Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hammer Energy Gels Review

Bremen was the one who first introduced me to Hammer Gels. I remember because I thought they looked quite odd, their over-sized packaging easily dwarfing that of other gels. He's a fan of their Montana Huckleberry flavor and so next time I was at REI, I decided to pick up a few of my own.

For purposes of this short review, I'll compare them to GU gels, which I'm sure most of you are already familiar with. Hammer Gels come in single-serve packs weighing 32 g and packed with 90 Cal. Its main component is maltodextrin (a glucose multimer), though unlike most other gels there is no added fructose, which tends to be less well tolerated by some athletes. The trade off is that the maximum rate of carbohydrate absorption is less in Hammer Gels than others, since glucose and fructose are transported into the bloodstream via different receptors. At the same time, this would suggest that Hammer Gels delivers energy at a slower, steadier rate (absorption being rate limited by epithelial glucose transporters), and thus might stave off what runners experience as a brief boost upon gel intake followed by a relative "crash" thereafter. As for electrolytes, Hammer Gels have slightly less sodium and potassium than its competitors, and especially on hot and humid days I would consider supplementing it with salt tabs or electrolyte drinks. Only the coffee and tropical flavors are caffeinated, with a dose of 50 mg.

For me, the main argument for Hammer is taste and tolerability. Simply stated, no other gel (GU Chocolate Outrage being the single exception) tastes as natural as Hammer. Take GU's "Cherry Blaze" for example, which - while not bad tasting per say - has a very artificial taste, and can quickly become overburdening especially when consuming your fifth or sixth gel at the end of a race. All of the Hammer flavors I've tried are understated, and never overpowering. I generally tolerate most gels very well, but for my early morning workouts, when I just got out of bed, am feeling groggy and have very little time until I need to be back on my feet, Hammer has become my go-to fuel because they are so easy on the stomach. My personal favorite has to be Hammer banana, which tastes exactly the way it should: fruity, not too sweet and with the right consistency.

My new favorite gel - wish it came in a caffeinated version!

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