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gu energy gels

While I always thought $1 for a tiny gel packet was a rip-off, GU energy gel was one thing I couldn’t live without during a mountain bike race. Real food was too much of a hassle, and PowerBars just took too long to chew while navigating teeth rattling singletrack!

Every mountain bike race I did, it was a sure bet that I had at least one GU in my pocket or tucked under my shorts!

Why choose GU?

I first chose GU due to the neat name, but it turned out to be a perfect choice. First, GU comes in many flavors. You’ve got chocolate and coffee, fruity flavors, and even a “plain” flavor for those with sensitive tastebuds – surely one tastes good to you.

Just as important, the flavors actually taste good! I really like GU gels and could eat them all the time!

Next, the packets are easy to carry, easy to open, and easy to squeeze. You just tear the small tab off the top and you’re all set. There is no excess bulk to the package like with the Hammer and Clif Shot gels.

Best of all, GU gel gives me good energy boost. While all energy gels are basically the same thing (100 calories of quick energy from sugar,) there is something about GU that just makes me feel better. After having a GU, I always seem to get this uplifting feeling where I actually feel the energy returning to my body.

Other energy gels may provide me with calories, but none of them give me that energizing feeling I get with GU.

Science, Ingredients, and Nutrition

The GU website has a complete description of how GU works. I’ll summarize here.

You first get a shot of natural fructose, which will quickly build up your energy levels. That gives the maltodextrin time to be absorbed and broken down, maintaining your glucose levels for extended energy. The electrolytes and calcium keep you hydrated and make sure your blood and muscles are functioning optimally.

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine, serve as another fuel source, aid in recovery, and can improve mental performance and reduce fatigue. Antioxidant vitamins C & E defend muscles from assault by free radicals, while chamomile works as an anti-inflammatory. Ginger soothes the stomach, a nice bonus if the race includes gut-wrenching climbs!

Whatever the exact formula is, GU did a good job with it!

Vanilla bean ingredients:


Nutrition Facts:

100 calories
55mg sodium
40mg potassium
25g carbs
3g sugar

But while you won’t get fat and protein in a GU gel, you get more than just sugar. You’ve got the antioxidants, amino acids, ginger, etc.

GU Gel Taste Test

Here are my thoughts on the many different flavors of GU gel:

Vanilla Bean

A sweet vanilla flavor. It’s not quite a true vanilla bean flavor, but it’s not the same as imitation vanilla. Basically it’s sweet and tastes a bit like vanilla once you swallow it. I’d say it’s the sweetest GU flavor.

gu gel tri berry


Tastes mostly like red raspberry. It’s pretty sweet, too. There is a hint of strawberry in there, especially in the aftertaste, and I think that sweetens up the raspberry. I’m not sure on the third berry; probably blackberry.

It’s a good berry flavor. It used to be my favorite GU, but has since been replaced by the recently added Strawberry Banana flavor.

Chocolate Outrage

This gel is thick and chocolaty. It contains actual unsweetened Belgian chocolate. While it’s not as delicious as a chocolate bar from Belgium, and doesn’t have that melty texture like a piece of Dove chocolate, it’s like a moderately good piece of dark, bittersweet chocolate.

It’s great on a cold day when it thickens up like a chocolate milkshake. It’s messy in the summer though, so watch out.

Espresso Love

Espresso is possibly my new favorite flavor! It really does taste like espresso. The flavor comes from “natural coffee flavor” rather than actual coffee, but it pulls off a great taste regardless. If you like espresso, you will love this gel!

Just Plain

This is basically a weaker version of Vanilla Bean. It’s not flavorless like water, but it’s definitely not strong and overpowering. So while this is definitely not “plain,” it’s probably the least potent flavor of gel available.

gu gel lemon sublime

Lemon Sublime

An interesting lemon lime flavor. Each time I have one, it reminds me of something else. I just can’t compare it to anything else. It’s not too sweet, not too sour, nor too weird. I would rate it “pretty good.”

If you like lemon lime products though, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Orange Burst

Not a realistic orange, but not totally artificial or too sugary. It reminds me of orange Gatorade. The taste is alright but nothing that blows me away.

Strawberry Banana

I always liked banana (my second favorite flavor), so I was disappointed to see GU replace it with Strawberry Banana. But once I tried this, I was excited!

The Strawberry Banana is awesome. It is very sweet and delicious. It tastes mostly like banana but with some sweet strawberry flavor in there as well.

So Strawberry Banana actually beats out Tri-Berry and Espresso Love as my favorite flavor! (Until you factor in the recently released flavors, that is.)

