By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

WHITEFISH – Hammer Nutrition was born in 1987 in Brian Frank’s San Francisco, Calif. apartment. When he moved his nutritional supplement business to Whitefish in 1995, he had one other person working for him. Now Hammer has nearly 40 full-time employees in the northwest Montana resort community.

Frank, 47, grew up as a swimmer and water polo player in Long Beach, Calif., and used those sports as cross training for his real passion, motocross racing. He was in the pool four to five hours a day and competing in motocross during the weekends, he said, and when he wasn’t taking supplements he’d constantly fall asleep during class.

“In the early 80s, before Powerbar there was just Gatorade,” Frank said. “[In the mid-80s] yuppies took to triathlon like fish to water… people were training themselves into the ground and I offered them a high-protein antioxidant.”

By the end of the 1987 triathlon season – its first year of business – Hammer had nearly every top pro triathlete endorsing its product.

hammer_productHammer added a protein-fortified ultra sports drink to its supplement line in 1991, Hammer Gel in 1995 and Hammer Bars in 2003.

“You’re [either] going forwards or your going backwards,” Frank said. “[I’m] always looking for a new way to give athletes a better way of life. When you’re exercising 12-15 hours a week you’re accelerating the aging process, you have to protect your body to prevent you from getting sick or injured.”

The human diet – even for elite athletes’ that closely monitor theirs – isn’t nearly as good for our bodies as we think it is, Frank says, especially since we tend to only eat things that taste good, which are often high in sodium, sugar and starches.

Frank also points to the corporate, mechanized nature of food production in this country robbing food of its natural nutrition. “Two trace minerals, boron and chromium, are not present in our diets anymore.”

Chromium is important for the body’s glucose regulation essential for athletes but is difficult to quantify, “because the content of the mineral in foods is substantially affected by agricultural and manufacturing processes,” according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements website.

Also, the amount of time athletes spend exercising has far outpaced the evolution of our diets.

Marathons and triathlons are now commonplace and ultra triathlons – a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile swim – are no longer the biggest endurance events. The Double Deca Decathlon has been hosted in Mexico since 1998, and competitors complete an ultra triathlon each day for 20 days. These athletes can’t consume enough essential nutrients to finish these feats of endurance without supplements, Frank said.

Trisha and Andrew Drobeck have directed the Montana Made 5K/10K race in Missoula for seven years, and both compete in endurance races and use Hammer Nutrition products. Andrew is a professional triathlete and Trisha has run marathons for the last four years, finishing 38th out of 16,092 women in the 2014 Boston Marathon.

“If I could tell people to use one [Hammer] product it would definitely be Recoverite,” Trisha said. “Post race or post hard workout, it has everything you need to make your body feel better. It’s quick and easy to take with you.”

Her workout regime leading up to April’s Boston Marathon included four or five longer weekend runs totaling 24-27 miles each, as well as interval training during the week, running 10 miles at a fast pace with a rest in between each mile.

“You need those products during interval training because you’re working so hard,” said Trisha, who’s been using Hammer products for the last two years and noticed an immediate difference in her recovery time.

Hammer doesn’t have a lab in Whitefish. Instead it tests its products anecdotally with athletes like the Drobecks.

“We do our testing in the real world,” Frank said.