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How to Fuel Guide: Open Water Swimming


This step-by-step fueling protocol is super easy to put together; it’s just as easy to follow, it doesn’t require you or your crew to carry a ton of stuff, it will save you time, and, best of all, it’s highly effective.

Before you get to the fueling protocol, here is some very important and useful information...

5 Simple Ways to Improve Athletic Performance Now

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 goes without saying that 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 and up to 28 ounces per hour during hot weather.

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. Some fuels are comprised of a combination of simple sugars (glucose, sucrose, fructose, etc.) and complex carbohydrates (maltodextrin), formulated under the premise that your body will be able to produce more energy on a per-minute basis using multiple carbohydrate sources compared to a single carbohydrate source. Remember, though, that the subjects in those “multi-carb” studies were exercising at such low intensities—a recovery pace, at best—that they could probably consume anything without issue. Instead, choose complex carbohydrates (maltodextrin), such as Hammer Nutrition's Hammer Gel, HEED, Sustained Energy 2.0, or Perpetuem 2.0. Unlike simple sugars, complex carbohydrates provide quick-acting, longer-lasting energy and cause no stomach issues even at high-intensity efforts.

4) Don’t eat for 3 hours before workouts, races, and competitions. Refraining from consuming calories in the 3 hours before your workouts, races, and competitions puts 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.


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.

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 during the first hour of the race, allowing you to focus on getting into a nice, smooth rhythm instead of having to consume pills at that time. The dose of Endurolytes can be anywhere from 1-6 capsules, with most athletes using 2-4 capsules an hour, the amount dependent on body weight and temperature conditions. If you’re competing in hot-weather conditions—especially if you’re not 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.

5) Fuel selection during the race. The key here is to make sure you’re supplying your body with sufficient amounts of calories, fluids, and electrolytes while being super-efficient at the same time. Keeping things as simple as possible minimizing the time spent treading water while staying properly fueled, is of paramount importance.

*** Exercise sessions/competitions lasting up to 3 hours ***

One of our “carbohydrate only” fuels— Hammer Gel or HEED—will be completely sufficient. Given a choice, I would personally opt for Hammer Gel, as it is a more concentrated fuel than HEED; I can get the calories I need more quickly—consuming 1 serving every 30-45 minutes—I can drink plain water to take care of hydration needs, and I’ll take Endurolytes or Endurolytes Extreme (in capsules) to cover my electrolytic mineral requirements. 

Should you decide to use HEED instead of Hammer Gel (perfectly acceptable!), you’ll want to make sure you’re consuming the appropriate amounts. Each scoop of HEED contains 110 calories. I (Steve Born) personally use 1.75 scoops of HEED 2.0 an hour, which supplies 192.5 calories, an amount that works well for larger athletes like me (I’m 200 pounds). A 1.0 scoop (110 calories) per hour works well for lighter-weight athletes. Medium-weight athletes will find that 1.25 scoops (137.5 calories) to 1.50 scoops (165 calories) per hour is an excellent amount.

 *** Exercise sessions/competitions lasting over 3 hours ***

You will want to use one of our “carbohydrate + protein” fuels—Perpetuem or Sustained Energy—as your primary-to-sole fuel. For example, if you’re going to be in the water for 5 hours, you can use either Perpetuem or Sustained Energy as your sole fuel from beginning to end, or you can use either as your primary fuel—3 to 4 hours out of the 5 total—with Hammer Gel or HEED used as your secondary fuel, for the other 1-2 hours.

Each scoop of Perpetuem contains 90 calories. I (Steve Born) personally use 2.25 scoops an hour, which supplies 202.5 calories, which works well for larger athletes like me (I’m 200 pounds). For lighter-weight athletes, 1.0 scoop (90 calories) to 1.25 scoops (112.5 calories) per hour works well. Medium-weight athletes will find that 1.50 scoops (135 calories) to 2.0 scoops (180 calories) per hour is an excellent amount.

Each scoop of Sustained Energy contains 100 calories. I (Steve Born) personally use 2.0 scoops an hour, which supplies me with 200 calories. For lighter-weight athletes, 1.0 scoop (100 calories) to 1.25 scoops (125 calories) per hour works well. Medium-weight athletes will find that 1.50 scoops (150 calories) to 1.75 scoops (175 calories) per hour is an excellent amount.

The advantages of the multi-hour fuel bottle

Regarding Perpetuem or Sustained Energy, instead of making a 1-hour bottle, which would mean I’d have to drink a full bottle of flavored/semi-flavored liquid hour after hour (which I wouldn’t like), while also having to stop and make more (which burns up precious time), I would make a bottle of Perpetuem or Sustained Energy that contains a few hours worth of fuel. To make (for example) a 4-hour bottle, I’d start by using the smallest water bottle I have (less flavored drink mix I have to consume). Then, I fill that water bottle 1/3 full of water, add a couple of scoops of Perpetuem, or Sustained Energy, put the lid on, and shake well. I’ll repeat the process until I’ve mixed the appropriate number of scoops in my one bottle (for me, that’s 9 scoops for Perpetuem and 8 scoops of Sustained Energy). Now, because I have 4 hours of fuel in one bottle, I only have to drink ¼ of that bottle every hour, augmenting that with water from a hydration pack or from the aid stations to take care of my hydration needs.

Again, the benefits of using a multi-hour bottle of fuel:

  • You get to drink and enjoy plain water from another bottle to care for hydration needs and cleanse the palate. Yes, some liquid is left in the multi-hour fuel bottle. However, over 3-4 hours, it's pretty minimal, so that you can consider that fuel bottle a "calories only" bottle.
  • By keeping your calories separate from your fluids, you can keep track of you taking care of those two areas of your fueling from sources that are independent of each other. Additionally, in hot weather races, your ability to process calories may diminish while your fluid and electrolyte requirements may increase. Keeping the three entities of fueling—calories, fluids, and electrolytes—independent of each other will allow you greater flexibility with your dosing, making it easy to alter your intake of any or all of those fueling components whenever necessary

6) Electrolytes and fluids. Continue to take Endurolytes or Endurolytes Extreme hourly to satisfy your electrolytic mineral requirements, and drink water only (no sugary sports drinks!) to fulfill your hydration needs.

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

1 comment

Great info… lines out a great program for an event! Thanks Steve!!


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