Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hammer Nutrition : Feedback From Sabah Adventure Challenge 2013

This is a specific write up on nutrition that has sustained me during Sabah Adventure Challenge 2013. I have declared before the race that I will go on 100% Hammer Nutrition items and will provide a feedback, good or bad so that most of you relying on these fuel during races, can make a more informed choices. Let me start off by stating that I am a believer of real food. To put it even more specific - real clean food. My lifestyle for the past 2years has been shaped around these principles and I have managed successfully to remove fast-food, soft drinks and processed food items. I do binge once a while on say, peanut butter and Nutella (who can resist that) and my chocolate are all dark chocolate of at least 60% cocoa content. I take my coffee black and no sugar.  I indulge in a drink or two once a while and that is about it. My calorific intake per day is regulated and I rarely eat more than I should - capping it at 2000kcal max if I workout (which is about everyday) or at 1800kcal (rarely) if i don't. I can estimate kcal in food by looking at the portion and how it is prepared and rarely I am far from the number. In short, I am "transformed". I know my body very well and I know what it can do and what are the limits.
Hammer Nutrition
My drawn plan for the 3-days race were straight forward and can be summarised as shown in the two table below.
Day 1
The first 3 hours on Day 1 were followed to the T. The energy delivery was good and there was no sign of fatigue or any gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as tummy ache or bloating. As the race was progressively slower due to the terrain, My energy expenditure was not as high as I initially expected. I started by reducing the Perpetuem Solid from two tabs to one tab (-35kcal) and with the weather not as hot as I thought it will be on Day 1, I reduced the dosing of Endurolytes from three to two. I maintained the HEED and Gel and the Bar at Hour 3. 
My calorie intake from Hour 4 onwards is now 220kcal with 400mg of electrolytes. Keeping a close monitor on both energy, fatigue and satiety level to further adjust. Day 1 was completed in 13hours. My planned nutrition was for 10hours only. The amount I reduced were put back into the additional 3-hours and I believe that has saved me towards the ending hours of the race. Nevertheless, I have emergency in case I needed it. Day 1 ended with a serving of Recoverite and the dinner before retiring for Day 2.
Lesson Learnt From Day 1: 
  • Adjust the caloric need according to the level of activities, weather and intensity. 
  • Taking less allow easier adjustment (for additional calories) when needed. 
  • Caffeinated Gel works better than non-caffeinated gel for long haul. It stimulate the mind.
  • Anti-fatigue tablets could had helped by reducing tiredness despite walking for a full 13hours. In fact, I know I can still run 5km on a flat after the race.
Day 2
Day 2 see a new challenge of the race with a major part of it under hot burning sun. Using the portion taken from Day 1, I made little adjustment and maintained to one Perpetuem Solids, one gel and one HEED an hour and taking one bar at Hour-3. Some of you might be wondering how it is like taking only these for breakfast and lunch. To be honest, I had no issues. I have conditioned my body to run on empty (aka utilising the fat reserves) and these are additional calories that will potentially help to boost me when needed.
I like the fact that Hammer Nutrition items are not sweet. Flavour were subtle and I actually would appreciate if they have "neutral" flavoring instead. As the day grew progressively hotter, I changed strategy and started to up the Endurolytes tabs from two to three. It started at Hour-2 actually as I do not want to risk running into a situation where cramps will happen and it will be too late by then. So, it was 3-tabs/hour Endurolytes and 2-tabs/2hours Anti-Fatigue. Caloric demand did not increased and stayed at 1Gel-1Heed-1Perpetuem Solid. No GI issues. No bloating. No hunger too. Recoverite wrapped up the day.
Lesson Learnt From Day 2:
  • When the heat is up, take one more Endurolytes to compensate for electrolytes lost due to heavy sweating.
Day 3
The shortest day but not to be taken for granted. 15km is easy compared to the bigger mileage the past two days. However, elevation gain over the shorter distance were more significant and being higher up in the mountain and exposed to the sun and wind could give you a false sense of adequate hydration. Everything stayed the same per Day 1 and Day 2. 1-Solids, 1-Gel, 1-Heed every hour and one bar at Hour 3. Endurolytes started with 2-tabs and there was no need for additional tab. Liquid, however, in the form of mixed HEED in bladder was sipped every 10-minutes like the other two days. The danger of racing in colder condition is that we do not think we needed the hydration. A big mistake that can cause you to DNF if not careful. Recoverite wrapped up the race!
Lesson Learnt From Day 3:
  • Keep fuelling and hydrating. It is not just for the race. It is for recovery too!
How about Wifey?
It was wifey's first ultra race. Nutrition was planned by myself and based on what we have at home. There were Gels from various brands and obviously the Endurolytes that I've stocked up before being sponsored by Hammer Nutrition. I have limited Endurolytes FIZZ (water soluble Endurolytes to mix with water) bought before the sponsorship and it will be adequate to last wifey 1.5days worth of race. As I have additional servings of HEED, it is one way to see how she will like it as well. She went almost exclusively on race fuel. Only differences is the homemade muesli that she made to bring along before the race. That was used as a replacement to the Hammer Bar equivalent. Gel were a mix from different brands such as Shotz, Hammer and Gu. Day 1 for wifey saw her taking 1-Gel, 1-Fizz, 2-Endurolytes and 1 muesli every two hours. This is to compensate the calories. 4-hours into the race she find it hard to chew and stomach the Muesli and I started giving her the Perpetuem Solids to chew. 
She loves it.
Knowing how little simple things like these could do to the state of mind, I started sharing my Perpetuem Solids with her every hour.
Sharing is caring
By the 10th hour, she had enough of the gels. And the mistake we could had made was to mix the gel up (from various brands). She did commented that Hammer was the least sweet and neutral tasting - that it did not taste like "condensed milk with flavour". She cycled through the day's supply of Hammer earlier and left with the other two brands. Sensing a tummy shut down, I put her on Perpertuem Solids for the rest of the three hours.
Day 2 started off similarly and she brought along more Hammer Gels instead of the other two brands. She takes the other brand first while it was still palatable for her. Muesli bars were reduced to one at hour-3 and Perpetuem Solids now become her main fuel. Similar fuelling strategy happened on Day 3. On both Day 2 and 3, the tummy behaved better compared to Day 1 with little mixture of the gel. Now i can understand why some people has reactions to liquid food - and why I stopped believing in them anymore, until now.
Lesson Learnt For Wifey:
  • Do not mix the gel brand. Flavor mixing of the same brand is OK.
  • Solid food, in this case the Muesli, is good only if you have trained to take it during training.
  • Finding the sweet spot with Perpetuem Solids. This will be her main choice of fuel for races to come. Gel can wait.
  • Endurolytes worked wonder. No cramps.
  • Late dosing of Anti-Fatigue tabs (as late as last 2hours of each day) help with muscle performance.
Moving Forward
I have never thought that specific race nutrition will work. It was tough for me to switch over from real food, like the Gels and bars i make myself for races. Scrutinizing the ingredients of Hammer Nutrition against those I use to make my own fuel, there were many similarities. Going 100% Hammer for pre, during and post race has opened up my eyes to proper nutrition and hydration. 
The experiment during Sabah Adventure Challenge was an eye opener for me. Not only did i race longer, there were minimal fatigue and recovery was super. Likewise with wifey that has see the benefit of proper fuelling (1/3 kcal burnt) and hydration(20oz liquid/hour). Indeed, the body performed and agrees better when all it do not need to worry about working to digest and process too much food.
For longer races and possibly multi-day races in the future, I will draw up a similar plan again. I've raced on empty often, and looked like things will change in the near future. I've marked a few A-list race for myself to experiment with fuelling - and wait up for the feedback. 
Meanwhile, if you have any questions about this entry, do ask. I would love to hear from you.

