When you look up the word “intense” in the dictionary, right next to it you’ll see a photo of a group of cyclists going flat-out around a 0.5-mile to 1.5-mile-long lapped course on a closed circuit—oftentimes around a city block—diving in and around corners at breakneck speed. That’s a pretty good visual as to what criteriums (aka “crits”) are about.

Right from the start, lap after lap after lap, and for anywhere between 15 to 60 miles, crit riders go “eyeballs out” hard. Occasionally during the race, there are specific areas on certain laps where prizes known as primes (pronounced “preems”) may be won, which increases the race’s intensity even more. This continues until the final, all-out, teeth-gritting sprint. As one person describes it, crits are “short and spicy.”

Training for and racing in crits is hard. Thankfully, fueling for one is not. And that’s where this fueling guide comes in. Before you get to the fuel suggestions and strategy, here is some essential information…


While there are numerous steps that you can (and should) take to optimize athletic performance, here are a couple of super easy ones. Start with this right away, and you’ll experience noticeably rapid improvement in your endurance and overall exercise performance.

1) Stay properly hydrated all day long. With approximately 60% of your body being comprised of water, it’s vital to maintain optimal hydration all day. Unfortunately, a lot of people—perhaps you? —live in a state of perpetual dehydration that negatively affects athletic performance and overall health. Starting now, gradually increase your fluid intake—primarily from pure, clean water—so that the total number of ounces you’re drinking daily is equal to 0.5 to 0.6 of your body weight in pounds (e.g., a 180-lb athlete should consume 90 – 108 ounces of fluids daily, in addition to what is being consumed during exercise). During exercise, drink 16-26 ounces per hour.

2) Fuel lean. It’s interesting to know how many calories you’re burning every hour during exercise; however, that amount isn’t a factor in terms of how many calories your body can accept in return for your fuel donation. The goal of caloric intake is to consume the least amount necessary to maintain energy levels where you want and need them to be hour after hour. For most athletes, this represents an intake of 120-180 calories per hour. Larger athletes (200+ lbs.) can consume 200 or slightly more calories. And if you find that’s not quite enough calories, that’s an easy fix—you consume a few more. Remember, it is ALWAYS easier to fix a “not enough” problem than an “uh oh, I overdid it, and now my stomach is rebelling” problem.

3) Ditch the sugar. Most fuels are comprised of short-chain carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars (glucose, sucrose, fructose, etc.) Hammer Nutrition fuels do not contain any simple sugars; instead, we use maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate. Both maltodextrin and some simple sugars will boost energy levels quickly, which is a desirable benefit. However, simple sugars—because they are comprised of only one or two saccharide molecules—will drop your energy levels just about as quickly. Constantly feeling great for a few minutes, then fighting your way out of an energy rut for several minutes—commonly referred to as ”flash and crash”—is no way to enjoy your winter sport/activity.

Conversely, because maltodextrin is MANY saccharide molecules weakly linked together, you enjoy quick-acting and much longer-lasting energy without any wild fluctuations in energy levels. Another great thing with maltodextrin is that your body can digest greater amounts of calories—with no delay from entry to exit of the digestive tract—and make them available for energy production. You can efficiently digest up to 3x more calories with maltodextrin than any simple sugar, which basically eliminates stomach distress issues.

4) Don’t eat for 3 hours before your workouts, races, and competitions. By refraining from consuming any calories in the 3-hour period before your workouts, races, and competitions, you put your body in the ideal physiological state to use its finite stores of muscle glycogen most efficiently while utilizing the vast amounts of calories from body fat stores more effectively. Adopt this practice in all your workouts—even the early morning ones—and you’ll start seeing massive improvements in your endurance in a relatively short time. Note: If you must have some calories before the start of exercise, consuming something easy to digest (e.g., a serving of Hammer Gel) 5-10 minutes before the beginning—but no further out—is acceptable.

