We had a lot of fun chatting with Jeff Vierling, founder of Tailwind Nutrition in our podcast. Due to high request, we had it transcribed as well for your reading pleasure! Want to listen to the podcast? Click here!
Josh: Alright guys, welcome to another episode of the Orange Mud Adventure Channel Podcast. Today, your hosts are myself, Josh Sprague and Paul Jesse from Orange Mud.
Paul: How is everyone doing today?
Josh: Nutrition is something that many of us stumble on in training and racing, especially in the longer events. We both have known tons of people that have switched to Tailwind with tremendous success and as such, are super-excited to have Tailwind founder Jeff Vierling on the call today. So Jeff, welcome to the call.
Jeff: Hey, thanks a lot guys, happy to be here.
Josh: Heck yeah, man. Alright, so let’s dig into the start of Tailwind first, so specifically blowing chunks is on your website. It’s a great way to start a business, is blowing chunks. The taste of entrepreneurship from your stomach. So yeah, walk us through that.
Jeff: There’s nowhere to go from up from that taste, so…
Josh: There’s truth to that. That’s for sure. That was the Leadville 100, right, is where you puked after the race?
Jeff: Yeah, that was Leadville 100 and actually it was my first real race ever. I kind of chose a big one to start with.
Josh: But you haven’t even done like 50 miles or 15-mile mountain bike races at all?
Jeff: Actually, that year I did do the Silver Rush 50 miler. That Silver Rush was my first time actually racing a mountain bike.
Paul: That’s awesome – way to just go for it, I like it!
Josh: I just did Silver Rush, was it two weeks ago? And that was hard! I’m hoping the Leadville 100 is easier than Silver Rush 100.
Jeff: I had that same reaction. I did that Silver Rush that same year and I was like oh man, if the hundred is double this I’m in deep trouble.
Josh: Yeah, not to mention I wouldn’t make the cutoff. I think I did Silver Rush 50 in 637 I think it was and the cutoff for the 100 is 12, so it’s got to be at least 50% easier or I’m not going to finish.
Jeff: Yeah, the good news is it is easier. Or at least it spreads it out a little bit more, not as concentrated.
Josh: Any puking in the Silver Rush or was it just the 100?
Jeff: Didn’t puke in the Silver Rush. I don’t remember a whole lot about that besides the pain.
Josh: I’m with you.
Paul: What year was that?
Jeff: I had to actually go look at that, that was actually 2002.
Paul: Ok, and then how long did it take you after that to kind of come up with the idea of making your own hydration mix?
Jeff: Yeah, I think that was really sort of a start of the journey right there. And I kept on experimenting with different products after that. I actually ended up, I didn’t do the Leadville race in 2003. I think I had second thoughts about the blowing chunks episode.
Jeff: So I actually skipped a year there before I started doing it every year. And I know for sure I didn’t have Tailwind, I wasn’t using that in the next race. Cause again I was just trying to see if I can figure out something that would work and feel better and I was starting to read up on the sports nutrition research just to understand the problem. But I didn’t really set out to make my own. And so, it’s funny cause you probably should know when your business has started, but I actually don’t remember exactly.
Josh: Didn’t you guys – I think you guys started the same year we did, at least selling which I think was 2012.
Jeff: Yeah, that was 2012. So I know when the sort of business side of it started, but at that point, I was just really trying to solve my problem, I wasn’t really thinking about creating something that would eventually be a business. So…
Paul: Sure. More focus on getting yourself at the finish line than anybody else.
Jeff: Exactly, yeah.
Josh: So, after Leadville, there’s some period between then and 2012. You began experimenting with these different homemade concoctions to prevent stomach distress and hopefully no blowing chunks at the finish line. What were the key differences you found between other products on the market and yours? Like what was the element you found or at least some of the key elements you found that would help to have a more stable stomach?
Jeff: Yeah, so I really did experiment with pretty much everything out there in the market. At least in training, and some in racing too. And I just wasn’t finding something that worked. It did teach me kind of a lot and I noticed some commonalities. And then as I was diving into the research about how the body actually absorbs fuel and utilizes fuel, I just found that some of these, actually a lot of the products in the market have ingredients that are really challenging to digest. And slow the absorption of calories. And that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me because your blood’s actually diverted away from your digestive tract, so most people can’t digest stuff as efficiently while they’re going hard, and you’re running a calorie deficit. So why would you want to make your body work hard and harder for the fuel that it needs, and then delay its entry when you’re running in a big calorie deficit? That was kind of a big focus and Tailwind is to use the pathways that the body absorbs fuel and just get it in as quickly as possible without having to digest it. So that’s one really big difference. And then there are some other things as well, that I had as kind of pet peeves from my own racing experience. Things like the taste and texture, something that I can use all day and not get super sick of. The electrolyte balance right so cramping’s not so much of an issue and then just the ease of use. Mixing it, put it in a hydration pack and clean it up without turning that into a science experiment. And also simplicity, just keeping it simple. I don’t know how you guys feel, but I did a few hours into a race, my brain starts going south and I find myself like – did I just take that salt pill 10 minutes ago or was that an hour ago?
Paul: I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for a beeping timer on my watch I’d never take anything.
Jeff: Yeah, exactly. I mean that just ends up adding a lot of stress to the whole situation. It’s trying to keep it simple so that I can just sort of focus on riding and not on worrying about whether I’m getting stuff right.
Paul: So how easy was it to make a mix that just tasted good versus a mix that actually worked?
Jeff: So actually, once I understood really how the body processes fuel, I was pretty lucky in getting it to work pretty well. But it took actually longer to dial in the flavor, I think. Yeah, that’s hard. It was hard enough for me, and then as we’ve gone on and it turned into a business, I mean, taste is all over the map for people.
Josh: That’s for sure.
Paul: And your tastes change too over the course of these long events. After a while you want less sweet, you know.
