Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tailwind Nutrition | In-depth Review


Photo courtesy of
Nutrition is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked and important aspects of running. 
During my second year of college, I remember a period of about a week or two when I had to use the treadmill at the university gym to run due to the severity of the cold weather.  I distinctly remember seeing the individuals that had spent so much time on the elliptical, the stair master, the rowing machine, the stationary bike, and/or the treadmill later in the afternoon at the Student Union Building at UNM eating at Sonic, which is basically the equivalent to McDonald's.  While this post will not focus on general nutrition for athletes, it's important to remember the old adage: You cannot outrun a bad diet.  Likewise, you cannot run long-distance with only water

Well, maybe you can run longer distances with only water, but you'll probably bonk... and it's not to healthy and can be potentially dangerous.  There are a variety of factors that lead to "bonking," or "hitting the wall," which are beyond scope of this blog entry; however, poor nutrition is definitely one of the factors. 

Short Review of Homeostasis... this is important

Homeostasis is probably the most important word a student in science will learn.  All of my biology and biochemistry professors emphasized the following during lectures and right before exams: whenever you are confused about what is going on, try to remember that the body is trying to constantly maintain homeostasis, and pathology usually results from homeostatic imbalance.  In short, homeostasis is the regulation of the body's internal environment to make sure that all of the organs and systems are functioning in their normal range.  This maintainence is done through a plethora of complex reactions, interactions, hormone regulation, etc.  As you are out on a long run, your body is using various energy precursors, such as glucose, glycogen, fat, protein, etc. to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) through a variety of detailed biochemical steps, which include glycolysis, the krebs cycle, the electron transport chain, etc.   Furthermore, your body will be regulating your internal temperature through sweating (human thermoregulation), which is one of the most important features that allows humans to be such great long-distance runners.  Thermoregulation involves LOTS of reactions / interactions / hormone regulation / etc.   The biochemical and physiological processes that are involved in the creation of ATP, thermoregulation, osmoregulation, and the cornucopia of other processes require energy, cofactors, signaling molecules, and a lot more!  Folks, this is homeostasis, and you need to make sure you take this into consideration when fueling and hydrating for long runs and races.

Tailwind Nutrition: This Stuff is Legit

Historically, I get an upset stomach when I run.  If I'm going to eat before a run, then I need to make sure it's at least 4-5 hours before I run... minimally.  To a certain degree, even water upsets my stomach while running.  Given the fact that I want to race ultramarathons, I had to find some kind of solution. 


(Note: I received my samples from Tailwind free-of-charge to review for my blog.  My opinion of the product, though, is not influenced by this.  If something is a crappy product, I'll call it on the carpet.)

Tailwind Introduction

I listen to a lot of Podcasts (maybe I'll write a post on the ones I listen to after finals week), and I discover the most awesome theories, ideas, news, etc. through the ruminations and babbling of others.  I love it.  Back in August, Trail Runner Nation podcast interviewed Jeff Vierling, founder of Tailwind Nutrition.  I highly recommend listening to this amazing episode.  Conceptually, Jeff's reasoning behind the ingredients in Tailwind nutrition make sense to me.  In short, Jeff explains, albeit in a cursory manner for the podcast, the physiological processes that take place, from a nutrition standpoint, while running.  He explains how the gut absorbs nutrients and excretes wastes, the electrolytes and energy needed for the various ion and sugar pumps, transporters, and channels, and the need to put back into your body what it loses while exercising. 

Short Review of Contents of Tailwind

To begin, all the ingredients in Tailwind are all natural & organic.  It's also gluten-free, which is a bonus since I just transitioned to that kind of diet!  In fact, if you look at what's in the ingredients, it's pretty simple!  Tailwind packs in about 100 calories per scoop and contains a "full complement of electrolytes that mimic the composition and proportions of sweat," thus negating the need to carry both fuel for energy and electrolyte pills.   While it is beyond the scope of this blog post to describe in-depth, like Jeff does on the podcast link above, why Tailwind's fuel "digests easily and absorbs quickly," the absence of both protein and complex sugars, which can put stress on the digestive system while exercising, are absent from this product.  Instead, Tailwind uses dextrose, which is a "form of clean glucose" that "minimizes digestive effort and enters your system quickly, aboiding the stoach pile up that complex sugars and protein can cause."  Again, if you're interested in how this occurs, you can (a) listen to or (b) take an introductory course in biochemistry and anatomy and physiology :-).

More Reasons Why I Love Tailwind

Finally, there are two other aspects of Tailwind that I love.  The first is that the taste isn't overwhelming.  They have four flavors: Mandarin Orange, Berry, Lemon, and Naked Unflavored.  I've tried a LOT of running nutrition products, and all of them are too sweet, too bitter, or the taste just becomes unpalatable the longer I'm out on a run.  Interestingly, Tailwind has a very subtle, yet obvious, taste to each flavor.  It's strong enough to remind me I am not drinking water, yet subtle enough to not become a problem on long runs.  Over the course of the run, the taste becomes more delicious.  I have no idea.  I've tried every flavor (besides the unflavored), too, and it's the same for all of them.  I love it.  The second aspect that is worth mentioning is the following: is dissolves completely when you add it to water.  Seriously.  Imagine putting some salt into water, and that's basically how easily Tailwind dissolves, which makes cleaning super easy. 

How Tailwind Has Helped Me

After exclusively using Tailwind to fuel all of my runs since September, I have had zero problems with stomach cramps and other GI issues.  This is the first time in the past 5-6 years that I've been able to run with no stomach and/or GI issues.  I also have another interesting observation that I've noted over a number of my runs: whenever my muscles start to cramp a bit during a long run, I start slowly drinking my Tailwind and, after about 15-20 minutes, I notice that the cramps more or less leave.  I'm not sure why this is, but I'm guessing the quick absorption and utilization of the electrolytes might be one of the reasons.  Finally, I'm not dehydrated and famished after my runs like I used to be.  Generally, all of my runs are "fasted" runs; i.e., I run in the morning on a completely empty stomach.  So, when I used to not consume any water or food during a longer run, I would feel like death near the end of the run and directly after.  Now, I feel pretty darn good at the end of each workout.  Tailwind will be my go-to running nutrition for all of my future workouts and races, and I am super excited about this companies future. 

Try Tailwind

A lot of companies say that they stand behind their product(s), but I think "confidence in the product" is best exemplified by the Tailwind Challenge.  Basically, if you have a race coming up, Tailwind will give you a discount to use their product to train for and use during the race.  If you think the product didn't help at all for the race, you simply demonstrate that you started the event and describe what went wrong and they will reimburse you up to $150 for your race entry fee.  Seriously, who else does that?  You can find about more about Tailwind Nutrition here.


Whether you have stomach/GI problems while running and/or racing or are just looking for a new, useful product to take care of your calorie and electrolyte needs, I highly recommend Tailwind.  I'll be honest, unless I had the astounding success that I've had with Tailwind, I would've put it in the category of "buyer beware, but it may be useful for you."  I believe in Tailwind because I'm finally stomach/GI pain-free on runs after struggling with these problems for awhile.  As always, this blog post, like all of my posts, is not medical or dietary / nutrition-related advice.  It's a review of a product that I've used, knowing my body and my medical history, and have had success with.  Use caution, and be reasonable.  With that being said, try it out if you can. 


  1. Good review that directly mimics my own experience. And I'm paying for it!

    1. I'm glad others feel the same way! I love this stuff, and I'm gland you've had a similar experience. After testing some of this out for Tailwind, I did buy a 3lb bag and will continue to buy this stuff :-).