Are you looking for the right sports fuel for your next long-distance race? Tailwind Nutrition might be just what you’re looking for. Our reviewer, Amy Robson, gives her in-depth thoughts on the sports nutrition range in this Tailwind review.
I’ll always remember my first experience with Tailwind because (through no mistake) it coincided with my first ultramarathon.
It was the Dartmoor Prison Break 12-Hour event. I had absolutely no frame of reference for what it meant to run an ultra, let alone one that went on for 12 hours straight. What I did know was that all those around me with more knowledge, experience and success seemed to be raving about Tailwind.
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What is Tailwind?
Tailwind Nutrition is a powdered form of race-day nutrition. It can be easily dissolved in fluids and used for fuelling (and recovering from) endurance events. Tailwind Nutrition itself was conceived by Jeff and Jenny Vierling, who developed it after the numerous amount of ‘gut bombs’ they’d experienced with other products. After years of going through the nutritional endurance game, they decided the best solution was to devise their own product.
It’s because of this that Tailwind is so effective for runners. It’s made by people who get it. So much so that this once-small family business is now sold in seven different countries and is distributed through hundreds of different retailers. It’s seen at running shows, on event aid stations, and in my race pack. White Star Running events will be offering Tailwind at its aid stations for upcoming events later in the year.
The nutritional science of Tailwind is pretty straightforward. The formula conclusion always working towards an effective endurance product that is, above all else, easy on the digestive system.
In essence, Tailwind mimics the composition of sweat, which sounds disgusting when you put it that way! But I promise you that Tailwind Nutrition is actually quite delicious in flavour (if not a bit saccharine at times).
What this sweat-mimicking composition really breaks down to is this:
Sodium: 0.9 gram/litre
Potassium: 0.2 gram/litre
Calcium: 0.015 gram/litre
Magnesium: 0.0013 gram/litre
This stands out from most other companies, especially when it comes to sodium, as the assumption is that people will supplement sodium with salt pills. Tailwind, on the other hand, recognises the importance of sodium for the activation of transporting glucose and fructose in the body. As such, they felt it was a pretty damned important aspect of a fuelling drink. What’s the point of having something to fuel you if your body is lacking the sodium to take that fuel in?
Sodium is included to maintain fluid balance as well. Potassium is all about maintaining the electrophysiology of nerves and muscles, mitigating muscle fatigue over time. Calcium regulates minerals in the body, while also keeping the bones strong and helping with nutritional synthesis. Magnesium works in tandem with calcium to help them relax.
In addition to this, Tailwind has added sodium nitrate to its formula to act as a pH regulator and try to minimise cramping in the body. Taste is highly subjective, so it’s also tried to keep a relatively mild flavour, because it’s considerate like that.
In terms of the macros, we’re talking pure simple carbohydrates here with an optimal ratio of glucose and fructose to avoid fructose malabsorption. By keeping the carbs complex, the body doesn’t have to worry about breaking them down. By avoiding protein altogether, Tailwind skips one of the most common types of macro to cause stomach distress during performance. Protein is for muscle recovery, not muscle utilisation. Hence, Tailwind has left protein out of the main drinks and saved it for the Recovery Blend.
Tailwind review – product line
Tailwind has a variety of products on offer, but they can mainly be split it to two categories: Endurance Fuel or Recovery Blend.
Tailwind’s Endurance Fuel can be purchased either in big bags or incredibly handy sachets (called Stickpacks). I personally prefer the sachets. I can easily take these on the go with me when travelling to events and fully trust the measurements. Sure, one could take a giant pack and make the fuel up in advance, but here’s my personal gripes with that:
- You don’t necessarily know exactly how much nutrition you’re getting. Unless you’re also planning on taking some scales with you to know if your scoops are accurate.
- If you don’t use your fuel, you’ll still need to dispose of any pre-made Tailwind. Resulting in a loss of product and money.
Much better, in my opinion, to pack some sachets and have the flexibility for what you’ll use, whether they’ll have caffeine in them or not (as some Tailwind flavours do), and what flavour you fancy during the event. I’ve always liked options. Especially when they come in compact sachets that are easy to transfer and hold up surprisingly well while running.
Flavour-wise you’re looking at the following selection:
Berry: Similar to a very mild Ribena and nice to sip on.
Mandarin Orange: A bit stronger in flavour with a clear citrus twang. Not a personal favourite, but good if you do want a bit of a bitter or acidic flavour balance.
Naked Unflavoured: My favourite non-caffeinated one. Sweet but not sugary. Nothing too offensive and you can always add a bit of juice or flavour if you want to mix it up. Again, I like options.
Caffeinated Raspberry Buzz: Really juicy and flavourful. Quite motivating if you’re in a dark place and want java and juice rolled in to one.
Caffeinated Green Tea Buzz: My favourite caffeinated Tailwind. Almost earthy alongside the sweeter hints, it appeals to the tea lover in me.
There are also Caffeinated Tropical Buzz and Caffeinated Colorado Cola flavours, but I’ve yet to try those. I assume, however, that the cola flavour would be popular among those who like to take flat cola to races. Proving just how considerate of pre-existing runner’s needs Tailwind are.
The Recovery Blend also comes in either a pouch or sachets and, here, my preference is more divided. I personally keep a pouch of Chocolate Tailwind Recovery Blend at home for after long runs or for taking with me during multi-day events. For anything else I’ll take sachets for the quick and easy practicalities of it, and to know that I’m getting the most out of my recovery.
The Recovery Blend is for the apparent 45-60 minute ‘golden window’ after strenuous exercise. It injects a nice boost of carbohydrates to replace what was lost, alongside 10% of your RDV for protein. This may not seem like much, but any more would be impractical to slam on a stomach that’s still seized up. The option to eat more protein later in the day is recommended.
The Recovery Blend has a nice balance of essential amino acids alongside the usual components of Tailwind. It comes in either Chocolate or Vanilla (with Coffee coming soon). My personal preference is Chocolate (it tastes like a sea-salted chocolate bar) but I will, if needs demand, indulge in the Vanilla (disappointing ice cream).
Both Recovery Blends come in at just under 250 calories, and do as much to counter the post-run munchies as they do in repairing the body.
My Tailwind experiences
My race kit will always have Tailwind in it, and I think that speaks volumes for the effectiveness of this product.
I’m the type of person who can’t use salt sticks or electrolyte pills, because they leave me running to the loo for three days straight afterwards. And yet, I’ve never once had any gastro-distress when using Tailwind.
The Recovery Blend always seems to perk me up post-run and keeps me going for multi-day events. I’ve never had a need to doubt its effectiveness, nor veer away from what I know works well for me.
As for the Endurance Fuel? If it’s a marathon event, I will typically stick to Tailwind alone. It can literally keep me going for hours. It has me ticking happily along with a level of comfort and performance that sometimes leaves me shocked at how effortless it all feels.
For longer events, however, I will alternate between Tailwind and other fuel sources. This is just a practical thing. Ultras require, to my mind, ‘real food’, for the sake of one’s own sanity as much as for anything else. So, yeah, pretzels and Tailwind go well when alternating. That’s my pro tip for this review.
Tailwind review – final thoughts
Though I was woefully inexperienced when I did my first ultra, there is one thing I have never regretted: my choice of fuel. Tailwind was a vital element of my success on that day and during many future races. I highly recommend this product. I think it’s essential all endurance runners at least give it a try.
And if you don’t like sweet flavours? Suck it up, Buttercup. Victory is sweet and so, too, is the substance that fuels it.
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