Jeff: Yeah, so that’s actually something that I don’t know, I kind of envisioned. I don’t know what happens at other companies, I kind of envisioned that there are people who sit around in a conference room and they’re sipping things saying this tastes better than that. And it might taste good when you’re sitting on the couch, right? But then that’s totally different to when it’s like hot and you’re 6 hours in. So, I definitely was, I was trying to get the taste to work when it’s hot and you’re 6 hours in or 10 hours in and have it still be something that you can drink. And you know, you’re willing to drink. It’s not grossing you out. You’re not like ‘ugh’. And you guys have probably heard this, I’ve heard it from so many people whether they start with their nutrition plan and then they’re like yeah, I got so sick of the gels 3 hours in and I stopped taking them.
Jeff: Right? And then they talk about how they start to run out of energy and they felt like crap, it’s like well, yeah. It’s not too surprising you stopped taking calories in, you’re going to go south.
Paul: It’s amazing how that works.
Jeff: So it’s super important to be able to keep taking it. So that’s what the flavor’s trying to achieve, is what tastes good when you’re sweaty and when your drink is not ice cold and you’re going for a long time.
Paul: So were you pretty much self-taught on all this stuff, just your own personal research and that’s kind of how you started all this/
Jeff: Yeah, I think I really benefitted from that there’s been a lot of sports nutrition research done in the last couple of decades, and even since maybe some of the leading products that are now on the market were developed, there’s been a lot more research done. So I benefitted from a lot of that.
Paul: So, since you are self-taught since you started to make these things in your kitchen, were you ever concerned with what you were actually putting into your body and did any of those concoctions have a horribly negative effect?
Jeff: It would make a better story if it was terrible, but no, actually…
Josh: You never turned purple or anything. That was a wrong chemical!
Paul: No bad Willy Wonka reactions?
Jeff: No, there is a friend I was kind of bouncing ideas off of at the time, and he tried something that had like an effervescent effect. He was like oh my god, belching all the way up the hill. So, I was lucky to dodge that one. I kind of lucked out in terms that it did work out pretty well and I was really confident in it too because it was, what I was putting in as far as ingredients were really exactly what the body uses and how it uses fuel. So, I was pretty confident it would work. And yeah, it actually did.
Josh: So that’s kind of a good segway into this question then: what would you say is at the core of what makes Tailwind different than most of the other hydration mixes on the market?
Jeff: Well, if you want to dive in the weeds here a little bit, it’s an all-in-one fuel. Meaning like you can get all your calories, all your electrolytes and your hydration together. And I think that’s kind of really the core of it and it has a lot of side benefits, one of which is simple to use. You can just, you’re going to drink anyway, so you can just sip your fuel and you’re getting your hydration also. But there’s also a real biological reason that that works and basically in your small intestine you have a couple of active transport mechanisms, they’re pumps. They’re pumps for glucose and fructose. And like all pumps in the body, they’re a sodium-potassium pump, means that if you’ve got the glucose there, in water, and you need sodium also in your small intestine, then that pump will function and it will grab unto that, say that glucose molecules and the sodium molecules and pump them in and that creates a little local tenacity difference and it sucks water through at the same time. So you’re actually getting the three things that you need for your ability to perform: your calories, your electrolytes and your water. When you have those three in combination, it’s actually the most efficient way to get all 3 in. So, that simplicity is also kind of the key of why it works. We’re giving you that fuel, the glucose, so that the main ingredients in Tailwind are dextrose, which is glucose and sucrose as far as the fuel goes. And sucrose is glucose and fructose molecule. At your small intestine level, you’re getting glucose and fructose which is exactly what your body absorbs.
Josh: So, I guess before we go back to the sugars, on electrolytes – I generally take two an hour. And I’m with you when it gets so confusing, like 2 an hour is easy. It’s when I switch cause it’s really hot to two every 45 minutes, 50 minutes. I think I can process that but then actually after a few hours is I’m like was it 2:15 that I had this last, or 3? You start really losing it. But at the same time, like I have a buddy of mine and he’s like an oddball in this case, but he eats electrolytes like it’s going out of style. He’ll take 5 an hour and maybe 7 and if he isn’t doing that, he cramps. I’ve never met anybody like him, he’s definitely unique in that case. How would that, and maybe this means you need to take additional supplements, but being that your formula has electrolytes in it, how do you kind of teach people or recommend people manage their cramping when they maybe have to have more than what your supplements, more than you have in your fuel?
Jeff: Man, it’s actually like a really big topic. Cramping – there’s a lot of kind of misunderstanding about and then also the science on it is not totally figured out. There are a lot of causes of cramping and electrolytes or an electrolyte and water balance in your body can definitely be a factor. We’ve all seen people drinking just water and then they’re like quivering on the side of the road. I think everybody does endurance racing knows that from experience. But it’s not as simple as you know, if I’m feeling sort of crampy just pop in more electrolyte pills is going to take care of that problem. In a lot of cases that’s not true and more isn’t better. So you kind of have to understand that like blood is 4 times saltier than sweat. So your blood is actually really salty already; now if you become dehydrated, than that concentration actually goes really up. Even if you’re sweating salt out, you can actually change your electrolyte and water balance a lot more through water loss, through dehydration or the other direction, if you’re just drinking water and you’re sweating a ton of salt out and you do that for hours and hours, you can wind up with really dilute electrolytes in your bloodstream. So, both situations are actually not good for performance and even dangerous sometimes. But really what you want is, you want to keep your salt and your water levels in balance in your body. So the keys to cramping are not just how much salt you’re taking in, but also how much water you’re taking in and whether you’ve got enough fuel that’s getting to your cells. If you’re in a dehydrated state, your heart has to work harder to move that sticker slurry around and you’re less efficient at getting the energy to your muscles, and you’re less efficient at getting rid of the waste products. So, you kind of see how this can kind of cascade and it’s not just as simple as hey, a salt pill. It’s about trying to keep that whole system in balance, and that’s why we put the electrolytes in with the water in the right ratio. So you’re – if you are drinking to replacement for sweat volume, then you’re also getting those electrolytes back in that you need. And you know, people are definitely different and they can have really different physical needs. But if you kind of keep those things close in balance, your body is pretty good at regulating itself too. So it generally works.
