Review: Hammer Nutrition

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.

Note: I have no affiliation with Hammer Nutrition or Hammer Nutrition Canada, nor did either of them supply me with products to review. I’m just an ordinary – and happy – customer.

Hammer HEED and Hammer Gels
Hammer HEED

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!

Hammer Gel

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!

Hammer Perpetuem

Hammer Perpetuem

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!

Hammer Recoverite

Hammer Recoverite

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

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!

Conclusions

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.

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25 comments

  1. Hi, I also use Hammer and have been pretty happy with the products. However, I ran into GNC the other day to see if they have any. They told me that Hammer had not passed 95 of their 150 or so tests, which is why they don’t carry it. I am a little worried. Any insight?

  2. Hi Alan,
    Excellent review about hammer products. I have been using Hammer supplements (race cap supreme, mito caps, premium insurance caps, ao booster) over a month for my half marathon training. I am can feel my muscle soarness reduced a lot in between training runs. You might want to check the details about them. I just bought Heed and perpetum solids today. I usually used to drink Gatorade before my long runs on weekends. But I now decided to try between heed. Since my long runs are mostly 14-16 miles with some tempo runs in between I was wondering if I drink heed before the run to top my fuels and drink Gatorade supplied during the training long runs every two miles and pop in perpetum solids two tablets round about 1:50 time ? Because my long runs should all be done under 2:45. I drink recoverite after the long runs. The reason I got heed over perpetum powder was my other three training runs are under an hour as I do recovery runs for two days and one speed workout one day which is still under two hours. So I thought heed can work more for most of my training and if my long run passes two years then pop in perpetual solids. I don’t drink gels because of fear of upset stomach. I also tend to eat honey stinger waffles along with topping off my fuels for the long run.
    Do you think heed plus perpetual solids combo will help me in my long runs?

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Bhushan. All very interesting! I’ve never used Perpetuum solids, so can’t really advice on that. But your logic of doing some HEED just before a run sounds valid. I can’t stand Gatorade, so would avoid that. Can you carry HEED in water bottles or a hydration pack, so your fueling is consistent? And have you tried various gels, to see if there’s one that doesn’t upset your stomach? I’ve had no issues at all with Hammer gels, though other makes of gels have caused minor problems.

      1. Thank you for replying back promptly despite the original post was from last year. Here is my thing. I am training for half marathon. My training group serves Gatorade and water every two miles in aid stations on our long runs. So that helps to avoid carrying any additional self hydration packs when I am training for 14-16 miles (about 2-2:45 hrs max). My recovery runs on week days are on my own and I usually carry my water in small bottle. Recovery runs are usually 5-7 miles usually (under 1:30 hrs max). So basically I need a good sport drink which can help me give energy and electrolytes without crashing for my recovery runs and weekend long runs. Considering weekend run goes beyond 2hrs but under 3 hrs either heed + perpetuem solids or Hammer perpetuem liquid or sustained energy liquid sounds viable to me and heed for my regular shorter recovery training. So far I have been using Gatorade and it works fine for me.
        So basically my ultimate questions are
        1) heed + perpetual solid or heed liquid or sustained energy for weekend long runs?
        2) heed for recovery runs and long runs?
        3) or just keep with Gatorade?
        4) does heed really help? Considering it has very low sugar how one will get that energy kick for running? Hammer products are geared towards cyclist or tri athletes which workout last over three hours usually and need slow energy release than running so is it wise to invest in heed or perpetual or sustained energy just for running?

    2. Hi BM,
      Alan I hope you don’t mind me jumping in here.

      I use typically use the Perpetuem Solids for runs generally lasting longer than 2.5 – 3 hours, and sometimes just over 2 hours if I’m training for a marathon to condition my body to use that fuel source during the marathon.

      I continue to experiment with the combination, but currently what seems to work for me is 1 gel and 1 Solid every hour. Sometimes I’ll up the Solid intact to as low as every 45 minutes. Hammer’s recommendation (I believe) is 1-3 per hour, but the latter is much to frequent for me.

      I’ve used the Perpetuem powder and was very happy with that, but the mix essentially spoils before I can complete a marathon, which is why I switch to the Solids. The issue with both is you need to consume plenty of water (per Hammer’s recommendation), which is something you’ll need to experiment with to see what works for you.

      If you know you’re going to run for an extended period of time, say 3 hours, you should start taking them throughout the run. The Solids should be your primary fuel source, anything else like gels should be secondary. I personally stick to water during my runs and use the Hammer Endurolytes for electrolyte replacement, this is in part because of Hammer’s recommendation for water consumption when using Perpetuem.

