If you are heading out on a bike ride of 90 minutes or longer you need to carry some form of carbohydrates with you. I am a distance cyclist and it is very rare for me to go on a ride of under 90 minutes, so I consume one package of commercial carbohydrate gel 15 minutes before I leave home, and then another package every 30 minutes as I am riding. In addition, I normally drink one 20-ounce bottle of a sports mix every hour. My goal is to take in about 300 calories per hour while I am on the bike. There are many great commercially made carbohydrate gels on the market, but recently I have been buying a lot of Hammer Gel. While I am never going to settle on just one brand of carb gel, I think Hammer Gel is something all cyclists, runners or other endurance athletes ought to consider.
The primary ingredient in Hammer Gel is maltodextrin, a long-chain complex carbohydrate—this provides for a steady release of carbs without the “sugar rush” found in some gels. Each single-serving package (33g) has 80 to 90 calories, depending on the flavor. These gels also contain sodium and potassium in varying amounts, depending on flavor, and a small amount of Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Alanine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine). These gels are gluten-free, vegan friendly, MSG-free, and Kosher Certified (and delicious).
Hammer Gel is available in several flavors, including: Apple-Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Espresso, Montana Huckleberry, Orange, Peanut Butter, Raspberry, Tropical, Vanilla, and Unflavored. My favorite flavor is Montana Huckleberry—it tastes a lot like blueberry (and huckleberries look a lot like blueberries). The Apple-Cinnamon and Raspberry are also great tasting, and the Tropical flavor has a bit of caffeine (25mg per serving), and the Espresso has twice that amount (50mg per serving). The only flavor I did not like was the Chocolate—it wasn’t bad, but it had a slight aftertaste.
Individual packages of Hammer Gel sell for about $1.50 a your local bike shop, and a bit cheaper if you buy them by the box (12 packages of gel per box). As carbohydrate gels go, Hammer Gel is one of the least expensive gels on the market. However, if you really want to save some money you can skip the individual gel packs and buy a 26-serving jug for $20 (this comes out to just .77¢ per serving). You can use the gel from the jug to fill your own flask—but the Hammer Gel 5-Ounce Flask is your best bet—it is made of high-density polyethylene and has molded finger tip groves.
A few days ago I went for a Century ride (100 miles) with a couple of Hammer Gel flasks (one filled with Huckleberry and the other with Tropical gel). This flask is incredibly easy to use while on the bike—I can get the gel out faster from the flask than I ever could with a single-serving package. In addition, small packages usually spill a few drops of sticky gel into my jerseys, but the flask seals lock-tight and I didn’t spill a drop!