Paul: Sure. Kind of going back to the sugars we were talking about a little bit ago. The primary sugars that you guys use are glucose and sucrose in Tailwind. Can you give us a little bit of an idea as to why those are your primary fuel sources as opposed to any kind of complex carbs or anything like that?
Jeff: Yeah, so I think this is something that also is confusing out there, it sort of confused me for a long time. You know, it helps to understand what’s a simple carb, what’s a complex carb. So simple carb would refer to a simple sugar like glucose. It’s a molecule, an individual molecule and we have active transports mechanisms just for glucose. That’s one of the two sugars that your body absorbs as energy. And when you actually talk about eating something and how you get the energy out of that, those two pumps are actually the only ones that exist. There are no pumps for other molecules like that. So, even if you eat like a stake, the energy out of that that you’re going to be able to absorb is eventually going to come in the form of glucose and fructose. So, then a complex carb is actually a manufactured chain of dextrose molecules. So it’s still glucose, but they’re manufactured into linkages. So a chain of them. And those chains have to be broken in order for the glucose to be absorbed. Cause absorption only happens one molecule at a time.
Paul: Ok, that makes sense.
Jeff: So what you have with a complex carb, is you have a slower absorption curve because of the time it takes to break those chains. So, it kind of makes sense if you are – let’s say you’re fueling every 45 minutes and you shove down a couple hundred calories right at once.
Paul: Just sounds painful even to think about.
Jeff: Yeah, well, but a gel is going to be like 90 or 100 calories. So if you do that every 45 minutes or half an hour, that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking all those calories at once. And wouldn’t want them to all rush in at once, cause then you’d wind up with spiky energy intake. So that’s where maltodextrin, sorry I didn’t mention the name. Maltodextrin is the molecule you’re talking about when people talk about complex carbs. So, that’s what maltodextrin is sort of useful for, it will meter out a little bit of that absorption because you have to break those chains before it gets absorbed. So, it kind of works in that context, but it doesn’t really make sense if you’re sipping your fuel on the way. Why would you want to make your digestive system work harder and have that fuel sitting around where it’s not actually powering you, it’s just in your gut? Right? And that’s where people run into problems too, is if that absorption rate, if your ability to digest that and then absorb it slows beyond what your eating rate is, then you’re just going to back up and start feeling full and stuff’s not getting through.
Paul: That explains why I can’t use gels during ultras. Now it makes sense.
Josh: Those things are brutal.
Paul: On that sugar, going to be a little selfish here, but maybe kind of help some other people too. So I just ran 100k this past weekend, and probably around mile 50 I ate this huge, I don’t know why I just scarfed down this huge piece of watermelon and my stomach pretty much shut down on me. And I had the same problem at Wasatch 100 in September to the point where I actually had to end up drop out of Wasatch cause the pain got so bad, I couldn’t take in any calories. So on the drive home from the mountains I started googling why this could’ve happened, and I actually found from about two years ago a Facebook post from you guys talking about fructose malabsorption. Can you shed a little bit of light on that? Cause I had never heard of that until now and all of the symptoms are exactly what happened to me, so I hope that’s all the problem was, is that I just got to avoid my watermelon.
Jeff: Yeah, actually that’s pretty common. It’s actually pretty common one we hear about from our customers. And watermelon, it’s definitely the number one culprit and I think it’s cause it looks so good.
Paul: Yeah, I wasn’t even hungry – I was just standing in the aid station, I’m like ‘Oh, that looks awesome, I’ll just eat a huge piece of watermelon’. And I mean it was massive. I did not need that much watermelon, but it just looked good.
Jeff: Right, it tastes great, it’s cool, it’s refreshing. All those things, right? And that’s – I think that’s one of the things that’s super hard about nutrition, is that the things that like kind of taste good and are really satisfying, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the best fuel for you.
Josh: Jelly beans, gummy bears.
Jeff: Even that cheeseburger.
Josh: Nothing wrong with cheeseburger.
Paul: I eat bacon like it’s going out of style. In a race, not a good idea for me.
Jeff: Yeah, so fructose, what can happen is if you overload those pumps, the transport mechanisms, then that can be not fully absorbed. And it tends to happen more often with fructose than really glucose. The body seems to be a little less efficient at absorbing a lot of fructose. And so, that’s what then is called like malabsorption, meaning it just didn’t get picked up. It didn’t get picked up in your small intestine and moved into your bloodstream. It actually metabolizes a little bit different than glucose also, but that’s for a different topic. Anyways, what happens to that fructose that doesn’t get absorbed is it will go into the large intestine. In the large intestine, you have all the bacteria, and they just have a field day on that. So, that happens and then they start producing all their gas and byproducts and stuff like that, and you know that’s when you start feeling it.
Paul: Yeah, and based on the stomach pain that bacteria gets angry. I was doubled over it hurt so bad.
Jeff: It’s more like the bacteria is really happy.
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
F: You’ve got a forest going on in your intestine.
Jeff: They are having a field day and you’re running out into the field.
Paul: Oh man, it’s brutal. That was unpleasant. I’ve got a 50 miler next weekend and I’m going to try and avoid the watermelon. As long as there are no problems, then I think I’ll be okay for the 100 in September.
Jeff: Yeah, you just got to be really careful. I mean, we tell people it’s fine to have a little bit of fruit along the way. But you really, you’ve got to be really careful not to overdo it.
Paul: Is there anything other than watermelon that’s really high in fructose that you see at aid stations that should be avoided? I read somewhere that bananas are fine, but I think it was apples or pears or something like that. I never seen those in aid stations, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Jeff: Oranges would have some fructose too. Bananas have more glucose, so they’re actually pretty fairly decent fuel as far as solid foods go. So, but yeah, any of the things that you associate as kind of a juicy, fruity sort of taste, that’s gonna come back to bite you.
Josh: Pickles and potato chips – is there anything negative that you would say for pickles and potato chips at aid stations?