The nutrition supplied for my Sabah Adventure Challenge is sponsored by Hammer Nutrition Malaysia under the collaboration with 2ndSkin. This blog entry serves as a write up/reporting on how the nutrition has work for me specifically during the race. Thank You Hammer Nutrition Malaysia!


  1. oh yes...great write up. Gonna test it out soon. Phew..what a relief!!
    I'll follow your nutrition plan stupe...and all the credits goes to you...
    thanks a lot

    1. Best test before race. Take my write up with a few tabs of Endurolytes (salt electrolytes ;)).

      I was lucky the nutritn agree with me.

  2. Noob reporting in for question.

    1. How long does it take for the gel/solid to take effect?
    2. When should we take these gel/solid during a race?


    1. 1. should be immediate due to the purpose they are made for. I did felt the effect.

      2. one every 45min to an hour. Always with water.

  3. Very useful...thanks. I'm a recent Hammer Nutrition user - but more on the recovery side with Recoverite and Premium Insurance capsules which really do work!!!

    Planning to run SCKLM HM end June with the Mizuno 16k mid-June as a tune-up...what should I use as midrace fuelling...Hammer Gel or HEED?....I guess Endurolytes would be sensible, too instead of ORS???


    1. I've not tried Premium Insurance Caps. What does it do?

      HEED would be good if you ask me. Food+water for the 16K, you need 1x only at K8.

      ORS is not reccomended.

  4. stupe,do u recommend me to eat perpetuam solid for the first time during the race?i had it with me but never try it

    1. I suggest you try it before any race to see if it agrees with you. You might like it as it gives a bit of bite and something to chew on. I know i love it.

  5. Thanks for the write up very helpful.