5) “Refill the tank” ASAP after all your workouts. Your body wants to reward you for your efforts in training, strengthening the immune system, rebuilding muscle tissue, and storing more minutes of readily available fuel (glycogen) in the muscles. All you have to do to enjoy all of these endurance-enhancing benefits is supply your body with the materials it needs right away—ideally within the first 30 minutes after exercise (the sooner, the better)—meaning complex carbohydrates and high-quality protein such as found in Recoverite and Organic Vegan Recoverite.


Race Day Boost – In the 4 days prior to your race—T, W, Th, and F for a race on Sat—loading with Race Day Boost saturates the body’s cells with trisodium phosphate, a compound with a wealth of research that supports its positive benefits for athletic performance. Trisodium phosphate enhances functioning of all three of the body’s energy producing systems—the ATP-CP system, the lactic acid system, and the oxygen/ aerobic system—making it a superb ergogenic aid. With Race Day Boost, you’re boosting the performance of your body’s short-, medium-, and long-term energy production systems. No other product can do that… it is THE perfect product for crits!

Fully Charged – Hammer Nutrition’s pre-exercise supplement provides numerous athletic performance-enhancing benefits without resorting to stimulants or excessive amounts of caffeine. Taking one dose 15-30 minutes before the start of your ride will allow you to enjoy all of this amazing product’s benefits for the entirety of your crit. See “Get Charged or Get Left Behind”

Energy Surge contains adenosine 5-triphosphate (ATP), the principal molecule for storing and transferring energy in cells. It is often referred to as the energy currency of the cell. When you take a tablet of Energy Surge it supplies a quick-acting dose of pure energy. Take 1-2 tablets shortly before your race begins and, if possible, every 30 minutes during.


1) Success “during” starts “after”! It’s absolutely vital that you “refill the tank” after all your workouts… this is a major key for noticeably enhancing athletic performance. When you begin a workout or event/race, the primary fuel your body uses for the first 60-90 minutes or so is known as muscle glycogen. The more consistent you are with ASAP post-exercise fueling—Recoverite or Organic Vegan Recoverite is ideal for that—among the many benefits you’ll receive is more minutes of glycogen stored in the muscles—maxing out at somewhere between 60-90 minutes—ready to serve you in future workouts and races.

IMPORTANT NOTE! As most crits last between 30 minutes and ~1.5 hours, having the maximal amount of muscle glycogen available will prove to be hugely beneficial; you’ll be able do most of the race on this premium, muscle-stored fuel, making fueling needs during the race very minimal.

2) Finish all calorie consumption 3 hours prior to start. See #4 in the earlier article as to why this is so important.

3) “Pre-emptive strike” dose of Endurolytes or Endurolytes Extreme. Taking a dose of Endurolytes or Endurolytes Extreme 15-30 minutes prior to the start will cover your electrolytic mineral needs for most-to-all of your race. The dose of Endurolytes can be anywhere from 1-6 capsules, with most athletes using 2-4 capsules, the amount dependent on body weight and temperature conditions. If you’re competing in hot-weather conditions—and especially if you’re not very acclimated to those conditions—I suggest taking a pre-race dose of 1-2 Endurolytes Extreme capsules.

4) Consume 1-2 servings of Hammer Gel 5-10 minutes prior to the race. Consuming 1-2 servings of Hammer Gel at this time will supply some calories to augment muscle glycogen stores but without interfering with the efficiency of how your body will use its finite stores of muscle glycogen as a fuel source. A pre-race intake of 1-2 servings of Hammer Gel may be all that you need for fuel for the entire race!

5) Race fuel. Depending on how long your race will be, 1-2 bottles of HEED should be completely sufficient in fulfilling calorie, fluid, and electrolytic mineral needs.

6) ASAP after the race. “Refill the tank” ASAP with Recoverite or Organic Vegan Recoverite. Refueling your body with two scoops of Recoverite or Organic Vegan Recoverite within the first 30 minutes after your races takes advantage of the glycogen synthase enzyme when it’s most active. This allows the body to replenish and increase its stores of glycogen, while also providing the raw materials (the amino acids from protein) to help rebuild the muscle tissue and support the immune system.

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