Every runner knows – or should know – that good fueling is a critical part of performing well. It’s not just about being faster, but also about recovering faster and about overall health. Accordingly, I’ve done a lot of research about how to fuel, what to fuel with, and how to incorporate proper fueling into whatever training or racing I’m doing. That’s led me all the way from (believe it or not) no fueling at all to making my own sports drinks and energy bars to trying a variety of commercial products, and eventually to Hammer Nutrition products. I’ve settled on Hammer as the best for my needs.
In this post, I outline what Hammer products I use, what they do, and how they’ve helped my running. I hope the information will be useful to you.
I discovered Hammer HEED just before the Niagara 50K Ultra in 2009. Having learned that HEED would be supplied at the race’s aid stations, I tried it in my pre-race training runs. Before that, in my ultra-distance cycling days and when I got back to running after a 30-year absence, I’d used a host of other products. None of them quite worked, but HEED did. So I’ve stuck with it.
A sports drink isn’t so much about hydration (though that’s part of it) as it is about supplying the body with depleted electrolytes and amino acids. HEED addresses the issue with an all-complex carbohydrate, chelated mineral and electrolyte profile, and L-carnosine and chromium polynicotinate help to buffer lactic acid and support stable blood glucose levels. Because HEED contains no citric acid, it won’t burn your throat or stomach, no matter how much of it you drink. HEED’s sweeteners are stevia and xylitol. Stevia’s a natural herbal sweetener, and xylitol actually promotes oral health (unlike sports drinks containing sugars or aspartame, which can damage teeth and gums).
HEED comes in strawberry, melon, mandarin orange, lemon lime, and unflavored versions. I tried melon, mandarin orange, and lemon lime before settling (very quickly, I might add) on orange mandarin, and have used it ever since, on both training runs and races. I prefer to carry my own HEED when doing races, usually in one or two 10oz handheld bottles, depending on the race distance, rather than use aid stations. For one thing, I get what I want and what I’ve trained with. For another, I avoid the traffic jams and occasional mishaps that can happen at aid stations.
Five stars out of five for Hammer HEED!
As mentioned above, I used to make my own energy bars. But I didn’t like them any more than I liked commercially-made energy bars. So I decided to try gels. I moved through a few of the more popular brands and flavours, but found them either nauseatingly sweet or hard to stomach. Since I liked HEED, I thought that Hammer Gels would work, and they did. In fact, the first Hammer Gel flavour I tried was vanilla, and I liked it so much I haven’t tried anything else.(It also comes in apple cinnamon, banana, chocolate, espresso, montana huckleberry, orange, raspberry, tropical, and plain – so you’re spoiled for choice on this one.)
Hammer Gels are concentrated complex carbohydrates with four amino acids added. The idea is boost performance and prolong energy levels during intense training and competition. It’s a syrupy gel, and you can use it as is or dilute it, or use it to flavor other components. I use the single serving pouches (it also comes in 26-serving jugs), before during, and after races, and during long training runs. It really does make a difference. Being “an experiment of one,” I’ve done the same runs at the same intensities with and without Hammer Gel, and I always do better and feel better with it.
Five stars out of five for Hammer Gels!
Perpetuem is Hammer’s “multi-hour to multi-day” fueling product, i.e., a fuel aimed at endurance athletes. It comes in caffé latte, strawberry-vanilla, orange-vanilla, and plain flavours. (I use the orange-vanilla version.) It differs from HEED and Hammer Gels in that a calcium-enhanced soy protein isolate makes up nearly 10% of its caloric profile (the same percentage as is cannibalized during long slow endurance workouts). It also contains a de-oiled “super lecithin” fat that Hammer claims maximizes energy production from stored fatty acids.
In the past, I’ve used Perpetuem on long (2.5+ hour) training runs and one marathon. Recently, I’ve been trying it on short, intense workouts (e.g., tempo and speed workouts on my treadmill) to see how it compares. The difference between using Perpetuem and using a combination of HEED and Gels, of course, is that with Perpetuem you’re trying to get both your caloric and hydration needs met with one source. With HEED and Gels, I can adjust my intake of each to meet the specific needs of a particular run or race. Also, Perpetuem doesn’t taste quite as good (to me) as HEED, and it doesn’t keep as long in hot weather. Nothing at all wrong with the product, it just doesn’t match my situation as well as HEED/Gels.
