Tasty Nutrition for Endurance Races – Tailwind Review

Spend any time with distance runners or cyclists and the conversation will turn to what to eat. For at athletes in training, the struggle to figure out what to eat during their long workouts is real. This article covers many of those struggles, including one of the more popular solutions we have tried, Tailwind Endurance.

For ultra marathon runners and long course triathletes many will tell you that getting your nutrition right can be the key to a PR, or the cause of a DNF. When doing moderate to intense cardio for 4+ hours your body simply can not function optimally without taking in some type of calories. Often these athletes will struggle with finding the right nutrition, in part because it is so hard to replicate the conditions of a long endurance event in training.

Even though it is tough to replicate a 5+ hour intense ride or run, that does not mean that practicing nutrition is a lost cause. Understanding everything from how easy it is to open a package while riding to finding the right balance of electrolytes to pure hydration can make a difference.

Tailwind is designed to be a general balance of the two things that you really need. The first is simple energy in the form of carbohydrates, in this case easy to process sugars. The second is electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, which are aided in their absorption by those sugars. Both are required for your cells to keep powering through for hours on end.

As a simple to dissolve powder, Tailwind comes in a variety of flavors that can be dissolved into water to make your nutrition drinkable. This makes it especially popular with cyclists who can carry multiple water bottles on their bike, but also for runners who can either carry the powder (to add to water at aid stations) or a handheld bottle or something like a hydration pack.

If you need to find a good way to carry the dissolved nutrition look for our article: Hydration Backpacks vs. Running Vests – Which To Wear.

Over the course of training we have consumed hundreds of servings of Tailwind. The benefits of Tailwind that we have experienced are:

  • Widely available at Amazon and plenty of retailers
  • Flavor options, and flavorless options
  • Caffeine added flavors available (Our favorite is the Cola flavored which taste like a flat soft drink).
  • Simple ingredient list that is pre-mixed
  • Tastes good! We prefer the Mandarin Orange that is not over powering but still good.
  • Quick dissolving (you can add to water, shake, and not have to worry about clogging a bottle or drinking a chunk of paste)
  • Easy to clean out of bottles. Similar to above, the easy dissolve makes it easy to clean out and avoid finding a gross water bottle a few days (weeks) after your last use.

Is Tailwind Worth it? Can I Save Money By Making It Myself?

For many athletes the constant cost of buying nutrition gels and things like Tailwind will lead to the question “Can’t I make gels on my own?”

There are two reasons many athletes will consider making their own nutrition. The first is to reduce the over cost, and the second is to control the specifics ingredients to make sure you are getting exactly what your body needs.

When looking at the ingredients list for something like Tailwind endurance this becomes a reasonable question. Although some of the ingredients have chemical names, for the most part they are easily accessible in other forms. The list is relatively short and we’ve included below links to the raw ingredients from Amazon, where they are often available in bulk.

So can you buy these things in bulk and make Tailwind for less money than it is sold for. Of course, that’s how tailwind as a company makes money, but are the savings worth it? Let’s take a look.

Tailwind is sold in two primary forms. The first is by bulk package, which is available for $39.99 in packages that contain 50 servings. This comes out to around $0.80 per serving. The second sale method is from individual packs which will run as high as $3-$5 per package depending on where you buy them. From this alone it is clear that if you want to save money just buy the bulk packs. You can scoop a serving into a ziplock back and save $2-$4 per serving very easily.

If you really want to optimize though the question is if you can beat the cost of bulk packed Tailwind. We do not have the exact weights of each ingredient in Tailwind, but there are some assumptions that can be made.

Below we break down a rough understanding to showcase that the total cost of a ingredients in a serving of Tailwind is less around $0.41. Compared to the packaged cost this means you can make your own for a little over half the cost of bulk buying. This assumes you have less loss in mixing ingredients than in pouring out the pre-filled packs. For us, unless you are customizing the mix, this savings is not worth it given the time, hassle, and taste.

What do we know about the ingredient weights. For this analysis we looked at one of our favorite flavors (Mandarin Orange) although other flavors are similar. There are a few assumptions and facts we pulled from nutrition labels:

  • A single serving of tailwind is 27 grams
  • Nutrition labels should be written with the highest weight ingredient first
  • Sugars (Glucose and Sucrose) make up 25 total grams
  • There are only two ingredients (Sodium Chloride and Sodium Citrate) that have sodium we know this must be the source of the 310mg of Sodium. Each of these compounds is between 25%-40% sodium by weight, which makes the total around 1 gram between the two ingredients
  • Potassium chloride is 52% potassium by weight, there are 90mg of potassium and therefore around 0.173 grams of Potassium Chloride.
  • Magnesium is 25.5% of magnesium chloride. There are 12mg of magnesium in tailwind and 0.047 grams of magnesium chloride.

Given these stats we’ve checked the bulk cost of each ingredient and summarized how much a single serving is. In places where we are unsure we’ve overweighted the more costly ingredients.

IngredientBulk Pack Size (kg)Bulk Cost$/gramTailwind Amount (g)Servings per Bulk PackCost/Serving
Citric Acid2.3$24.99$0.01090.73,286$0.0076
Sodium Citrate1$23.96$0.02400.61,667$0.0144
Sea Salt0.456$4.48$0.00980.451,013$0.0044
Potassium Chloride1$21.96$0.02200.1735,780$0.0038
Magnesium Oxide0.25$13.96$0.05580.0475,319$0.0026
Calcium Carbonate0.65$13.96$0.02150.0321,667$0.0006
Total$125.0927 (g)$0.4037

The above chart suggests that you can bulk make a single serving and save around $0.40 per serving. On a long ride of 4+ hours this may equate to $2.00 per workout assuming you use 5 full servings in a ride. Still, even for someone who rides long multiple times a week this is a savings of maybe a $200 in a year, but that is misleading.

In reality it will cost you around $125 to get each of the ingredients in bulk. Add in the hour it would take to mix and measure out 50 servings before you ran out of Glucose and this is no small investment, your already shelling out 3x as much as buying the pre-mixed and you don’t even have any good flavors yet.

More importantly though, for some of the ingredients that are lower in importance you will have thousands of excess servings that you have to store reliably. If you wing up throwing it away that quickly starts eating up the pretend savings.

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