Jeff: You know, other than just that when you put stuff into your stomach, your stomach’s not really absorbing anything for you. It’s just making soup out of what you put into it.
Paul: That’s a lovely thought.
Josh: Definitely got to work on the wording on that one.
Jeff: So, I mean, pickle and potato chip soup – as awesome as that sounds…
Josh: Actually didn’t sound too bad.
Jeff: It just takes time and energy and if you don’t drink enough, then your body will actually suck water out of your blood stream and put it into your stomach in order to make that soup. So, you know, you can get into trouble if you don’t, if you’re not drinking enough to process that. But what you’re talking about there is salt. It means your body is saying I’m low on salt, and that’s why you’re craving the pickles and the potato chips.
Josh: I knew a big pitch of most hydration companies, I shouldn’t even say pitch cause that makes it sound bad, but a truth I think I should maybe probably word it as, for most hydration companies is the number one reason your nutrition went wrong in a race probably is because of the crap you ate on course more so than sticking with your drink. And I know that with you guys, that’s your pitch too, is drink Tailwind through the whole race, you shouldn’t have any problems, you shouldn’t need to take other foods because it truly can wreck things. That being said, we just get hungry in a race. And I know you guys don’t have protein in Tailwind, but I know that is the ideology behind some of the other brands is to put a little bit of protein in to stave off hunger cravings. So what’s your take on that as far as why no protein, and again, when you get hungry – like what do you do when Tailwind just isn’t enough?
Jeff: Yeah, so first on the protein. So, protein, the reason I don’t put it in is it’s a complex molecule that’s really hard to digest. And again, people vary. We probably all know people who have a slice of pepperoni pizza and then just keep going, right? And so some people’s digestive system is kind of super tolerant to anything. Other people have trouble with even something that’s really easy on your stomach as Tailwind is at the beginning of the race cause your stomach is just not functioning under stress, the start stress for instance. So, it kind of covers the whole map, but for most people your digestive system is derailed and throwing a hard to digest molecule at it is just asking for trouble. The other part about it is while you’re running a calorie deficit, your body is really trying to take everything you take in and turn it into energy, and in the case of protein, the calories that cost to break it down into useable energy are actually more than what you get out of it. So, it’s a negative energy contributor, which is not really what you want during a race either. So, those are the reasons we don’t included. Definitely the hunger thing, so first off, I mean hunger – if you actually get your calorie per hour intake right, you can really avoid hunger for a long time. It’s definitely possible to do that. That said, especially like in an ultra – we have a lot of customers that just like to eat something at some point.
Paul: It’s almost more mental than anything, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, maybe more mental than anything, they like the idea of chewing something, tasting something different, having a little something in their stomach that makes them feel a little fuller. But you don’t want too full. There’s a fine line there. And we’re not religious about that at all. Our opinion is we want you to use what works for you to get you to your goal and if that’s like half Tailwind and half food and that works for you, that’s fine. But what we tell people is if you’re going to use something else, use another food during the race, just make sure you keep hitting your calorie goal. We usually look at it as calories per hour. And then reduce your Tailwind accordingly. So if you’re going to add in 100 calories or something, then you need to subtract 100 calories of Tailwind so you’re not overdoing it. Cause overdoing it, it’s really easy to overeat actually. It’s really easy to gulp down too many calories and then wind up not being able to process them while you’re out there.
Josh: I think it’s just unbelievable how many people ruin their nutrition just by not drinking enough. And myself included. I don’t think – I would say, just a rough swag at this, I’d say only 10% of people that do endurance racing, they drink properly. Almost everybody, it’s unbelievable how many people, I don’t care how experienced, how amazing athletes they are. They’re puking, suffering through something at some point and it’s unbelievable how. Earlier this year I did Dirty Kansas and in like a 4 and a half hour bike leg I drank 10, maybe 15 ounces of my mix and things just went wrong. And I just started feeling like crap, it was hot, nothing was lighting up. And I know better – and I actually thought I was drinking more than that, to be honest. I just, mentally I was off and as a consequence I was in a state of suck and I just wasn’t drinking enough as I should’ve been. It’s kind of tough for most people to really drink your whatever – just call it 250 an hour, calories-wise. Simply because you hit those downsides throughout the race where things go bad. And I met tons of people that they dilute their hydration mix to have strength and it tastes better for them. And I always ask them – you realize that’s cutting your caloric intake in half, right? And they’re like no, no. Yeah, if it’s 2 scoops for 250 calories, you’re using one scoop, yeah, you just cut it in half. But a lot of people don’t think that. I just cut off the flavor this way. But again, it’s just unbelievable how many people go wrong and they sabotage their own selves, and again myself included. And Paul with beet juice and watermelon.
Paul: I’ve done some dumb things.
Josh: But I however have never had a problem on pepperoni pizza. That is something that has been quite successful. So, I guess, another question I have then is biking versus running. And like for me, I rarely have problems anymore running. I got my hydration dialed pretty good. I do notice biking though, it just seems like my burn rate is stiffer. And I don’t know if it’s a wattage output and it’s shifting more towards my legs and it changes the way my body’s processing fuel. But I am hungrier more on the bike than I am when I run. So, how do you see that fueling is different between endurance riders versus endurance runners?
Jeff: So, actually it’s funny because even though I started trying to solve a problem on the bike, you know, the mechanisms for how your body absorbs fuel and how it utilizes it and everything, it’s the same regardless of your sport. But like the majority of our customers are ultra and trail runners. And so it’s turned out that that group tends to have more stomach issues than cyclists in general. You can definitely have issues in both sports, but I think the kind of just the motion of running, the pounding and the up and down makes a problem of having stuff kind of in your gut and in your stomach sloshing around worse than on a bike.
