Product: GU Energy Gel Sample pack – flavours include Expresso Love, Lemon Sublime, Strawberry Banana, Orange Burst
GU gel produced the first energy gel back in 1991; the main draw of the product is the blend of 70% maltodextrin (complex carbohydrate) and 30% of fructose (simple carbohydrates). As well, the product contains other substances such as Citrates, Branched chain amino acids, Histidine, and Antioxidants to enhance performance.
According to GU the maltodextrin, provides a more sustained energy during exercise and the fructose is broken down quicker to provide energy as needed during the exertion. I have been a bit confused about the complex vs. simple carbohydrates claims in the marketing campaigns of various nutrition companies, so I decided to take out some old textbooks and did some on-line research to clarify the distinction, if you are not interested in this somewhat nerdy discussion, please skip the following paragraph.
My main confusion was that from the nutritional advices I received in my swimming years and my memory of studying nutrition, my impression was that the term “complex carbohydrates” referred to starchy food such as bread, rice, pasta… etc and simple carbohydrates are things such as sugar, and honey. It struck me as being quite odd that any energy gel would contain “complex carbohydrate”; wouldn’t one want carbohydrates that would get to the blood stream quickly? As it turns out, the scientific definitions of complex vs. simple carbohydrates depend on the size of the molecules, “monosaccharides” and “disaccharides” are the shortest molecules and are classified as simple carbohydrates, some common examples are glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose; while “oligosaccharides” and “polysaccharides” are longer chains and are classified as complex carbohydrates, e.g. starch, cellulose.
Fructose is basically fruit sugar, it provides much of the taste of the product, and since it is a simple carbohydrate, it is absorbed quickly. Maltodextrin is less sweet than fructose, it is derived from starch, the molecule is smaller than starch but longer than fructose and according to a couple of sources, it is absorbed as quickly as glucose. The GU energy gel works as it is supposed to; I used the gel for a number of workouts and one race without hitting the wall or bonking, and my stomach was fine even during hard racing effort. On top of that, all the flavours tasted good, especially the Lemon Sublime. I also find that the gel has a less viscous consistency compare to some other products I have tried, which I am quite indifferent to but it might be an important factors to other athletes.
The energy gel market is quite a competitive one, as there are many products available to the athletes. Other features of the GU energy gel include: Branched chain amino acids which are supposed to improve mental performance and reduce fatigue by limiting the central nervous system’s production of serotonin; Electrolytes for various bodily functions; Citrates to increase the conversion of carbohydrates; Histidine that helps to neutralize lactic acid build-up in muscles; and lastly, Antioxidant vitamins C & E to aid recovery.
I have used several different energy gels in the past, and quite honestly, I find that they all work for me, and would not insist on one over another based on the products’ performances. I feel that most of the products are quite similar in terms of ingredients. It could simply come down to personal preferences. I recommend athletes to try the different products, and stick to the ones that they like.
The only complaint I have about GU energy gel is that it only comes in single serving packages. I personally prefer buying in bulk and use a small flask for each workout or race. I feel that the single serving packaging is a waste of gel (I can always flush the remaining gel out of the flask) as well, it produces more garbage.