How it All Began
BACK IN THE DAY
When we introduced our first product in August 1987, the sport of triathlon was the latest fitness craze. Time-crunched "yuppies" and fitness-focused "baby boomers" were jumping in wholeheartedly, training three times as much as single sport athletes were training.
The unpleasant side effects of this high-volume endurance training included fatigue, recovery, depleted energy levels, anemia, impaired immune function, and other maladies. Since I had been using antioxidants and micronutrients for years to increase my own energy and endurance and to effectively combat my exercise-induced fatigue and recovery issues, I knew very well what these athletes were dealing with and how to help them.
Bear in mind, the damaging effects of free radical activity in the body and the role that antioxidants play in neutralizing and repairing that damage was not common knowledge at that time. There were no nutritional supplements specifically formulated with high levels of antioxidants and micronutrients to counter the stresses of high-volume endurance training.
In addition, most athletes were adhering to misguided diets that featured massive amounts of carbs, minimal protein, and close to zero fat. Fueling options during exercise were limited and primitive, with many athletes favoring bananas and water to the brightly colored, sugar/salt/citric acid drink mixes of the day.
The prevailing wisdom on fueling for endurance was the most problematic of all. Experts of the day all recommended (and the magazines dutifully reported) the flawed theory of "replace what you lose" for fluids, calories and electrolytes. Athletes were trying to stuff 500-800 calories per hour down their throats while consuming massive amounts of water. Of course, following those practices did not (and still does not) end well for most athletes.
These truly were the dark ages of endurance sports from a fueling and supplement perspective. Participating in an event of 3-4 hours (let alone 6, 12, 24, or more hours!) almost certainly involved negative physical side effects like stomach upset, GI distress, and/or cramping - possibly even a visit to the medical tent for an emergency IV.
The growth of the sport of triathlon in the '80s was followed by masters cycling in the early '90s and then mountain bike racing in the late '90s. During this time, the "ultra" effect also kicked in - ultra distance events of every imaginable kind were held, and the trend continues to grow today. As the world of endurance sports and endurance athletes has grown and evolved, so have we.
This unique combination of events set the stage and gave me the opportunity to create the very first supplements specifically for endurance athletes. Through the ensuing years, I have continued to develop uniquely effective fuels, supplements, and more to meet the needs of endurance athletes.
First Warehouse Space in San Francisco
THE EARLY YEARS
In those first years, it became quite apparent that there was a void in the fuels available to endurance athletes. I lost count of the number of clients who related the same story. All of them told me how they had become sick and unable to perform to their potential due to their on-course nutrition. This led to Sustained Energy (co-developed by Dr. Bill Misner and me), the first product of its kind to incorporate three different sources of complex carbohydrates, protein, and a host of nutrients to support fat metabolism. We originally called it 'Wild Bill's Triple X Mega Fuel' during development, and then 'Energy Surge,' before we settled on 'Sustained Energy' as its name. With no flavor or sugars added, Sustained Energy was described as tasting like "soggy Cheerios" or wallpaper paste. But it revolutionized fueling for exercise that lasted longer than 3 hours.
Shortly after the successful launch of Sustained Energy, I began developing Hammer Gel, having been one of the first sources in the U.S. for Leppin Squeezy, truly the first energy gel ever created. I knew I could improve upon the original, just as I did with the "sports drink" concept. As with Sustained Energy, I left refined sugars out of the Hammer Gel formula, opting instead for complex carbohydrates in the form of maltodextrin and real fruit concentrates for the fruit flavors. The lack of refined sugars and citric acid is the main reason Hammer Gel works so much better than any other gel and why athletes report that it does not cause the side effects they've experienced with other gels.
1995 was another big year for me. I began to introduce Hammer Nutrition Endurance Fuels to the existing line of endurance supplements and performance enhancers, then known as E-CAPS. I also moved my family and the business to Whitefish, Montana. At that time, the business consisted of just me and one full-time employee. In 2016, the Hammer Nutrition team includes a staff of over 40 at our Whitefish Headquarters.
THE STORY CONTINUES
As popularity of my products spread, bike shops and specialty retailers began asking to carry my products. I had never really set out to pursue business through retail stores, but was happy to help them get effective, healthful products into the hands of their customers. My challenge within this format was ensuring that the same level of education and customer service we provided directly to customers would be achieved in stores. This is why we prefer to only work with retailers who “get” the new business paradigm - brick and mortar stores thrive when they emphasize customer service, support and education instead of price competition!