I strive to be as honest and transparent as possible. You should know that product reviews are not paid for, but I may earn a commission on products purchased through the links in this article. Learn more here.

Hammer HEED sports drink provides a good taste with a very light sweetness – distinctly different from the potent flavors of drinks like Gatorade. It’s a very light taste without being bland, so it’s beloved by many endurance athletes. Let’s see if it’s right for you.

Hammer Nutrition

hammer heed drink mix packet

If there is one sports drink company that stands out from the rest, it would have to be Hammer Nutrition.

They pride themselves on (and aggressively sell) the fact that they use healthy, high-performance ingredients in all their products.

You won’t find high fructose corn syrup or table sugar in any Hammer products. Instead, Hammer uses maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate, along with healthy sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol.

They also leave out citric acid (a common ingredient that could possibly upset your stomach).

But… you certainly pay a premium price for all this. A Hammer HEED single-serve pouch is $1.95. A 32-seving jug costs $34.95.

When I was younger, I would always grab a surplus of free samples at mountain bike races. (Thanks, Hammer Nutrition!) These days, I buy the jugs, so I am going to review it today.

Hammer HEED Nutrition Facts and Info

On paper, Hammer HEED (High Energy Electrolyte Drink) is as close to perfect as an energy drink can be. It contains an “all-complex carbohydrate formula” (mainly maltodextrin) for a consistent and long-lasting energy supply, plus two sweeteners – stevia and xylitol – which are actually healthy. For electrolytes, HEED supplies a “full-spectrum, all chelated mineral, electrolyte profile” which beats the pants off most drinks containing just sodium and potassium.

Here are the actual ingredients:

Maltodextrin, Xylitol, Natural Flavor, White Stevia, Sodium Chloride, L-Carnosine, Glycine, Calcium Chelate, Magnesium Chelate, Potassium Chelate, L-Tyrosine, Vitamin B6, Manganese Chelate, ChromeMate brand Chromium Polynicotinate

Compare that to the label of your other sports drinks and you’ll wish you had HEED instead!

Not only is it healthy (for a sports drink), but it should fulfill your caloric needs on rides up to two hours. You’ll probably put one or two scoops of HEED into each 20 oz water bottle, giving you 100-200 calories per hour. (Which could make for 400 calories on a two hour ride, assuming you consume two bottles.)

As you can see, things sound great so far. But how does it taste…

Hammer HEED Taste Test

Aside from the nutrition aspect, the unique flavor of HEED attracts a lot of riders. While I kind of like the super strong/sweet Gatorade flavors, many people find it too strong to drink while riding, or it gives them stomach problems. They either avoid the drink, or dilute it. That’s why HEED has a very light and mild flavor, even when mixed at full strength.

I will say that again – HEED is very light and mild. It is nowhere near as strong as Gatorade, and it’s even lighter than other cycling-specific drinks (Powerbar Endurance drink is pretty light, but it’s strong compared to HEED!)

HEED is just tasty enough that it makes you want to drink it. I doubt it would be sweet enough to make you sick, even if you have a sensitive stomach.

The Lemon Lime and Mandarin Orange flavors have been around a while, and Hammer recently released a couple new flavors – Melon and Strawberry. If you just can’t stand any flavor, you can even get unflavored HEED!


First, Lemon-Lime. HEED’s Lemon Lime flavor is probably the best lemon-lime sports drink I’ve ever had. I actually haven’t had any recently, but if I remember correctly, it was like a light lemonade with a hint of lime. It tasted awesome after a hard mountain bike race.

Mandarin Orange

Recently I’ve been using the Mandarin Orange HEED, because I got a handful of sample packs. It tastes pretty good and does taste a lot like mandarin orange; it certainly doesn’t taste like most “orange” sports drinks. It is much more mild than those drinks, and I think it was even more mild than the Lemon-Lime HEED.

Other than that, it’s kind of hard to describe because Hammer HEED does have that unique taste and texture that’s not quite like any other drink. Mandarin Orange is almost creamy, but not thick or slimy.


Again, another fruit that lends itself to the light flavor of Heed. I refer to this one as “subtle strawberry.”

Cherry Bomb



Talk about delicious! It’s like a slice of watermelon on a summer day! The flavor is so good that it’s one of my favorite drinks ever, and it’s light enough that it never gets old.

Overall, I really liked the Lemon-Lime, but Melon was even better!

My Hammer HEED Experience

When first opening HEED, there was no doubt it was composed of maltodextrin. It was a real fine powder that looked and smelled like maltodextrin. That worried me because maltodextrin is hard to mix – it clumps and turns into a pasty substance.

Luckily HEED mixed up a little easier, but it was still hard to get well-mixed. I usually let it sit overnight after mixing in water. It doesn’t foam or clump too bad, but getting the perfect mix takes some time.

What matters more though is whether this stuff works or not. I used it before, during, and after workouts and races, usually on days when I wasn’t consuming other bars or drinks composed of simple sugars.

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice anything spectacular. HEED fueled my endeavors and kept me hydrated, all without stomach problems, but PowerBar Endurance formula does the same thing for me. I’ve had the same basic results with Hammer gel – it works just fine, but being a perfect drink/gel on paper doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well in real life.

Based on these experiences, I am willing to use and recommend Hammer Nutrition products, but I just can’t agree with all the Hammer aficionados who think it’s the best drink ever.

My final verdict is…

Personally I’ve consumed lots of Gatorade (I like the strong flavors and love the fact that it’s cheap) and plenty of other nice drinks from Hammer’s competitors. One of my faves is PowerBar Endurance, since it can be purchased on sale at a decent price, and provides more electrolytes and calories than Gatorade.

However, Hammer HEED has a good taste and a very light sweetness that is still good. If you absolutely hate strong drinks like Gatorade, I recommend you try HEED. The taste is lighter, but it’s not a watered-down, bland taste. (If you’re unsure about flavor, go with the Lemon-Lime.)

I won’t be joining Hammer’s cult-like following, but I do enjoy and recommend HEED! Highly recommended to anyone with a sensitive stomach!

Official website: www.HammerNutrition.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com | www.REI.com

Product Review Details
Company: Hammer Nutrition
Product: Hammer HEED Sports Drink
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2008-08-09
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

Click here if you would like to get your product reviewed on CoachLevi.com.

You may also like
  1. I started using the Hammer Heed and e-caps only after completing my first Marathon. While my time was only slightly faster on the second race, the difference really was in how I felt during and after the race, it was night and day. On my first marathon I drank some Gatorade and consumed sugar gels (GU), my stomach went way south around mile 16, I felt horrible well before the end of the race.

    During my second Marathon I consumed e-caps throughout, and Heed for the first 2 hours and Perpetum for the last 2 hours. I finished feeling great!

    While the Hammer products may cost more, spending 16 weeks focused on training, all of the cost associated with transportation, race fees and lodging. This small amount of money for the product was some of the best money that I spent.

    None of these products are a miracle pill to amazing performance, performance is both mental and physical.

  2. @Mark

    I totally agree with you about how the cost of nutrition products can be a small portion of the total racing cost. It’s worth the investment!

    Unfortunately I didn’t notice a dramatic difference when using Hammer products, but if you did, awesome!

    (Actually I should point out that the Endurolytes did make a noticeable difference on hot days.)

  3. What about the unflavored flavor?

    • @Graeme

      Honestly I can’t recall if I ever tried that one. I usually avoid unflavored drinks because without a flavor, you’re just left with a sort of sweet, sort of salty, sort of weird and bitter taste.

Leave a Reply