Below is a review of the new GU Brew Electrolyte Tablets by athlete Mike Gore, originally appearing on the Marin Bikes Factory Racing Team Blog.
GU Energy Labs, makers of the kingpin energy gels GU and GU Roctane, sent me some samples of the yet-to-be released GU Brew drink tablets. I have used various drink tabs in my time as an athlete, and it seems that everybody is coming out with their own iteration of the Alka Seltzer-esque tabs.
Basically, the drink tabs category is built on the premise that tabs in a tube can deliver the essential electrolytes athletes need in a fast, easy, and effective way. Any competitive athlete or adventurer knows that using powders can be tough when on the go, and that it can be hard to take enough with you in a small space for a long event. By leaving out bulky carbohydrates and protein, drink tabs offer the essentials for hydration, and let you choose your energy source. The tablet form has been done by nuun, camelback, hammer, and nathan in the US. Enter GU!
So what in the world makes these tablets so damn awesome? Why should you look for these at REI the day they come out?
As Marlon Brando said*, “let me break it down for you.”
Taste – I’m sure some nutritional scientists out there could create some magical cure-all sports drink, but at the end of the day, if it’s not delicious, I’m not going to be anywhere near it. GU Brew Tabs have three flavors (to start with.)
- Lemon Lime is a multi-sport standby, and is done justice. This iteration is a tangy, tart, and just salty enough to keep you reaching for that bottle.
- Orange is looking to be a popular one. Far from the plastic-y, artificial taste of some orange flavored sports drinks, this version tastes more like the smooth yet tart flavor of the GU mandarin orange gels.
- Peach Tea seems to be the most original flavor of the lineup. It tastes like a summer day in Georgia… a summer day just before you’re about to RAGE on a time trial! Peach tea tasted surprising good on a cold bike ride. It has that bitter hint of iced tea, but is sweet and salty in an addicting manner.
Ingredients – Far be it from GU to put junk in your body, they pay homage to their Berkley, CA headquarters with this all natural product. Their in-house R&D ensures that they consistently product the best products out there. In a low calorie tab like this that doesn’t provide energy, it’s all about the electrolytes and the little pinch of flavoring that keeps you drinking.
- Naturally Sweet – The formula for the tablets is proprietary, and they are going to be an all-natural product. Stevia is used as the sweetener, instead of an artificial sweetener like sorbitol, acesulfame potassium, or aspartame. If you’re a healthy, athletic person, putting chemicals into your body is never a great idea. Natural colors and flavors are used throughout the lineup.
- Salty – The Brew tabs use both sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate as sodium sources. More often, sports drinks are leaning towards these salt sources and away from sodium chloride (table salt) because they offer a less salty tasting result.
Nutrition – By being a late-comer to the drink tablet game, GU has had time to assess all options on the market, and concoct what they feel is the optimal drink tab – not only in taste, but in nutritional merits. Each 16 ounce drink contains 320 mg of sodium and 55 mg of potassium. These amounts line up nearly perfectly with what the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends for an optimal electrolyte balance in a sports drink. Any more potassium is overkill, and the ratio of sodium:potassium is right on the money in terms of a balance that can be quickly and easily absorbed by the body to replace sweat. GU has done their research, as well as sent prototypes into the field with athletes to make sure that their numbers in the lab translate to real-life performance.
Packaging – Perched in each recyclable plastic tube are 12 tablets just begging to be released into your bottle or hydration pack. The convenient flip-top means that the top is always with you, and makes it easier to use on the go than other tubes with completely removable stoppers. They’re going to retail for $6.50 per tube of 12.
Integration – Integrating these tabs into your race or training day lineup should be easy. The flavors align with the gels and chomps of the GU lineup, and the drink is nutritionally sound. Should you need or want carbs, GU Brew comes in a time-tested powder form for those longer and more strenuous events where you just can’t eat enough.
What I think: I’ve been using these tablets for a few months now, and I’ve got to say… I’m really impressed. The taste is spot on, and they keep the cramps away on long winter rides, as well as keep me focused and balanced doing core workouts in the gym. Every athlete is aware of the vital role electrolytes and proper hydration play in their performance, and having these GU Brew Tabs in my pocket is key to staying hydrated. I’ll be using them during RAAM and my mountain bike season this year, because they’ve shown to be trustworthy companions in training thus far.
*Not sure if he actually said this, it would be sweet if he did.