If you’re like a lot of cyclists, the term GU, much like Kleenex, has become synonymous with energy gels. Now after more than 20 years at the top of the gel game, GU has established itself as one of the champions of endurance nutrition, or “one of the faces on the Mount Rushmore of nutrition,” if you will. Originally created in 1993 as an alternative to the original Powerbar, the basic building blocks of GU remain unchanged with maltodextrin, fructose, and amino acids taking the spotlight.
As GU prepares for the future of endurance nutrition the company is undergoing a bit of a face lift with all new branding, packaging, and a few tweaks to the formulas. Longtime fans of GU don’t need to worry though, GU will still be as tasty and effective as ever, but it will have some new selling points especially if you are a vegan athlete…
Over the years, the GU energy burst has served the company well. Originally featuring 32 points, it was then simplified to 16 points and was extremely recognizable. Future GU products will have a new logo entirely, but one that builds off the previous energy burst. Technically with 6 points now, each arm of the new GU logo represents the three components of endurance nutrition – hydration, energy, and recovery (blue, orange, and yellow). The new packaging will feature just the inner hexagon, but in much of the GU branding you’ll see the hexagon with a thin border that will fill in for the 6 point burst with corresponding colors.
On the packaging itself, the new look is about more than just branding. GU has made a concerted effort to provide all of the nutrition basics on the front of the package where they are easily read for simplified nutrition planning. Need to know how many packets you need to reach 1000 calories for the race? How many mg of caffeine you will be ingesting? Sodium? It’s all right there on the front of the package for easy consumption.
The GU packets themselves also benefit from a new recycling program offered through TerraCycle. Unfortunately, the same packet technology that makes GU easy to consume and keeps them from exploding in our bags also makes them difficult to recycle. Thanks to a partnership with TerraCycle, receptacles will be available at major races and events that will allow GU packets and Energy Chew bags to be recycled. Additional efforts to be easier on the environment include using recycled cardboard for the new boxes that GU products are shipped in.
Then there is the GU itself. The most important takeaway from the new formula is that it still tastes the same, works just as well (if not better), and is now completely vegan. The key to making GU vegan was the removal of an amino acid called histidine. Originally thought to aide in performance, GU determined that our bodies already have enough histidine that is naturally occurring so they could remove it from the formula without any negative effects on performance. Additional changes include the removal of Vitamins E and C which were originally added to aide in recovery. Recent studies have shown that E and C are great for recovery, but not great for training. In fact, consuming them while training can actually hinder your body’s adaptation to the training.
Roctane also gets a revised formula with the removal of vitamin E while histidine gets replaced with Beta Alanine. Even with the changes Roctane is not vegan, but still has the same taste and is ideal for short, high intensity or long duration events.
As a recap, the new GU is Vegan, probably more effective, and still tastes just as good and is available in all your favorite flavors including Tastefully Nude (formerly known as Just Plain). Better yet, GU let us in on the new flavors that are set for release in the near future – Big Apple GU and Sea Salt Chocolate Roctane in April, along with Maple Bacon and Vanilla Spice later this Summer! We’re also told GU will be offering bulk gel later in the year along with a completely new product come Interbike.
Instead of GU Chomps, the product gets renamed as GU Energy Chews to help streamline the product names and eliminate any confusion. Since the new packaging extends across the entire line, GU Energy Chews benefit from the new easy to read nutrition information, and are also now sold in packs of 4 instead of 8. GU found that many consumers weren’t finishing a full pack, so they made them into a single serving to reduce waste.
On the hydration side, GU’s Hydration Drink Mix (formerly GU Brew) sees one of the biggest changes with a new lighter formula with 70 calories per serving rather than the original 100. Made with a 50-50 ratio of simple to complex sugars, the new formula is said to be more quickly absorbed without creating stomach distress. For those that still prefer higher levels of calories from their bottle, Roctane Drink Mix still offers 240 calories per serving (thought without the histidine). GU Hydration Drink Tabs change as well with the removal of Sorbitol which is a binding agent that can cause GI distress. Instead the tablets use Xylitol which is also better for oral health.
For the GU Recovery Mix, the biggest change is in the packaging. However, we are told that the formula will be revised to add more protein among other things later this summer.
As always, all GU products are Informed Choice Certified meaning you won’t have to worry about mystery ingredients on your biological passport.
For your part in the rebranding, GU wants you to show how you #GUFORIT on social media.