Jeff: So, metabolically it’s really kind of the same problem. But I think that runners experience more acutely. So, as far as the actual fueling goes, one of the big differences that we see is that nobody really wants to carry around a lot of fluid. Especially when they’re running. But it’s a whole lot easier to do that when you’re on a bike, right? It’s not that big of a deal to have bottles on your bike or be carrying a 100-ounce pack. So, the ability to get enough water into that mix is definitely different, and that makes it a little harder on runners I think. They – you were just talking about hydration, I mean, a lot of studies show athletes pretty much run around somewhat dehydrated all the time. Cause we sort of, we’re just always in a dehydrated state. We never really hydrate fully. And actually there isn’t too much harm in being in a mild dehydrated state while you’re exercising either. But it is really easy to mess it up by getting too dehydrated. And that’s the biggest thing we see with runners is the tendency to not drink enough in order to process the fuel and then to run low on calories in the end cause they’re not getting enough in.
Josh: Yeah, and we see – we design hydration packs, obviously. And so, like when I’m using my bottle-based packs, I’m pretty flawless with calories per hour, with staying up with it. It’s when I use my bladder I have to be a lot more cognoscente of it, and I love our bladder pack. But it is the downside where I’ve learned over the years, I always set a timer to every 15 minutes and I drink. And I learned that 3 drinks, 3 hard drinks on the bike every 15 minutes will equate to 20-25 ounces per hour. And it at least seems to be my fix. But yeah, when it comes to freaking managing your fluid intake, it is, it’s horrible of how hard it is to be able to keep up. At least in the bottle-based packs, at least you’re able to see, ok, I’m 30 minutes in, I drank half my bottle, great. Or I drank 2 ounces from it, not good.
Jeff: Yeah, if you can see it, it’s a lot easier to manage, for sure. And I’m kind of like you, I mean I have – I know exactly what I need to be doing with my pack in order to get what I need and that’s just something that’s dialed in over time. But you know, you also are – when you’re racing, you’re looking at your pace, you’re looking at your heart rate, your breathing exertion and you’re monitoring all those factors. Nutrition is just as important as your training and your effort level and your race management. All that stuff matters and you’ve got to pay attention to it, it’s just no doubt. You’ve got to pay attention to nutrition – you got to dry and wing it. Or you let it slide, it’s probably not going to…
Paul: Only going to get worse as you keep going.
Jeff: Yeah, definitely.
Paul: So what do you guys recommend as far as how long you should be out running before you need a calorie mix versus just taking a bottle of water with you?
Jeff: Yeah, I think that one, it varies person to person obviously. We usually tell people about 2 hours is the cutoff. Or if you’re going over two hours, you should definitely be taking your mix with you. Most people, glycogen, if you’re a pretty well-trained athlete might be 2-2.5 hours of glycogen stores you’ve got on board to get you through. So you can definitely make it, the question is: what do you want to do the next day? If you’re going to go out and you’re going to go hard for an hour and a half, and then you intend to go out and go hard the next day, then I’d say you’d actually want to be drinking your mix all the way along. And the reason for that is a lot of your, one of the big factors in recovery is just how deep you went down into your reserves the day before.
Paul: It’s a really good point that I don’t think a lot of people realize, is when they look at their training or their nutrition of that run, they don’t really look at how’s my nutrition on this run going to affect my nutrition on tomorrow’s run or tomorrow’s ride?
Jeff: Exactly, yeah. Actually, we have some soccer teams that use Tailwind and that’s really the big factor for them, cause they want to try and train hard, say 3 days in a row and the quality of your training really depends on the availability of your energy reserves. So for them to be able to go hard 3 days in a row, they better be on top of their nutrition on that first day and the second day.
Paul: So how do you see nutrition requirements changing as far for things like short, fast stuff like soccer up to a couple of hours, and then again up to 24 hours or multi-day events?
Jeff: Yeah, so there’s some like really cool fun fact is that if you just swish a carbohydrate mix in your mouth, you don’t even have to swallow it. You will actually get a boost in your blood sugar from that. It’s actually kind of like the brain saying like ‘oh, hey, food’s on the way, I’m going to release some of the energy that’s in your glycogen stores into your bloodstream and make that available because I know I’m going to get it refueled.’ It thinks it’s going to feed you, right? And you can fool it by spitting that out.
Paul: It’s already halfway, you might as well take it in.
Jeff: Yeah. But if you’re going to try and go for a fast start, you definitely want to do that. And it’s not going to last you very long. Maybe we’re talking about a 15 minute window there, but you can get up to a 20% boost in your blood sugar. That would be free energy that’s in your bloodstream that your muscles can just grab and burn. So, if you’re trying to go real fast, that’s a really good reason to start out with carbohydrate before the race. You know, then as you go along, the really big difference between shorter and longer in my opinion is that your margin for error just gets smaller and smaller the longer you go. So I’ll give you an example. Let’s just say you’re under drinking by 2 ounces an hour. Okay? It’s not much, right? That’s very little, that’s kind of one big gulp. But if you’re out there, let’s say you’re out there 16 hours and you do that for 16 hours, well, you’re down 34 ounces. Which is basically a liter. So just think about sucking, you’re out trying to do 100 and you just gave a liter of blood.
Josh: I don’t think I want to do that.
Paul: I don’t think that will end very well.
Josh: I’ll let Paul do that.
Paul: That will be an interesting experiment.
Josh: For you.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s kind of what you’re dealing with, it gets to be very precise. And it’s hard because conditions vary day to day, maybe it’s drier, maybe it’s hotter. And you have to be able to plan for that and adjust for that. And those little mistakes that you make along the way, they compound. I think that’s what makes ultras really tough is you kind of have to be able to keep it right or you’re really going to have problems at later stages.
Josh: I hope the wearable technology… I know there’s stuff out there. But at least for my research so far it looks like it’s still super basic. But I really hope that before too long, the Garmin 25 as opposed to the Garmin 5, hopefully it reads your glucose levels and electrolyte levels. Everything and gives you more tactical feedback. I mean, like 2 ounces an hour like you’re talking about, that’s just so tiny. You’re talking about 7-8% of what you’re supposed to consume per hour anyway, to have a margin an error plus or minus 7%, I don’t think any of us…
Jeff: It is a big ask.
