The Casual Runner

Hammer Gels

Product Review: Hammer Gels – Finding the Tastiest Way to Fuel Up for Casual Running Adventure.

This is the latest installment in the Casual Runner Team’s look at products that can help you in your own Casual Running journey. For a look at our other product reviews, just click here

In our last product review, Mike emphasized that there are a wide variety of food products that can assist Casual Runners as a part of their training and race day fueling.  The best part for Casual Runners everywhere is that more variety means more options, including more flavors and more products that appeal to particular tastes. In reviewing and trying to provide our readers with more information concerning these products, we stress that these reviews are just our opinions of what does and does not work for us and our particular taste preferences.

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Some of the fueling options offered by Hammer Nutrition.

Thus, we necessarily recognize that some people may have different opinions of the same products. So, we decided to try something different with this week’s product review, we decided to turn the review over to some of our readers. But first…

What? 

Energy gels are a very popular form of in-run fueling.  In other words: readily available carbs to help you keep your energy levels high and your muscles pumping during endurance races.  The Hammer Gels we looked at offer 21-22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugars, and 20-25 milligrams of sodium in every pack.

A variety of manufactures make products for the same purpose, but they vary in terms of consistency, flavor offerings, and packaging. Many races will offer such products during longer races, however runners should be advised that those will usually be of limited flavor options and they may not have their favorite flavor or brand. Given the old truism of never trying something new on race day (or, in this case, mid-race) it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with these products BEFORE the race so you will know how your body will react to them.

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A quick look at some of the nutrition information.

Although Hammer has a much larger variety of flavor options, in this review, we looked at 5 Hammer Gel flavors: Montana Huckleberry, Apple-Cinnamon, Banana, Vanilla, and Raspberry.

When?

Hammer’s packaging clearly advised that this product should be taken 15 minutes before activity, and then every 30-45 minutes. Yes, we here at Casual Runner are suckers for easy-to-understand directions. Though, the Team acknowledges that every Casual Runner has to find what does and does not work for himself and herself in terms of food and fuel consumption, and can adjust flavors and consumption intervals accordingly.

How?

Each gel comes in its own individual serving foil pack. You can stash these in the pockets of your running pants or hydration belt during your run, and then tear off the top of the packet and squeeze the contents into your mouth. Just, be careful, as Mike learned the hard way, putting open gel packets into your pockets does not end well, especially during a half marathon.

Quick Recap

In looking at a selection of 5 Hammer Gel flavors, we invited 4 Casual Runners and readers of the site to participate in a little taste test.  Those 4 volunteers were Candace, Kristie, Dave, and Ryan. All of these Casual Runners have used similar energy gel products in the past and have competed in various endurance races.  We asked them to, as a group, do a blind taste of these 5 Hammer Gel flavors: Montana Huckleberry, Apple-Cinnamon, Banana, Vanilla, and Raspberry.

IMG_6653Why did we go with a blind taste test? Simple: we’ve all been there during a race when you grab a gel packet without knowing what the flavor is and are surprised – for better or worse – by the flavor. So we wanted our readers’ opinions with that variable in play. We asked them for two things. First, their impressions of each flavor. Second, to rank them 1 thru 5, with 1 being the best.  We would then give point values based on the votes and tally them up, with the low score winning. Here we go…

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (but not really).

We should first observe that our panel unanimously approved of the consistency of the products. They each remarked that they have tried similar products from other manufacturers that offered unpleasant consistencies that, well, lets just say that this subject led us off into a bit of a digression that we will not repeat here! Now, for the individual flavors…

IMG_6654We started off with the Montana Huckleberry, which received “yums” from the entire crew, so we were off to a good start.  The panel deemed the flavor to be well-received.

Next came Raspberry, and things got a little…mixed.  Dave loved it, absolutely loved it, which drew the disbelief of the other members of the panel, 2 of whom thought the flavor was cheese (this was a blind test, remember). Interestingly, Ryan asked for a second taste after learning that it was Raspberry, and deemed it to be better upon further review, but Kristie and Candace were not convinced.

Next came Vanilla, which is a staple flavor at most races that offer gel products on-course.  Kristie likened it to vanilla extract, Candace did not think that it had as much flavor as the Montana Huckleberry (showing her preference for stronger flavors), and Dave and Ryan both liked it, deeming it a safe choice for mid-run fueling.

Apple-Cinnamon, which admittedly, the Team was not sure how our readers would react to this flavor before the taste test, proved to elicit the best on-the-spot reaction.  All 4 readers liked the flavor on first taste and asked for seconds, declaring it the perfect flavor for the middle of a fall race. We may have to keep that idea in mind…

Last up was Banana. Kristie said it tasted exactly like mushed fresh bananas, Candace and Dave both liked it, while Ryan said it was good but not his favorite.

IMG_6652Ok, So how did it all shake out? Surprisingly, the old-standby, Vanilla, finished last in the voting with 17 points.  Our panel said this was due in part due to liking the tastes of the new and different flavors more, which marked a departure from the “safe” choice of Vanilla. OK, that makes perfect sense.

Raspberry finished in 4th place with 15 points, which is understandable as 2 of our panelists ranked it last.

Banana finished in 3rd place with a respectable 11 votes, including Dave’s best-in-show selection.

There was actually a tie for first place, which we broke by the number of first place votes. So, in second place with 8 points was Montana Huckeberry, which was Candace’s best-in-show pick.

That means that Apple-Cinnamon took the panel’s choice as the top flavor, as both Ryan and Kristie picked it as their top choice.  This too should not be a surprise, as the panel did declare it as the perfect flavor for a fall race.

If you are curious, here is how the voting broke down for each of our panelists:
Candace: 1) Montana Huckleberry; 2) Apple-Cinnamon; 3) Banana; 4) Vanilla; & Raspberry.
Kristie: 1) Apple-Cinnamon; 2) Montana Huckleberry; 3) Vanilla; 4) Banana; & 5) Raspberry.
Dave: 1) Banana; 2) Montana Huckleberry; 3) Raspberry; 4) Apple-Cinnamon; & 5) Vanilla.
Ryan: 1) Apple-Cinnamon; 2) Raspberry; 3) Montana Huckleberry; 4) Banana; & 5) Vanilla.

This is the latest installment in the Casual Runner Team’s look at products that can help you in your own Casual Running journey. For a look at our other product reviews, just click here

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and add us to your circle on Google+.  See you out on the running trails!  

Neither the individuals mentioned above nor Casual Runner received any compensation for this review.  The products reviewed herein were provided by the manufacturer for purposes of this review and the opinions are solely those of the participants and author.

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