the initial “ick” factor of squeezing a mysterious gooey substance into their mouths, GU became a very hot commodity for all endurance athletes.
(Incidentally, isn't it an odd coincidence that GU and CLIF products are both based in Berkeley? I wonder if the rivalry is a friendly one like when two bands come out of the same city – Metallica and Green Day from the Bay Area, for example - or if they see each other as mortal enemies like Duke and UNC basketball fans. I need to get behind the scenes in Berkeley sometime – this is the kind of story I’d love to investigate.)
The products were successful for a simple reason: they work extremely well. GU’s energy gels proved to be highly effective at keeping athletes fueled during prolonged exercise, and it wasn’t very long before other companies moved to get a piece of the market. Today, most of us can probably name several different gel products out there, but the original company is still chugging along as the category’s prime mover.
Over the years, GU has improved and refined its original recipe based on ongoing nutritional research with various ingredients in its formula. They’ve also added a lot of new flavors and a few entirely new products, some of which are the primary focus of today’s post, and which will be awarded to a few people in a drawing afterward.
First up are the special holiday flavors of the original GU. This year, the company has added vanilla gingerbread to accompany its popular chocolate mint flavor that debuted a few years ago. The flavor is remarkably close to what you would guess gingerbread would taste like if it were ground into an energy gel. If you like gingerbread – I do, for sure – you’ll definitely love this flavor. The chocolate mint is the same as last year – which is to say, it’s still awesome. Think Thin Mint cookies in gel form, and you get the idea. The chocolate mint packets have caffeine, and the gingerbread are caffeine free. Another cool thing about the holiday flavors is that GU donates 10% of the proceeds from these items to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, so you’re helping a good cause when you load up on these seasonal favorites.
Last year, GU introduced its Roctane Ultra Endurance gel, which is specifically formulated for multi-hour training sessions or races (ultras, iron-distance triathlons, century rides, etc). The formula includes something called OKG (Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, for you science geeks), an amino acid complex that lessens damage to muscle tissue during races or hard training and speeds recovery afterward. It essentially slows the catabolic process (the body breaking down muscle tissue during extreme physical exertion) and therefore lessens muscle trauma. GU recently added a pineapple flavor to its Roctane lineup - but unlike the vanilla orange and blueberry pomegranate flavors, this one doesn’t include caffeine. The taste is fairly pleasant – a little bit tart, but without a real strong aftertaste.
Another new product this year is GU Chomps, which are chewy energy bites similar to CLIF Bloks or PowerBar Energy Gel blasts. Chomps contain all the benefits of regular GU gel in a chewable form. Each 90-calorie packet also contains 100% DV for Vitamins C and E, and two flavors (strawberry and cranberry apple) each have 20mg of caffeine. The other two Chomp flavors, blueberry pomegranate and orange, are caffeine free.
I really don’t need to promote GU too aggressively – they’re one of the most well-known commodities out there for endurance athletes. They work wonders during long-duration activity and most of their stuff generally tastes great. If you’d like to try some of the new items, drop a comment below this post by 5PM PST Sunday 12/20. I’ll pick three winners, each of whom will receive a 6-pack box of chocolate mint gels, a 6-pack of vanilla gingerbread gels, one pineapple Roctane, and one strawberry Chomps sample just in time for your ramped-up New Year’s workout routine. Good luck!
*Products supplied by GU Energy Labs
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.