Josh: But if you can have something real time to manage those levels that’s pretty non-intrusive, that would be incredible.
Jeff: I totally agree. I’m right there with you on that. I’ve been dreaming about that for a long time. If you can manage just things like your glucose level, your, the salinity of your blood which is really a combination measure of your hydration and your stomach content. And even if it was like green, yellow, red. Even that level would help if you can monitor that on a periodic basis and see where it’s going. And that will give you that little bit of advance warning, like hey, I better be starting to drink a little bit more or I’m going to get into trouble here. That would help so much because our mechanisms like our thirst mechanisms and our hunger mechanisms – they’re just delayed. They aren’t, and actually they tend to function less well as you go on also. Or maybe it’s cause your brain sucks and not doing some things very well. But by the time you say I’m starving, man, it’s way too late.
Josh: I guess, I may have to hit up my Aunt Lory. She’s a diabetic, has been forever and wears a pump like in real time. And I’d be curious to talk to her and see what she sees. I know she’s more in tune with her blood sugar, just like many diabetics are. They know extremely well, but I wonder how much of it is delayed where maybe that’s part of the reason why wearables have been so slow to come to market because there is even a delayed reaction with how your body is reporting, basically. You know, okay, so maybe you’re in the yellow now, but does that mean you need to fuel hard because you’re going to go red no matter what at this point? I’d love to know more. Basically, you finish a run, you drink a bunch of water, hopefully instead of beer, but maybe beer too. And you think you’re hydrated, but like you said, you wake up the next morning and you pee like molasses. Your body continues to work and it seems like there’s that delayed process in knowing where your body is at.
Jeff: Yeah, and I think that sort of, you know, if you’re out there, there’s a lot of stuff you can really monitor in real time. You know how your foot feels or how your muscles are feeling, right? But you know, the nutrition part of it is still pretty mysterious as far as like what’s actually happening inside your body is really hard to know. And I hope, I really hope we get to that point. I think technology can really help out in this whole science of fueling right would really take a big leap if we had that feedback information.
Josh: Sure, you just need to get on it with your R&D budget.
Jeff: Yeah. Can I say your R&D budget too?
Paul: We might need a few more companies to get in on this.
Josh: Yeah, we just need to convince the guys at Metronic that they need to start investing in wearable technology. It’s, that’s what we need to do.
Paul: So, I’ve got a caffeine related question for you. When do you – so, you guys have formulas with or without caffeine. When do you recommend going to that caffeine formula as far as during a race or training?
Jeff: So there’s kind of two things with caffeine. One is just an essentially nervous system boost that we’re all familiar with from drinking a cup of coffee or tea or something if you’re a caffeine drinker. So, we have customers that use it because they just sort of drink caffeine all day long and they want to be doing the same thing when they’re out on the race.
Paul: Just kind of keeps them at their normal level.
Jeff: Just keep the normal level, right? The last thing they want is some sort of caffeine withdrawal thing happening during a race.
Paul: Way to make something hard even harder.
Jeff: Exactly. So there’s some people who just fall into that category and that’s why they use it. They’ll use it all the way through or they’ll use it most of the way through. Other people will use it just in their low energy time of the day. You know, for me that’s like 2-3 PM, I’m ready to take a nap. And then on top of that, you throw on a bunch of exercise and so, I get really tired and for me that would be the time. But that sort of is just different for people; a lot of people will do it at night if it expands at night. There’s also some pretty interesting research on the benefits of caffeine and this is one of the things about Tailwind is we really only put things in it that actually work and are proven by multiple peer-reviewed studies and not just marketing hype or pixie dust. And so caffeine is one of the few, really the only supplements that has a really substantial, can have a really substantial performance effect. And that’s a pretty interesting use case. First of all, you have to use a pretty good amount of caffeine. For somebody that’s like my size, like 170 pounds, the number’s like 250 milligrams in the bloodstream. Which is just a lot, right? And the benefits seem to be most effective if you start a race with that in your bloodstream.
Paul: And is that true no matter how long the race is?
Jeff: Yeah. Although you don’t necessarily have to keep that caffeine level up all the way through. Most of the benefit comes in the first hour and that’s from – that level of caffeine will free some fatty acids into the bloodstream that then get consumed by the muscles. And it’s essentially sparing glycogen. So instead of burning some glycogen in that first out, you’re burning some fatty acids instead and then you’ve got that spared amount of glycogen left over for the end of the race. That’s kind of the way to look at it. And some of the studies that looked at that have seen a 20% boost in endurance. So you can go 20% longer before you bonk.
Paul: So, does – for someone like myself, I don’t drink coffee, I’ll have tea very rarely. I don’t really drink soda anymore. So my caffeine intake is pretty much limited to when I’m racing. If I were to load up before a race with that much caffeine, will I have a crash that I should expect at some point?
Jeff: So, some of the effects of caffeine you might have if you’re kind of sitting around the house don’t seem to manifest in the same way when you’re racing according to the studies. One of them would be like the diuretic effect, right? That seems to disappear and my guess is that has to do with that you’re kind of running dehydrated already. And also the crash part of it didn’t really show up either. I’m not really sure why that would be, but one thing to understand about caffeine is that it has a half-life. And person to person that can vary from two to twelve hours. And what that means is the average is about 4. So if the average is 4, you add 250 milligrams to start a race, 4 hours later you’re going to have half that amount left in your bloodstream. And then another 4 hours you’ll have half of that. So if you keep on adding caffeine during the race, it will – if you’re adding enough it will offset your decay, you wind up accumulating caffeine as you go. So, it’s a tricky balance. We don’t really talk about that too much because trying to do that is something that you’d really have to experiment with and see if it works for you. For somebody who doesn’t really drink caffeine on a regular basis my guess is it probably wouldn’t feel really good to you cause you’re probably be at the start and just feel funky and jumpy and your heart’s racing. It’s not going to feel right to you.
