In 1991, GU changed the face of energy supplements athletes take during their sport. They were the first company to bring energy gels to the market and in the last few years their products have been available in the UK. I was lucky enough to be sent four different flavours to have a go with, to test their impact during a cricket match.
The four different flavours had different levels of caffeine in them too:
- Tri-Berry – 25mg caffeine
- Mandarin Orange – 25mg caffeine
- Strawberry Banana – no caffeine
- Vanilla Bean – 25mg caffeine
Like the majority of energy gels on the market, GU energy gels are made up of a combination of carbohydrates, both simple and complex – the theory being that you get an initial hit from the simple carbohydrates and a more prolonged burst of energy from the complex carbs. They also contain electrolytes to aid hydration – but it is the ‘unique blend of amino acids’ which GU really prides itself.
These amino acids reduce muscle fatigue, quicken up the conversion of carbs into useful energy and increase mental focus. It is this final aspect of their blend that I really noticed when using the products.
Whilst I didn’t find that I had a huge burst of energy after taking the Vanilla Bean flavour product, twice I batted having taken the decaffeinated Strawberry Banana flavour and found that I my concentration was significantly greater. I was watching the ball harder and moving my feet more precisely. My legs didn’t feel tired and my hands were going quicker through the ball.
I handed out a selection of the gels to my teammates and the reaction was mixed-to-positive – some who took the Tri-Berry flavour felt that they had a more prolonged spell of energy, whilst those who took the Mandarin Orange didn’t feel an affect. What we all agreed on, though, was that we weren’t as exhausted following the game. With proper hydration, we felt out legs weren’t so heavy after 40 long overs in the field.
The consistency of the gels was a surprise to some of us, too. They are thicker than other gels I had previously tried which means that they didn’t spill out of our mouths, but did leave us in need of a gulp of water to clear our mouths afterwards. Their flavours too, were interesting. Whilst they taste like their names, the flavours are incredibly strong. This is no bad thing, though the Mandarin Orange was a little overpowering. The Vanilla Bean and the Strawberry Banana are the most palatable flavours, whilst the Tri-Berry was perfectly adequate.
Whilst it’s impossible for me to know for certain if there was an increase in my mental concentration and energy levels after having taken the GU energy gels, I certainly felt as if my focus was higher. Interestingly, this followed me taking the only flavour without caffeine. And whilst I didn’t feel a huge spurt of energy, this might have something to do with the nature of cricket – my body wasn’t in constant motion, so those doing more energetic sports (rowing, running, etc) might experience a more noticeable energy boost.