Cherry Blaze

This gel does have a cherry flavor, but it’s not that strong. It’s not a real cherry flavor, nor does it scream “this is artificial cherry candy!” The taste reminds me of some other processed food product, but one packet wasn’t enough for me to figure it out. It’s an alright flavor, but nothing special. At least it’s not one of those cherry flavors that tastes like cough medicine.

Jet Blackberry

It was just yesterday I tried the cherry flavor and praised it for not tasting like medicine. Then I tried this flavor, and well, it tastes like cough syrup! I did get a hint of blackberry flavor on the very first bite, but then it gets bad, and aftertaste is just like medicine. Man, it’s bad! Maybe it’s from the 40 mg of caffeine.

I don’t know what happened here, but this does not fit in with the other GU gels!

Peanut Butter

As someone who eats peanut butter by the spoonful, I was EXCITED for this one! And it did not disappoint! It contains actual peanut butter, and it looks like peanut butter and honey mixed together. The taste is incredible – it’s just like eating a Pay Day candy bar! If you took a Pay Day and blended it until smooth, you’d end up with this gel!

I like almost all the GU gels quite a bit, but this peanut butter one, it’s in a league of its own!

Chocolate Peanut Butter

GU’s chocolate flavor is good, and peanut butter is incredible, so this flavor comes with high expectations… and it did not disappoint! It’s really interesting and the flavors blend well together. It was sort of like a Snickers bar (which I find to be incredibly delicious!) Just a little sweetness. I’d say it’s more of a savory flavor.

Salted Watermelon

This is an absolutely incredible flavor! It tastes like real watermelon, but gooey! It’s a lot like the watermelon Chomps, but the flavor is more natural, very realistic, and less sweet. There’s a hint of salt, too, but it’s very faint.

Salted Caramel

Like the peanut butter flavor, this one is also way different from the typical GU. It’s very close to the texture of a softened caramel. It’s good. Really good. But it’s not outstanding. (Maybe if you’re a diehard fan of caramel?) It’s worth trying though. The aftertaste is great. It’s definitely something that could be enjoyed in the winter months.

Where as the Peanut Butter one is a unique blend of my favorite aspects of GU gel and real peanut butter, Salted Caramel seems to be pretty standard caramel. I don’t know that it lived up to the hype.

Caramel Macchiato


Root Beer

Remember those root beer barrels? You know, the hard candy. I loved those things! Well, if they had made a syrup version, this would be it! It’s the same amazing root beer flavor in a gel form! It’s just different enough to get you out of the same-old-fruit-flavored-gel rut, without being so weird you wouldn’t want to keep downing them during an entire race.

I’d easily buy a 24-pack of the root beer flavor! (But it would not be so easy to save them for in-ride use only!)

Maple Bacon


Big Apple

This one smells and tastes a lot like… an apple. Really. Not like a fake sour apple flavor, nor like apple sauce. It’s just like a real apple. I’m not sure which one – maybe Red Delicious. It’s neat, but there’s something missing. There is no cinnamon whatsoever.

I would not buy this one again. It’s just not particularly good or exciting to me. I need cinnamon!

Cucumber Mint


Campfire S’Mores


Toasted Marshmallow


Here’s my current favorite flavor ranking:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Root Beer
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberry Banana
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Espresso Love
  • Tri-Berry

My final verdict is…

GU is my favorite gel. It tastes great, contains good ingredients, comes in good packaging, and provides the best energy boost I’ve had from a gel. All around, a perfect gel. And they keep expanding the lineup of flavors!

If you need a gel for your endurance sports adventures, GU is my recommendation.

Official website: www.GuEnergy.com

Buy online: www.REI.com | www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: GU Sports
Product: GU Energy Gel
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 5.0 out of 5
First published: 2010-02-15
Date last updated: 2017-11-04
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. Great breakdown of the gels per flavor! I also did a personal study on these gels, and compared it with a competing brand.


  2. Thanks for the reviews across the board, Coach Levi!

    You mentioned that Jet Blackberry doesn’t have any caffeine in it but the listings say it has 40mg. Did they change the formula since you last tried it, and if so did you get to try the new one?

    • @Ben

      Thanks for pointing that out! That happens quite a bit with products like this – you’ve got formula variations over the years, and then sometimes you find a different ingredients list on the website than what is on the actual packaging you have in your hand!

      I think there is another jet blackberry lying around here somewhere, so I’ll check and see if it is labeled with the “40 mg caffeine” designation (which seems to be current, according to the GU website).


      [Edit: Yes, I have one in a new multi-pack box, and it indeed has 40 mg caffeine.]

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