Tested: Hammer Gel Raspberry

WHAT: Hammer Gel Raspberry 26-Serving Jug
WHERE: www.e-caps.com
HOW MUCH: $17.95

The first thing you have to understand is that I'm a cheap bastard. I've bonked on plenty of rides because I repeatedly convinced myself that I could complete the final two hours without reaching into my jersey pocket and "wasting" that last pack of Chocolate GU. At roughly a buck per pack of energy gel, my stinginess often gets the best of me.

My frugal nature is what eventually drew me to the Hammer Gel line. Hammer Nutrition sells the stuff in jugs and a 26-serving jug costs only $18. That's less than 70 cents per 2-tablespoon serving. Bonus!

Hammer Gel is affordable, but could I eat the stuff for over three hours without constantly burping or baby-barfing it back up again? Some energy gels just don't play friendly with my digestive tract. In fact, I usually can't stomach any of the berry/citrus/fruit gel flavors from any brand. Thus, I opened my jug of Raspberry Hammer Gel with some trepidation.

Lo and behold! I haven't barfed the stuff up once and I'm halfway through the jug. More amazing still—I actually like the Raspberry flavor. It's not overly sweet or creamy or acidic. The consistency of Hammer Gel is also a little thinner than that of other gels. While this didn't impact flavor or digestibility, it did make the gel easy to sip (from the Hammer Gel flask). You can also mix the thin Hammer Gel with water to make an energy drink of sorts, but I was too lazy to ever try it so I can't say whether the stuff will ever put Gatorade out of business.

For the record, I also tried a jug of Apple Cinnamon, but wasn't as pleased with that flavor. Like I said, I'm generally not a big fan of fruit-flavored gels. If you're interested in trying Hammer Gel out, but don't want to blow $18 on a jug of it in order to get a measly taste, you can also sample Hammer Gel in the more conventional single-packs. Hammer Gel comes in eight flavors: Apple-Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Espresso, Orange, Plain, Raspberry and Vanilla.

Of course, the critical question here is, "Does this stuff actually work?" I've had nothing but success with it during the eight long rides on which I've used it. The energy boost was nice and consistent. The science-types at Hammer Nutrition explain this fact by noting that their gel contains long-chain complex carbohydrates, as opposed to simple sugars like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup which cause quick "sugar highs" and sudden "sugar lows".

In short, I liked the stuff. Good flavor, good energy burn, good price. It ranks right up there with my long-time favorites (Chocolate, Vanilla and Plain GU). I wouldn't use Hammer Gel as my only energy source on a ride over two hours, but that's true of every energy gel. I personally need a more diverse mix of energy sources to keep myself performing all day.

The only potential downside to buying a jug of Hammer Gel is that once you open said jug, you're committed. You can safely refrigerate the jug for about two months after opening it, but the stuff doesn't keep forever. Consequently, if your schedule only allows for the occasional ride, you'd be better off buying single packs of the gel. If you ride several times a week, the jug is a solid option.