Yes, I had to open it before I took pictures. GW photo.
Why do a review on a hydration product? Well, when there's a meaningful breakthrough, even with something small like with gloves, goggles or a sports drink, we'll bring it to you. Because it can make a difference.
Putting the right stuff in your body at the right time is incredibly hard. Endurance riders often tape spreadsheets to their top-tubes to tell them what to eat and when.
Tailwind didn’t start out as a product. It started as a performance problem. Jeff Vierling rolled through the 9-hour Leadville 100 MTB race finish-line with a rotted gut and sub-optimal time. He hadn't nailed the right mix of water, carbs, salt and electrolytes to fuel his body for the event.
So Jeff started working on a comprehensive nutrition solution for the whole ride: one total fuel that would be, first and foremost, easy for the body to handle.
Pretty simple. GW Photo
Your body can burn about 700 calories per hour during hard riding, but can only absorb 200-300 calories from fuel during that same hour. Your body makes up for that deficit by burning its glycogen stores, but it can't do that forever. So it's key to maximize efficiency of the calories you take in.
Eating protein while riding doesn’t really improve performance. Protein requires several steps to break down into amino acids before being used as energy. Those extra steps are hard on the gut and a net energy waste. It's best to save protein for after riding.
Tailwind instead provides clean carbs – glucose and fructose – to fuel your body, along with specific salts and electrolytes needed to maximize your body’s uptake of those carbs.
What’s unique about Tailwind is Jeff seems to have hit a formula which exactly matches the specific carbs and electrolytes your body can process at a time. Everybody is different of course, but to me it feels pretty smooth. Also the dosing is easy. There are 200 calories in each 24-ounce serving (one bike bottle's worth), exactly what you should be drinking each hour.
Comes with or without caffeine. GW photo.
Tailwind’s electrolyte profile (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium) maintains cellular function and keeps you sweating properly by replacing those you sweat out in the same proportion your body uses.
Riding With It
One packet, for one bottle. GW Photo.
I think it tastes fantastic. It’s not strong or too sweet, just a bit salty. Again, I’m doing this review because I was able to drink only this for a couple hours and be just fine. No gels, no food, no sour gut and/or bonking. I get sent plenty of stuff like this for free that is just ok and either gets given away or used unremarkably.
One bottle an hour is also easy to remember and stick to. Of course, each person's body varies a bit so if it's super hot and you feel tired, maybe drink a little more. If it's cold and you feel full, perhaps try a little less. On a very humid day, you'll definitely have to increase your intake because your cooling system is being put into overdrive. As with any exercise regimen, listen to your body.
The bulk bags give you a bit more control over your intake by adding or removing half a scoop here or there from your bottle or pack.
Friends usually grab the packets. Find the flavor you like and buy the bag. GW photo.
All your nutrients packaged in one place is also really nice. Managing separate components like gel packets, sodium tablets and water is easy to mess up.
For a longer ride or race, I eat 2-3 hours beforehand then top off my glycogen by sipping on a Tailwind bottle a little before I start. During the ride, I drink one 24-ounce bottle with two scoops or one packet an hour, or six scoops for my whole two-liter hydration pack.
After the workout, it is ideal to replenish glycogen stores in that first 20-minute window, so keep drinking a bit of the mix and then eat protein afterward to get those muscle building blocks working.
The Bottom Line
"All you need all day" is pretty bold. But it's kinda true. GW Photo.
I’m a big fan of the caffeine version. It not only helps me feel keeps me feeling jacked, but it also mobilizes fatty acids in the body, which helps sustain long-term energy.
The biggest win or promise Tailwind delivered from my point of view is that it tastes great and is widely efficient—you can drink it like water for several hours and have it be all you need.
The one thing you should remember is to not take gels, mango slices, soda, M&Ms or whatever from friends during your ride because it'll throw off the balance of stuff. Just stick to this.