Paul: I did that for a 10k one time. My buddy convinced me, since I don’t take caffeine, he’s like dude, you should take like a couple of caffeine pills. And this is the guy who would drink, at the time he was drinking like multiple – when I say multiple, like 3-4-5 Monster energy drinks a day and like just like, he’s a programmer, sits in front of a computer, just pounding this stuff. He’s like here, here’s some of the caffeine pills I have, try a couple. I think I took two of them. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I set a huge PR that day, but I literally at the turnaround point thought my heart was going to blow out of my chest. It was like my head was hot, it was a terrifying feeling. But I ran fast.
Josh: I think you should take an espresso an hour on your 50 miler this weekend. I just think it’ll be funny to see the result.
Jeff: If you’re racing like in Italy, they do. They have espressos, you know? Yeah, it’s interesting stuff but if you get up to like 500 milligrams, it’s really actually more of a milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight that matters. But then you’re going to start getting that, you can have nausea and jitteriness and heart problems and stuff like that. So, be careful.
Josh: It’s like a Coke, in the Dirty Kansas, like 100 miles in I was in a lull from mile 50 to 100. And I had a coke and a Red Bull actually at that aid station. It was great.
Paul: Was this after the 4 hours with the 50 ounces of fluid?
Josh: It was, yeah.
Paul: There you go.
Josh: So this is 8 hours or something in. And it did, it brought me back where I at least, I just member having a hard time holding my head up even coming into the aid station at mile 106. And then from there on, I did the exact same thing again at mile 160 something. It did, it helped. Granted, running I wouldn’t have done that, hopefully, probably, you never know. I’m not very intelligent. But at least in cycling I was able to kind of get away from it. But I really think the caffeine, it goes a long way and I probably should try mixing caffeine into my endurance drink in different races, but I know that morning I didn’t have coffee. I normally have a latte every morning, and I didn’t have it cause we were at this little bunkhouse and they didn’t have a coffee maker there. And it’s like the whole day started slow because I didn’t have my normal coffee like I do before a ride. I never get tired during exercise, rare anyway. Or at least mentally I should say. But I wonder if that’s what went wrong that day, I just didn’t have the freaking, I didn’t have the caffeine at the start.
Jeff: I generally recommend that people try and mimic their normal patterns, basically.
Jeff: If you want to try for the benefits of caffeine, go for it, but do that during training. Really vet that before you go using it in a race. But yeah, for the most part pretty much recommend people use caffeine the same way they would use it in daily life and if they hit that lull and they’re tired and they want a pick-me-up, that’s a good time to use some caffeinated Tailwind and get it in that way. I hate to burst your bubble on the coke thing, but there have been a bunch of studies on coke and it’s about 11% sugar solution, and actually has pretty minimal caffeine, not enough caffeine to make a difference. So actually, the boost you were getting from that is sugar. You were low on blood sugar.
Josh: Yeah, and I wouldn’t doubt that at all. Do you suggest topping off your glycogen stores prior to an event, and if so, what is your strategy for doing so?
Jeff: Absolutely. Actually, the state of your glycogen stores going into an event, even if you’re a fat burner, a metabolic efficiency practitioner, you still utilize, you still use glucose, even to burn fat. So, the state of your glycogen stores probably is the biggest determinants of how you’re going to do that day when you start. Cause you’re sure as heck not going to add to it while you’re out there. It only goes there from the starting point. And something that people don’t necessarily understand, but it’s not like a gas tank where you can keep going until the very last drop of gasoline, right? And it doesn’t affect the performance of your car. Your glycogen stores aren’t like that. As you utilize, as you use glycogen up, the brain is watching the rate that you’re using it and how deep your drawing down. The brain actually functions on glucose, that’s its fuel. So it will protect itself and it will make sure that it’s got enough for the brain. It’s basically like your survival mechanism, right? It’s going to make sure your essential organs and your brain have enough fuel. As you dig deeper and deeper you actually get a slower and slower release rate of glycogen. Your brain will keep rationing that down, and so you’re just going to get slower. And you’ll slow right down to a pace eventually that is the pace that you can sustain basically with very, very little glycogen use. And then you get too deep and you bonk. That’s your set down. That’s your body saying you know what? No more for the muscles.
Paul: You’re done.
Jeff: I’m shutting you down cause I need the rest of this to stay alive. Yeah, so you’re going to get the best performance when you have mostly a full tank. So, strategies for doing that – first strategy is don’t deplete in your previous training or if you’re doing a multi-day race, you want to stave off depletion as much as you possibly can. That means getting your calories in and being really conscientious about that. Secondly, if you’ve got to recover before your next event… sorry about that.
Paul: No problem.
Jeff: Secondly, your recovery is super important. You have a really short window right after your exercise that you can accelerate the rebuilding of your glycogen stores, you need to take advantage of that. Especially if you’re going to turn around and do something in 24 hours. And then, what we tell people that are really in training mode and in their season, is if you want to have good recovery between training sessions or races, then your diet should probably be about 70% of that plate should be carbs.
Paul: So on that recovery note, you guys don’t do any kind of recovery formula, right?
Jeff: Not yet.
Paul: Not yet? Does that mean there’s something coming down the pipe?
Jeff: It does.
Jeff: I’m pretty excited about it.
Paul: Very cool!
Jeff: We still have some work to do, I can’t put a timeline on it, but I think it’s going to add something pretty cool to this space.
Josh: Think this year, maybe next year type of at least ballpark?
Jeff: Yeah, I mean I hope we can get it out there this year. That depends on a few factors, but that’s definitely what we’re aiming for.
Paul: Nice, looking forward to seeing that.
Josh: Alright, then what are you top three most popular flavors?
Jeff: Definitely mandarin oranges is our number one. And berry would be our second, and then decaffeinated raspberry.
Paul: I think those three I have in my cupboard right now.
Josh: So what about – don’t you have a naked formula? That one isn’t super popular? I figured that one would be in the top 3.
Jeff: Actually, it is pretty popular. It’s just that it’s just not, I think it’s made for.
