If you spend a lot of time on your bike, you’ll eventually want to use some kind of energy drink to keep yourself hydrated and keep from bonking.
I’ve tried many different energy drinks, and my current favorite is HEED from Hammer Nutrition. It isn’t too sweet, it doesn’t upset my stomach even during hard efforts, and it delivers enough calories and electrolytes that it prevents me from bonking or cramping.
Chris Carmichael has written several times about how he often sees recreational cyclists and ever well trained athletes consuming far too many calories on a ride, and I agree with him completely. I typically only use an energy drink if I am riding at least 50 miles. Under 50 miles, I’ll carry some kind of a gel or energy bar in case of an emergency bonk, but I almost never have to eat it.
I was already aware of Hammer Nutrition products from seeing them at local bike shops in Dallas, but had never really tried them. I was using this GNC product called AMP, which worked well and didn’t upset my stomach, but tasted a little bit like flavored, dirty sea water. Then I read a post on the Tim Ferriss 4 Hour Work Week site about an ultra endurance runner who swore by some Hammer Nutrition product (a different product — Perpetuem, which I will also review in two different forms).
So I bought a big can of HEED. And it turned out to be my favorite energy drink for longer rides when you want to stay hydrated and avoid a bonk.
One of the best features of HEED compared to that GNC AMP product is the taste. HEED has a very mild flavor that does not taste disgustingly sweet or disgustingly salty. It’s very easy to drink, and I can drink it even under hard efforts without upsetting my stomach. I’ve even had it 10 minutes before an evening cyclocross race where it was getting close to dinnertime and I was worried about a bonk if I didn’t get some calories in before the race. No problems.
I’ve purchased the “mild melon” flavored drink, and the lemon-lime flavor, and they are both good. HEED even comes in an unflavored version, if you don’t care about flavor and just want the energy benefits. I haven’t tried that yet, but plan to. I have also not tried the “subtle strawberry” or “mandarin orange” flavors, which do not appeal to me. But as you can see by the “mild” and “subtle” used in the names of the flavors, they are indeed lower key.
One of the coolest features of HEED is that it uses complex carbohydrates and avoids simple sugars. HEED uses stevia and xylitol for sweeteners. Hammer claims that xylitol is actually beneficial to oral health. So you aren’t drinking a sugary drink that will hurt your teeth.
The bottle or pouch of HEED has a guide to how much you should use according to your weight. Each scoop of HEED is around 100 calories. So if you want to keep your calories lower but still get some benefit, you can stick to a single scoop, for example.
Hammer claims that HEED has a better “electrolyte profile” than other energy drinks, which it says often just throw in salt and potassium and call it a day. I can attest that I don’t have any cramping issues when I use HEED, although I also often use SportsLegs on my harder rides too, which is extremely effective at fighting cramps.
Here’s how Hammer Nutrition describes the benefits of HEED drink.
Sports drinks have been around a long time, and for many athletes they’re more convenient than energy gels. Unfortunately, most sport drinks are not much more than artificially colored sugar water that does little to aid your performance and even less for your health. That is why we developed HEED as a healthy alternative; HEED’s subtle tasting, complex carbohydrate formula goes down easily and supplies you with consistent, long-lasting energy and the electrolytes you need to keep pushing the pace. No citric acid is added to the formula, so it will not burn your throat or stomach. HEED’s sweeteners, stevia and xylitol, are actually good for you; xylitol is especially beneficial for helping promote oral health. The full-spectrum, amino acid-chelated electrolyte profile helps satisfy your body’s mineral requirements. L-carnosine and chromium polynicotinate help to buffer lactic acid and support stable blood glucose levels. If you prefer sports drinks over energy gels or like to use a combination of the two, try HEED and find out what a sports drink done right can do for your athletic performance.
I’ll summarize my review with what I like best about HEED. Mild taste, no simple sugars, easy on my stomach, and effective against bonking and cramping.
If you are aren’t happy with your current energy drink or are looking at other alternatives, I recommend giving Hammer Nutrition’s HEED a try.
Did I leave anything out? Do you already use HEED and have something to add? Leave a comment!