For the past 10 years I have been using GU Energy Gel during my marathon training and have been very pleased with them. I’ve tried other brands, but I always come back to GU because it has the best flavors (I think the vanilla is by far the best) and the most favorable consistency. During my long runs and during marathons, I typically take one pack of GU every 60 minutes.
When I heard about GU Roctane, a new line of GU for endurance athletes, I knew I had to try it. This is what the GU website says about GU Roctane:
Roctane takes athletes’ top choice for an energy gel, GU, amplifies the original recipe and then adds new ingredients to boost performance in sustained, high-intensity efforts. Here’s how it’s done:
We start with original GU’s superior mix of complex and simple carbohydrates that provide quick and sustained energy, electrolytes for replenishment and caffeine to tap more power and diminish pain. From there we increase the amount of histidine, an essential amino acid, to act as a buffer and slow the energy-sapping lactic acid build-up in muscles. We mix in higher levels of citrates (potassium citrate, sodium citrate, and citric acid) to help speed the conversion of carbohydrates into energy molecules and, like histidine, help mitigate acid build-up. We also add more of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine to serve as another fuel source, aid in recovery and help maintain mental focus and reduce fatigue by limiting the central nervous system’s production of serotonin. Finally, we add a new ingredient, the amino acid complex Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (OKG) which limits the body’s tendency to break down muscle protein tissue during extremely hard training and racing days. OKG keeps you going longer and promotes a speedier recovery.
GU Roctane currently comes in four flavors: Pineapple, Cherry Lime, Vanilla Orange, and Blueberry Pomegranate. I decided to try the latter two flavors because they sounded best. The first time I tried the Roctane was on a 12-mile run and I decided to try a Vanilla Orange-flavored one around the 6 or 7-mile mark. The taste was decent – it could have been a lot better (I was hoping for more of a Creamsicle-like taste), but it didn’t make me gag like some other brands and flavors have done. The rest of my run after consuming the Roctane was fantastic. I felt energized and fueled and finished the run feeling great. This is where the story turns. About 30 minutes after completing my run, I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. At first I chalked it up to a stomach bug or something I ate the day before that was just starting to affect me. I honestly didn’t associate the stomach cramps and nausea to the GU because I’d been using GU for the past 10 years with no problems. The stomach pains and nausea were bad enough to keep me in bed for about 24 hours, at which point it all went away.
Still not thinking that my illness was related to the GU Roctane, I decided to try them again. This time I was going on a 15-mile run and would consume two of them – one Vanilla Orange and one Blueberry Pomegranate. The Blueberry Pomegranate, much like the Vanilla Orange, was decent and tolerable, but not outstanding. I consumed one at my 5-mile mark and another at my 10-mile mark. Much like my previous experience, I felt fantastic for the entire run – energized, fueled, and fast. Also just like the last experience, shortly after I stopped running, I felt like I had been kicked in the gut – but this time twice as hard and twice as debilitating. I had severe stomach cramps and nausea that confined me to the bed for 48 hours. Knowing the importance of post-run nutrition, I tried to eat, but even that was very difficult. I felt like I had the stomach flu for two days, only I never actually vomited. And this time it was very clear that the GU Roctane was to blame – it could not have been a coincidence that this happened again. It also seemed to have a cumulative effect such that the more Roctane I consumed, the worse the pain. One packet of GU laid me up for 24 hours with moderate pain and two packets laid me up for 48 hours with severe pain.
While the immediate effects of GU Roctane were very favorable and resulted in a great run, the after-effects are something I never wish to repeat. From now on, I am sticking with regular GU.
If you have a rock-solid stomach and are interested in trying GU Roctane, I would say that you should try it and see if it works for you. But start with one packet during your run and see how you feel for the following 24 hours. If you have no problems, you’re probably safe to consume more than one packet on your next run.