Josh: Do you find that a lot of people buy the flavors because they like that flavor, but I wonder how many of them would probably do better in racing to run with a more naked formula, a more basic formula. Because I know like for me, especially when my drinks get hot at times, man it can be so brutal to drink them. But yet if there’s barely any flavor to it, then it’s okay.
Jeff: Yeah. I mean we definitely try and keep all of our flavors light. And some of it is just perception. So for instance berry, berry is not technically any sweeter than even the naked flavor. It doesn’t have more sugar in it or there’s nothing to make it actually sweeter, but your taste buds perceive it as sweet. And so there’s people that like that…
Paul: It’s funny how it works.
Jeff: It is funny. It’s definitely, I don’t know, you know about optical illusions. It’s like a taste bud illusion or something.
Paul: That’s a good way to put it, I like that.
Josh: First time I heard that, but it’s pretty spot-on.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s just something about the way the mind perceives berry as being sweet. So people who like a more sweeter drink tend to gravitate more toward the berry flavors. People who like a really as close to water as you can get tend to gravitate more towards naked. It just – people are just, their taste buds are different. That’s all I can say.
Paul: Which makes it really fun from a business side for you guys.
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, we definitely try and cover the bases and see if we can have something at least something in a product line that most people will like.
Paul: So we got a couple last minute questions that we kind of ask everybody, so we want to go down these with you as well. Have you ever cried at the end of a race? Or during?
Jeff: Oh man. Gosh. I actually kind of – I actually started crying at the start of my last Leadville.
Paul: Just cause you knew what you were about to do or what?
Jeff: Yeah. Partly looing forward to the pain. But I knew it was most likely my last one, and I was kind of looking back on the whole saga and all the years I’ve been doing it. And I’ve got pretty emotional at that start. Not so much at the finish, the finish was like dear god I’m glad I’m done.
Paul: I love the emotion these sports bring out of us. That’s why we ask this cause it’s just a unique way to kind of get a little insight.
Jeff: There was one time, my wife and I before we had kids we biked across Europe. And we had this kind of short day and we needed a short day, we were both tired and we were looking forward – this thing is 40 km that day, and we were going to stay in this kind of nice place. And we had the most brutal headwind ever, like and we had loaded bikes. So it’s like pedaling a brick, we were just going nowhere and it was taking so long and I actually picked up my bike and threw it into a ditch at one point out of frustration.
Josh: Well, is mountain biking still your primary sport?
Jeff: Yeah. I still – I love mountain biking. It’s something about the level of engagement that you kind of have to get and I just – I can drop pretty easily into that flow state and so I really enjoy it. But I also, as I get older, I just feel like I need to mix it up more in order to keep from being injured and so I enjoy other stuff too. I do hiking and trail running and then like in the winter, like skate skiing and snow shoeing especially.
Paul: Cool. What’s the best piece of advice you ever received during your athletic career?
Jeff: Well, this is going to seem kind of silly, but when I was just first starting to mountain bike, it was way before Leadville, but I was definitely like an after work and weekend rider. And I went out with this guy, I think he’d been a cyclist in college, he had that kind of skinny road biker physique and he was definitely way stronger than I was. And he said you know, if you’re trying to build up your strength and speed, just ride in one gear heavier than what you feel like you should. And so I started doing that and I got stronger, I got faster.
Josh: Nice. When I lived in Phoenix I had a bunch of buddies in this mountain bike team called Missing Link. I was part of that got into the single speeds, but I didn’t want to because I’ve always had a little right knee issue and I thought last thing I want to do is torque my knee more. But when I rode with them, it forced me, otherwise it was annoying to ride with them. It forced me to ride in one gear that was basically the same gear they had and I tell you, it makes you stronger for sure. And basically that’s the same concept you’re talking about, and I saw guys that were always kind of average riders, they became flipping animals man. Just from riding single speeds, it was unbelievable the extra power they got because they didn’t have an option of downshifting to going two miles an hour on a long climb. They had to go 8. That’s a good point, I need to try that on my next ride.
Jeff: Like if you train slow, you’re going to race slow. And believe me, if you have that option and no one is pushing you, you’re going to take it. I’ll just pop that into gear and take my time getting up this thing and keep breathing right down and everything. That’s what’s hard about training and racing is you’ve got to be able to push yourself. Sometimes those little tricks do that for you.
Paul: That’s why I prefer my speedwork on the treadmill cause I know I can’t slack off or I’m going to get thrown off the back. I do my speedwork on my own it’s so easy, it’s fast enough. Sweet man. You got any final thoughts for the listeners?
Jeff: Oh gosh, I mean. You guys asked a lot of good questions. I think the thing about Tailwind is I always viewed it as sort of half about the product and half about how we can help you reach your goal. That’s what we’re trying to do as a company – we’re not trying to just sell you a bag of stuff, we want you to succeed and that’s, so we spend a lot of time with folks helping them diagnose problems and like your email is firstname.lastname@example.org and that’s kind of what we’re trying to think about ourselves. We’re your support group. So if we can help you out and help you get across if it’s just finishing or studying your PR or podiuming, whatever your goal is, if we can help you out, love to do it.
Paul: Awesome, love it man.
Josh: Yeah, Jeff, thanks so much for coming on today. And tell your awesome wife Jenny we said hello as well. I know she’s out playing out the retailer but in the show notes we’ll have the link to Tailwind. It’s tailwindnutrition.com and you have to check out the Our Story page, you can watch a video of Jeff puking in a trashcan which is awesome.
Jeff: That means more views, right?
Josh: Yeah, it’s always drama and people suffering. I always get a kick out of that way more when look at me, I’m amazing, I won. I’m really sad I didn’t see Paul suffering on beet juice last year. Still don’t understand why he drinks that stuff.
Paul: Not anymore.
Josh: It’s been great to have you on and being big in the endurance community ourselves, we see you guys everywhere, we love seeing how much you’ve grown. And we started our business the same year you guys did, so it’s exciting to grow along with you guys and see you branching out in so many different spaces of endurance, and not just in the run too. So, major props to you guys and look forward to talking with you again soon!
Jeff: Thanks guys, this has been fun!