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SNEWS Qs: Jeff and Jenny Vierling, founders of Tailwind Nutrition

When you’re an endurance athlete, the wrong nutrition can bring disastrous gastrointestinal results. Jeff Vierling took matters into his own hands, and with his wife Jenny and their children founded Tailwind Nutrition.

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When you’re an endurance athlete, the wrong nutrition can bring disastrous gastrointestinal results. So Jeff Vierling, his wife Jenny and their children took matters into their own hands and founded Tailwind Nutrition in Durango, Colo.

After a few years of hard work, dreams became reality for the Vierling family. Samples of their new products recently went out to media across the country. The products are specifically designed for endurance athletes who are exercising longer than two hours.

The Tailwind Nutrition formula is unique because it excludes protein. While the Vierlings found that protein’s essential for post-workout recovery, it gives endurance athletes stomach problems if they ingest it during a long workout. They developed a glucose-sucrose carbohydrate and electrolyte mix that doesn’t take as much energy to digest as protein does.

Jeff and Jenny Vierling told SNEWS about the history of the company and their plans for the future.

What was your inspiration for founding Tailwind Nutrition?
Tailwind grew from Jeff’s own personal experiences as an endurance athlete. He learned the hard way how important nutrition is to performing your best and enjoying the effort. He tried virtually every product on the market, but couldn’t find a solution that was easy to use and solved the nutrition problems he was experiencing. That’s what drove him to develop Tailwind. Specifically, he wanted to maintain steady energy and feel strong throughout while solving issues common to endurance athletes: stomach/GI problems (feeling full, bloated and worse), ease of use (single source for fuel, hydration and electrolytes rather than trying to keep track of gels, electrolyte pills and bars, chews), no cramping and a taste he could drink all day without getting sick of it.

Tell us about the history of your company.

It took a couple of years of research and experimentation in our kitchen, and Jeff tested the mix as a sole fuel for training and racing, including the Leadville 100 MTB and the Colorado Endurance Series (super-long endurance rides). From there, he shared it with friends and fellow racers, including cyclists, runners and triathletes, and enjoyed seeing them improve their performance and feel good doing it. The results were exciting — hearing from athletes who had struggled with nutrition and were now having good success with Tailwind. Their enthusiasm and requests for more convinced him he had something to share that could help many more athletes.

What makes your product different from other nutrition products out there?
What we hear most from our customers is how simple it is to use and the mild taste. With most energy drinks on the market, you need to supplement with electrolyte pills and additional sources of calories. It’s a major pain to manage, especially for endurance racers. Jeff lined up at the Leadville 100 MTB race last summer next to a rider who literally had an Excel spreadsheet taped to her handlebars with timings for all the products she was taking. Tailwind is really easy. Mix up to your preferred calorie concentration (we generally recommend 250kcal/24 ounces of water as a starting point for endurance use) and drink away. Plus, the mild taste makes it easy to drink hour after hour. You don’t get sick of it the way you can with sweet drinks or sticky textures.

What are some of the best features of your supplement?
First off, Tailwind Endurance Fuel is not a supplement, it is a complete fuel. By taking Tailwind, you take care of your hydration, calories and electrolytes. The best features of our product:

  • Simple and complete: As stated above, Tailwind can be used as a sole fuel source. You don’t need to supplement with electrolyte pills, gels, chews or food. You can literally just pour the powder into your bottle, add water, give it a couple shakes and go. We have athletes who are using Tailwind straight for 24-plus-hour events
  • No gut bombs: Because Tailwind’s fuel empties from the stomach easily and absorbs rapidly, it doesn’t tax the digestive system the way more complex fuels can. Furthermore, it contains no protein (identified as a major contributor to GI distress).
  • Mild taste: Tailwind’s taste is clean and light as opposed to sickly sweet. In endurance events, the longer you go, the more important taste and texture is. Many endurance athletes (including us) have suffered from drinks they can’t stand after a few hours. Not so with Tailwind.

What’s the significance behind your company name?

We came up with the name Tailwind Endurance Fuel while on the Hermosa Creek Trail in Durango, Colo., where we’re from. We joked about taglines like “Blow away your competition,” but we were actually thinking of that nice push you get when a tailwind hits your back. It’s like you’re going twice as fast with half the effort. That’s the feeling we wanted to capture because solid nutrition can help you feel that way.

What were some of the challenges in getting your business up and running and how did you overcome them?
I think any small business owner will recognize the same set of challenges that we have experienced. Fortunately, Durango is an incredible community and we have been very fortunate to have its support. Durango athletes helped test Tailwind and refine the flavors. Local business owners shared what they’ve learned with us, which helped us figure out how to go from the KitchenAid in our kitchen to producing Tailwind in a commercial kitchen. We’ve also relied heavily on advisers for help with formulating our business plan.

What are some of your plans for the future, in terms of new products, growth?
Right now we are focused on making sure our customers’ needs are met. That is one of the primary reasons we don’t outsource our manufacturing process like a lot of other companies do — all of it is done in the Durango area. In terms of new products, we plan on coming out with a caffeinated version of Tailwind, and perhaps a recovery and lifestyle formulation.

–Ana Trujillo