      I’ve only ever used Hammer gels and I’m partial to the Montana Huckleberry, which kinda surprised me, but I find it to be subtle yet pleasing in taste. I also really liked the unflavored gel, which is mildly sweet, maybe like sugared or honey water, but unfortunately it’s only available in the 32oz sized bottle and not the single serving sizes, which through experimentation, I’ve found are actually more practical than trying to use the bulk 32oz bottles and some kind of dispenser.

      Two more things on the Solids. First, the best way to consume these (it takes some getting use to), is to place it between your front teeth to split the block in half, then tuck one half in each cheek and grind them down one at a time with your back teeth. You’ll have to work it out of your teeth too, but you’ll get use to it (this was a tip provided by Hammer in one of their “Endurance” magazines. Second, I’ve found that while you carry these on your run, especially in the tubes, the Solids will start to break apart and start to get rounded off because they bounce around. What I’ve found works very well is to take them out of the tube and to use something like parchment paper to individually wrap each one. I use just enough paper to wrap it and have worked out a way to make it easy to undo during my run. This keeps them from bouncing around and breaking apart.

      Hope this was useful.

      1. @kaioslider,
        Thanks for replying back. Any help is always appreciated. I don’t like to carry tubes so I probably will wrap in a paper and put it in small ziplock and tuck inside my small pocket of my shorts. The thing where I am confused is if I am running for 2:15-2:45 hrs on my long run, should I only drink perpetuem instead of heed before the run? Or I was thinking, I will drink Heed with hammer gel before the run (2 hrs prior) to top off my fuel and carbs. During my run, I drink gatorade supplied at aid stations and after 1:50-2:00 hr, I will take two tablets of perpetuem to help me carry for last 45 mins. What do you think?

      2. @BM,
        I think Heed and Gatorade are in the same class, while they have some carbs, they are primarily electrolyte replacements.

        I can’t really help you with your pre-run combination of fuel/drink/supplements as usually just as regular food, Cheerios normally, but sometimes I’ll go for a bagel and/or banana or even a yogurt.

        I don’t think the Perpetuem or Sustained Energy are digested like gels – were as gels are digested easier than the other two. As I understand it, the Perpetuem products are actually an updated version of Sustained Energy, which came from greater understanding of how the body works when it crosses that threshold when your body runs out of glycogen. Since you’re looking for a fuel source that, if I understand correctly, is relatively light, the solids might be the right way to go. But I think you’re idea of only consuming them near the end of the race isn’t ideal (that’s were a gel would be good). Instead, I’d take a Solid around 20 or 30 minutes in, take a second maybe around 1:10 – 1:20, and your last around 2 hours in. When you take the Solids, try and work it out so you have a few minutes to chew on them before you get to the drink station. Defiantly drink water at the drink station after you take one, so if you must have the Gatorade, also drink water. If the stations are every two miles, you’d be fine just drinking water after the Solid and have Gatorade at the rest.

        With all that being said, I think gels would be a better fueling choice for the distance you’re talking about. You’re concern about how your stomach would react to gels is valid and common enough, but most are able to find a gel brand, flavor, that doesn’t make them ill. You could try experimenting with different ones on your shorter runs to see what works and what doesn’t. There are also energy bars, again, different brands and flavors you could try, and many other alternatives, like a banana.

        We’re all different and figuring out what works for you is just a matter of experimentation.

      3. Thanks for stepping in, Daniel. I’ve been away form the computer for much of the day, and haven’t been able to contribute. You covered things really well, anyway, and I agree with what you’ve said.

  3. Alan,

    While out and about over the weekend I went in search of the Hammer products after reading your reviews. I was shocked at what every single running/nutrition store told me when I went it. Almost all of them carried the recoverite and the perpeteum. However, NONE of them carried the HEED. When I asked why they said that they can’t endorse it because they view it to be dangerous to the average consumer due to a high sodium content..They were more than willing to sell me the other two products, but not the HEED. What are your thoughts on HEED’s sodium content? I haven’t had time to look up the numbers on it yet. Thought I’d ask your opinion given your high regards of the product. Until then, I’ll just test out the nuun tablets that I’ve got.

    Aaron

    1. Aaron, there’s so much bad info in what you say that it’s hard to know where to start. First of all, HEED doesn’t have a high sodium content. Look at the comparative numbers: the average sodium content for a single serving of HEED is 40 mg; for a single serving of Nuun, it’s 360 mg; for Gatorade it’s 110 mg. Recoverite supplies 40 mg, and Perpetuem supplies 231 mg for a single serving of each. (Keep in mind that Perpetuem is intended as an endurance supplement, ie, for multi-hour of multi-day events, so it’s bound to have more sodium.)

