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Drinkable Energy: Nutrition Startup eschews solid food for Water

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“This is the only thing you need to put into your mouth when you are racing.” Ok, that is not a verbatim quote, but it was the gist of what the TailWind Nutrition staffer told me over the phone earlier this year.

Touted as a 100-percent “complete race fuel,” Tailwind is designed to serve as an athlete’s all-in-one hydration, calories, and electrolytes in a gulp. (This is usually accomplished with liquid, solid energy foods, and often electrolyte supplements.)

Further, the company claimed that its drinkable calories were easy to digest, that the subtle flavors were palatable hour after hour, and that there would be no need to supplement with any real food, no matter the duration of activity.

Sold in scoop-friendly bags

As an endurance athlete, this all sounded great to me. I spent a month training with Tailwind on rides and runs up to about six hours long — often with no other bars or gels at all.

I never got sick of the flavors, especially the mandarin orange mix. In the end, I committed to a 12-hour bike race with Tailwind as my sole nutrition.

The mix was designed by ultra-runner Jeff Vierling for his use in the Leadville 100 race. He was burning out the motor of his KitchenAid making the homemade concoction for friends. Now it is available through the website at $19.99 for 25 servings.

Tailwind is made of dextrose, sucrose, sodium citrate, sea salt, citric acid, and other constitutes. It’s a potent mix that’s based around the idea that most endurance athletes can absorb about 200 calories an hour.

The powder is meant to be measured and added in 100-calorie scoops, making it easy to keep track of intake. Know how much water you need an hour? Add two scoops of this powder and your calories and electrolytes are taken care of too. (The manufacturers say this is an estimate on calories and suggest that athletes adjust based on their own needs.)

The stats

For me, in my training and the 12-hour race, I never got sick of the flavor and had no stomach issues. But there were hours where it became a bit of a chore to “drink my food.” To that point, at times I felt plenty hydrated but had to continue drinking to keep my energy up — I clearly did not have the water/powder balance right.

But overall it was amazing for me to eliminate the complication of solid food while biking and to simplify my nutrition so that I could solely focus on the race at hand.

Calorie for calorie, Tailwind is priced cheaper than almost all bars and gels, especially if you add in the price of electrolyte supplementation used during longer events. It’s one of the only liquid foods that I’ve tried for endurance racing that I can actually endure for the long haul. Scoop it up!

—Jason Magness is a contributing editor and a founder of the YogaSlackers.

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