Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: Hammer Nutrition's Hammer Gel: Peanut Butter

When I hit the trail for last Saturday's Frozen Sasquatch 50K, I did so armed with a few Hammer Gels for fueling. While I just became sponsored four days prior to the race, I've been using Hammer Nutrition's fueling and recovery products for years. A few weeks ago, they sent me a few sample Hammer Gels in a flavor I hadn't had before: Peanut Butter.

Hammer Nutrition is big on science and often, they talk in a language that makes my head spin. You can read a great writeup on Hammer Gels, if you're interested, right here. They really go into the natural ingredients, sodium levels (and why), and the whole "ose" issue with fuels on the market. I highly recommend the article. For me, I love that all the "crud" (saying it nicely) isn't present in Hammer's products. The high fructose corn syrup, high levels of sugars, unnatural ingredients...they just aren't there. Take Heed for example, their electrolyte-replacement drink (that competes with Gatorade). It's extremely bland if you drink it while used to nothing but sugar-packed drinks like PowerAde and Gatorade. Once used to it, it's fine. In fact, nearly all ultra marathons in my neck of the woods supply Heed during the events and maybe Gatorade. I'll never forget sampling my first Heed...I thought it was similar to the mouthwash they give you at the dentist! That was years ago and taste has certainly evolved and gotten better. I'm personally fond of the strawberry. Anyway, the point is that in Heed and in Hammer Gel, you/we get natural ingredients. We also, thanks to not getting overloaded with sugar, don't get the big sugar rush and following crash. We get more of a sustained release which in endurance events, is key both physically and mentally.

I do love myself a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Crunchy is my preference. I won't lie, though. I was skeptical about a peanut butter-flavored Hammer Gel and especially trying it for the first time during a race (a common no-no is to try new things on race day). My normal routine during an ultra is to take the Hammer Gel and fold it up in my palm about a mile before I want to take it. The palm is a huge emitter of body heat and on days like Saturday (9 degrees at the start), it's still possible to warm the gel. I much prefer any flavor Hammer Gel heated just slightly. They go down so much easier and with flavors like Apple Cinnamon, it really enhances the flavor. So about 8 miles into Saturday's race, I folded up my peanut butter Hammer Gel and warmed it up and then took it about a mile later. LOVED it! I will say that if you love peanut butter, you'll have no issues with this. It truly tastes like peanut butter. Given that a common staple during ultra marathon events are peanut butter and jelly squares at aid stations, I think Hammer Nutrition inclusion of this flavor is wise and speaks to the athlete and something that has already been accepted over the years. The small amount of heat I provided made it all the smoother, too, and while I still washed it down with some Heed, it really wasn't needed. It was that smooth and easy to swallow.

I also enjoyed Apple Cinnamon and Espresso flavors on Saturday...both great, as well. But, I had never even heard of the peanut butter flavor until a week ago and was pleasantly surprised. For someone who loves the American staple of PB&J, this hit the mark big time.

For your reference, here is the Hammer Gel nutrition label. All Hammer Gels can be viewed here.

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