Product Review: Tailwind Endurance Fuel

The formidable Pyramid Peak at dawn captured by the author in July from the climb to Buckskin Pass on the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop.

Looking for an option to keep your glycogen stores full while logging hours this fall? Consider adding Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel to your bottles for stable energy without distressing your gut. With a variety of tasty flavors that are quickly absorbed, Tailwind claims it’s “All you need, all day. Really.”

It’s been a weird summer. Yes, that is an obvious minimization of the times. Layered on top of the global pandemic and social and political unrest, most inhabitants of the west have been experiencing a literal haze of smoke from the wildfires raging throughout the dehydrated landscape. The northeastern corner of Maine was the hottest area in the country over Father’s Day Weekend, after New York City had snow on Mother’s Day. Snow recently fell around fires that burn throughout Colorado — an odd blip in a long string of hot, sunny, and dry days. 

If you’re like me, finding time to exercise has been grounding; a welcome escape from all of this uncertainty. Waking up early, making some coffee, lacing up my shoes, throwing on my running vest, and heading out for a run on the nearby trails routinely provided me a sense of normalcy, quieting my mind and helping me center myself before facing the day ahead. 

Despite the lack of races, it may have been one of my best summers of running yet. Being more than 1.5 years postpartum and having a great ski season, I had a solid aerobic base and my body felt strong enough to steadily increase the mileage and elevation gain of my long runs. The lack of travel inspired me to dive deeper into maps of the wilderness area closest to my home in Carbondale, CO, finding ways to explore “new” terrain and avoid the more congested trailheads near Aspen. 

From the beginning of June to the end of August, I logged roughly 650 miles almost exclusively on trail, including a lap of the marathon length Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop with my closest friend and a point-to-point almost 30 miler with 9,000’ of climbing on my 30th birthday. 

The author crosses a scree field with Snowmass 14,000′ Snowmass looming in the background.

My weekly adventures in the mountains also provided ample opportunity to experiment with a variety of performance fueling products: drink mixes, gels, chews, candy, etc. One of the products that quickly became a staple in my routine is Tailwind Endurance Fuel, which, in addition to keeping my energy stable on long days, stood out for its digestibility, portability, and flavor. 

Based in Durango, CO and developed by avid endurance athlete, Jeff Vierling, who was “fed up with fueling issues hijacking the blood, sweat and tears of my training.” After learning as much as he could about sports nutrition, he began tinkering with his own mix, and eventually handing out Ziplock baggies of the powder to his friends. Over a decade later, Tailwind has solidified itself as an excellent choice for athletes across the endurance sports spectrum. (They are a sponsor of SMST2’s Alayna Sonnesyn, who used Tailwind in her bottles during the 2019 American Birkie.)

Easy on the stomach with a mix of sugars and electrolytes, Tailwind aims to provide stable energy throughout any activity. (Photo: tailwindnutrition.com)

Tailwind has four Endurance Fuel flavors to choose from, each with 100 calories per serving: Naked (unflavored), Lemon, Mandarin Orange, and Berry. They also produce a line of caffeinated Endurance Fuel, which comes in Colorado Cola, Green Tea Buzz, Raspberry Buzz, and Tropical Buzz, each with 35 mg of caffeine per serving.

The powders are made with organic and non-GMO ingredients: simple sugars, namely dextrose (glucose) and sucrose (table sugar), and a balance of electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweat, making it a one-stop-shop for hydration and fueling. Dextrose is a monosaccharide — meaning it is a single unit sugar molecule — which can be absorbed through the small intestine without any additional digestive processes, and sucrose is a disaccharide — two joined glucose molecules — which requires minimal digestion. This choice of sugars makes Tailwind easy on the gut and a great source of quick energy.

Tailwind sent along a “Starter Kit”, allowing me to try out each of the flavors, in addition to their protein shake mix, which has an ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein to jumpstart recovery after a training session. 

Not sure what flavor will suit your palate? Try a starter pack bundle with some of each. (Photo: tailwindnutrition.com)

The quality that stood out first and foremost was the taste — just the right amount of sweetness and flavors that were subtle, natural, and appealing, even five hours deep on a hot day. In particular, I am normally averse to citrus flavored products, as they inexplicably remind me of the overwhelming aroma of bathroom cleaner. I was surprised to find that Tailwind’s Lemon and Mandarin Orange flavors elicited no such response — think homemade lemonade, not Soft Scrub — and I’ve continued to purchase those flavors of the product since exhausting the initial supply. 

What has kept me using Tailwind products, though, is how reliably gentle it is on my stomach, regardless of the intensity of the run. From early morning easy runs, to hard intervals, to 13,000’ summits, I could trust that sipping on bottles of Endurance Fuel would keep me hydrated and provide steady energy without causing my stomach to bloat, cramp, or slosh. 

Though I typically keep a bag in the pantry, the two-serving sticks are a convenient method of carrying additional fuel when I know I’ll need to refill bottles. 

This strategy saved me during the Four Pass Loop — with the final steep climb over West Maroon left to go and an unhappy stomach (thanks, hormones) that made it difficult to get in the calories I needed to feel strong for ~7 hours at altitude, refilling a flask with Raspberry Buzz felt like it rescued me from impending doom. The gels, waffles, and pbj I had packed were a non-option, but I knew that liquid calories from Tailwind would not exacerbate the issue. The quick energy boost from the sugar paired with the kick of caffeine was almost as revitalizing as the giant burrito and Oreos that were consumed on the drive home. 

Cresting the third of four passes, Frigidaire, ready to descend and refill bottles of Tailwind.

Tailwind can be found at retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada, or ordered through their website. Large 50-serving bags of Endurance Fuel run at $35.99, or grab a medium sized bag for $25.99. You can also go all in and take the unique “Tailwind Challenge” by purchasing four bags of Endurance Fuel for $130. The concept is simple: if you aren’t happy with using the product during your training and races (when they happen again someday), they’ll pay your entry fee for an upcoming race (up to $150). How’s that for confidence? 

A smoky sunrise in the mountains during a point-to-point adventure run in August.