Four stars out of five for Hammer Perpetuem!
Ah, Recoverite! I’ve only just begun using Recoverite, and have to say that I don’t know why it took me so long. The stuff is simply amazing!
Recoverite’s purpose is to provide rapid and enhanced recovery from hard workouts, so that your body is optimally prepared for the next one. It’s a mix of the nutritionally ideal 3:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates and whey protein isolate, glutamine (an amino acid that is depleted under extreme stress or hard exercise), l-carnosine (an anti-oxidant), and a full-spectrum electrolyte profile (to help replenish depleted essential minerals). It comes in single-serving pouches or 32-serving packets, and in chocolate, citrus, and strawberry flavours. (To date, I’ve only tried citrus, which I like very much.)
My good friend Daniel B. turned me on to Recoverite, and I’ll be eternally grateful to him for that. I use it after hard workouts and after long runs. It works so very well that, as Daniel has said, “it sort of feels like cheating.” There’s less muscle soreness immediately after a workout, less late-onset soreness, and much faster recovery, so I’m quickly set up for next time. I used to follow my workouts/runs with a protein shake made of almond milk, kefir (a kind of yogurt), and hemp powder. That added needed protein after a run, but it didn’t offer the same ideal combo of good stuff that Recoverite does. So I’m a Recoverite man from now on.
Five starts out of five for Recoverite! (And that’s only because I can’t give it six out of five.)
Hammer REM Caps
REM Caps aren’t technically speaking, an athletic performance supplement. They’re a sleep aid. However, it’s a fact that, if you’re not getting enough sleep – on an ongoing basis – you’re not going to perform well. More importantly, sleeping well is a health and longevity issue, as well as an aid in weight management.
As a result of the radiation treatments I’ve had for my prostate cancer (in 2006 and again in 2010), my sleep patterns have been compromised. To make a long story short (and to spare you the indelicate details), my prostate glad is no longer as “elastic” (my oncologist’s term) as it was before the treatments. Because the prostate gland encircles the urethra, that means urinary flow isn’t what it should be. I take medication daily to “soften” my prostate, but that means that, for the past five years, I’ve had to get up between three and five times a night to pee. Which in turn means that I’ve only been sleeping 1.5 to 2 hours at a stretch. The result? I was tired a lot. I decided to try REM Caps on the theory that they would deepen my sleep just enough that I could go past the triggers that made me wake every hour or so. They worked. Now I only get up to pee once a night, which means I sleep three to five hours at a stretch. I wake up rested, I’m not tired, and I’m a much nicer person to be with.
REM Caps aren’t magic. They’re simply a combination of trued and true natural ingredients that enhance sleep. They contain valerian (a widely-used herb in the treatment of nervousness, stress, anxiety and insomnia), melatonin (a naturally-produced hormone that’s responsible for regulating human biological rhythms, and is an effective aid to alleviate insomnia), 5-HTP (a natural precursor of the hormone serotonin that helps to prevent insomnia, and also enhances the release of growth hormone during sleep), and magnesium (which helps the muscles to relax).
If I want to run well (I do), remain healthy (ditto), and be a pleasant human being (for my own sake, as well as for the sake of others), I need to sleep well. Hammer REM Caps allow me to do that.
Five starts out of five for RE Caps!
As you can tell, I like Hammer Nutrition products. They’re natural (i.e., they’re based on natural ingredients, not chemicals). They’re consistently good. They’re taste good. And, most importantly, they work! (They’re also vegan and kosher. Neither of those matter to me, but they might to you.)
In the past, I’ve bought whatever Hammer products I could find at local running, cycling, and bodybuilding shops. Now I do all my ordering online, via Hammer Nutrition Canada. Their prices are good, and their delivery (via Canada Post) is fast and reliable. You can also, of course, order Hammer stuff from Hammer Nutrition, the U.S. parent company.