Years ago I wrote a post titled, The Great Goo Review, and it has become one of the most popular read posts on this site…probably because of SEO through clever titling, or something. At some point, however, it was brought to my attention that one of the products I reviewed was not vegan (Doh!). It turns out, one of the amino acids in the GU product was sourced from bird feathers (WHAT?! Yeah…I know). It’s always those small ingredients that don’t inherently imply animal products and can be sourced from various places, animal and synthetic, that become tricky. When I discovered this I immediately edited and prefaced the post, so readers would know to steer clear of the GU product.
Recently, however, good news has come from the GU company, and they have revamped the formulas for their product line, removing the animal products from their gels and using a natural vegan alternative instead. High fives to them! Admittedly, I have no idea if this decision was made due to consumer demand, economic sense, or something else, but I also don’t care. I’m just glad the demand for yet another unnecessary animal product has been eliminated for this recipe.
For the new formula, I would be shocked (and skeptical) if you could tell a difference due to the change. I was, however, given a sampling of the new products and have been periodically taking them on my runs to give another review, which I will break down by the categories used in the first review.
GU has overhauled their entire line, adjusting some of the formulas (as just described) and creating what they call a “holistic nutritional system” based around hydration, energy and recovery, pretty much the Before, During and After components of athletic training that many companies have started to use for their product lines. The products may not be entirely ground breaking, but the cohesive marketing has been a relatively new change, along with some specific nutritional tweaks. It’s not a bad idea as many athletes have struggled to figure out the best options for the Before, During and After, often mixing and swapping products, but now it’s much easier to get a cohesive plan in place without so much guesswork.
Aside from the overall approach to making it easier for athletes to create a cohesive nutritional plan, GU has also added some new flavors to their gel lineup, notably Big Apple, Salted Watermelon, Caramel Macchiato, etc. The packaging is also updated to give you a quick breakdown of the nutritional profiles important to athletes – Amino Acids, Sodium, Calories, and Caffeine.
Finally, one other change to the GU energy gels is their quick absorbing component, where previously they recommended you ingest one 15 minutes before physical activity, that has now been cut to 5 minutes, and then following that with a gel every 45 minutes for maximum benefit.
Also note, the ENTIRE GU line is not vegan. I’m getting clarification on which products are not, and I will update with that information. It is confirmed the GU Recovery Drink Mix is NOT vegan (dairy products).
I still think GU has the best packaging design in terms of size, allowing you to fit 1 – 3 into a small running shorts pocket, with a tab that is easy enough to tear off. It still takes a bit of finesse to keep the tab from flying completely off and littering the trail or road, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means. There are few other gels on the market that match GU for packaging size and the convenience is no small thing.
Additionally, the packaging itself is now a part of the TerraCycle “Performance Nutrition Brigade” program, which is outlined here, allowing you to hold on to your used packets and send them to TerraCycle for reuse instead of littering the trails, roads and landfills!
I still feel this is their achilles heel. The GU, if not taken with water…which is the recommendation, can be too thick for my liking. Specifically, the chocolate and peanut butter GU’s are the thickest for understandable reasons, while the others aren’t so bad, but take a little longer to get to a liquid consistency. Again, I admit, I take gels most often without water (as I don’t carry water on my runs unless I’m doing a long trail run), so it’s partly my fault they aren’t as thin as I’d like.
The first of the new GU’s I tried was the Salted Caramel, and I laughed because I took one right as I was passing our local Fairgrounds where the State Fair is held, with all it’s sugary sweet concoctions, and I could see desserts being sold at the fair which taste similar to this. And that’s not a complaint! After all, we’re dealing with simple sugars here, so I don’t mind the Fair flavors. The Salted Caramel reminded me of the Sugar Babies candy I used to eat as a kid, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of the others as well. And although I’m excited to see they have a coffee flavoring in the mix (Caramel Macchiato), I’ll still be waiting for a straight “COFFEE” flavor…that just tastes like coffee. I’ll probably be the only one that buys it…but still…I can dream. It should be noted, they do have an Espresso flavor, which I will try once I get my hands on one.
The nutrition profile for GU gels changes slightly and gives you options depending upon what you would prefer to concentrate, whether that is caffeine, sodium or a combination of both. Base level gels offer 55 mg of Sodium, 100 calories, 450 mg of Amino Acids and 22 g of Carbs. Caffeine is an option in some of the flavors while others are without, but Sodium concentrate is what fluctuates the most, going from 55mg to 125 mg, making those options more suitable for hotter weather when sweating and sodium replenishment is most important.
I have not engaged in a Before, During, After plan for my running nutrition (at least not with specified product), but as far as energy gels go, I’m plenty sold on sticking (pun intended!) with GU now that they changed their formula to be vegan. The flavors are fun, the nutrition profile sufficient, and the packaging perfect.
I plan on putting in a significant amount of mileage and efforts leading up to the Because We Can run, so will continue to test and utilize the GU products, but to further assure you this isn’t solicited marketing, I’m hoping to get GU to help supply my run nutrition during the Ultra Run itself this August. In the meantime, let’s at least acknowledge them for not using animals in the formula and giving us another vegan product to use without concern.
I was sent a document from GU detailing the changes that took place in their energy gels, in effect removing some ingredients and adding others. Regarding the vegan ingredients, this is what the document stated:
Reason for change:
In effort to address fueling for vegan athletes, we have closely evaluated our product’s ingredients and reformulated using only vegan sources in GU Energy Gel, GU Hydration Drink, Roctane Energy Drink, and GU Tabs. (Edit: It should be noted that due to the manufacturing process of the other products, GU can only ensure the Energy Gels are 100% vegan, and once they run out of the old supply of non-vegan aminos, the chews will be transitioned to vegan sources – sometime by the end of the year. Edit: The Roctane Energy Gels are NOT vegan.)
Benefit of change:
Formulating with vegan ingredients allows GU products to reach the hands of vegan athletes, which in turn helps to make a greater impact in the athletic community.
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