      HEED is sold by all kinds of reputable running, cycling, and fitness shops, as well as having been awarded MTBR.com’s “Best of MTBR” Award foreach of the past five years. Either the folks you talked to haven’t a clue what they’re talking about, or they’re jiving you completely.

      1. That’s kind of what I figured. Liked I said, I hadn’t actually looked at the sodium on HEED (so I couldn’t compare it to their other products. I figured I was just being jived. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for HEED in the future. Glad I came and asked you as opposed to just writing it off based on what the “store salesman” was spouting. Not sure what they gained by not trying to sell HEED but selling the other Hammer products. Just baffles me. Oh. Sorry for the attempted double post earlier. For some reason it didn’t confirm my original post until later. Oh well.

      2. You can get the info on various products by simply Googling “(name of product) nutritional information” and comparing. And remember that staff in running stores generally know nothing about nutrition. Don’t know what kind of nutrition stores you visited, but, if they’re supplement stores like GNC, they also know next to nothing about nutrition. It’s “buyer beware” all the time in this world of ours.

        As for the shops selling some Hammer products, but not others… My local running stores sell HEED, but no other Hammer products. My local (high-end) cycling shop sells HEED and Perpetuem, but not Recoverite. Neither of them sells REM Caps. Go figure.

  4. Great review of Hammer products. I think my favorite Hammer gel is the unflavored, although there is a very light yet pleasant sweetness to it – maybe like a mild honey with just a touch of orange. The only problem with it is unflavored only comes in the large jugs and not the single serving size. My second favorite is the montana huckleberry. I’ve tried the bulk jug sizes thinking it was more economic, but between what I don’t end up using on a run and what’s left in my gel container, I think the single serve size works out to about the same cost. I still have a full unopened jug of it.

    Because of your review of Hammer Perpetuem a few years ago (in fact it was you that turned me on to Hammer products in the first place) I tried it and I loved it for my long runs. The problem with the Perpetuem is that it’s only good for a couple of hours, especially on really long runs. Hammer has since introduced Perpetuem Solids, which are cylindrical and ~1 inch in diameter and ~5/8 inch tall. With either product Hammer recommends you take in a fair amount of water. The advantage of the solids are less weight and they don’t go bad during long runs – sounds great, right? The problem is that they come in a convenient plastic tube that, when full, keeps the solids from bouncing around, but once you start to use them, the remaining solids start to bounce around and causes them to slowly get rounded out and get smaller and smaller. After some trial and error I’ve found that by wrapping each one in some parchment paper prevents them from breaking up during runs. These also take some getting use to: Until I read a little tip in one of Hammer’s “Endurance” catalog/magazine, I would attempt to chew these hunks all at once, which quickly created this chewy mess in my mouth that seemed to get stuck in my teeth more than consumed. The article recommended biting the solid in half and then stick a half between teeth and cheek, then slowly nibble them down. This really made a difference, but it still takes some practices. Nonetheless, I think it makes a difference on the +2 hour runs.

    I seem to have trouble sleeping when entering and exiting winter so thanks to your review of this product, I’ll try the REM caps this spring. BTW – is there a shelf life for these caps?

    1. Great feedback, Daniel. Many thanks!

      Re the Perpetuem… Another alternative (says Hammer) is to make it into a paste. I guess one could carry that in a gel flask. But then you’d need an ongoing water/fluid supply as well. That works OK for cycling (for ultra-distance cycling events, I used to have a handlebar-mounted gel flask as well as two downtube-mounted large water bottles), but it makes for a lot of stuff for a runner to carry. For me, one or two 10oz water bottles and some single serving gels works a charm.

      I don’t think there’s a shelf life for the REM Caps. Haven’t seen anything about that on the Hammer site. You might want to ask them about it, though, just to be sure.

  5. Alan:

    I use HEED all the time; most recently when I take three one-hour martial arts classes in a row on Monday and Wednesdays. I also frequently use Hammer Gel. However, I’ve never heard of or used Recoverite. I’m definitely going to try it based on your excellent review, as it seems my body needs help recovering, not only from the intense MMA classes I take, but from the circuit routines, running and weight lifting I do.

    Thanks for the awesome information.

    T

    1. I’m not surprised that your body “needs help recovering.” That’s a pretty intense exercise program! Hope the Recoverite works for you. Let me know how it works out, OK?

      1. Given the quality of Hammer products – and the excellent job they do – I think they give good value for the money. Just my opinion, though.

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