Fueling at High Altitude

With the Leadville 100 races on the horizon, we thought we’d give our Tailwind community some pointers for high altitude fueling. “The Race Across the Sky” pushes the body to the extreme for 100 grueling miles at 9,100 – 12,600 feet. To put this in perspective, the highest mountain passes at the UTMB and Tour de France just barely hit 8,000-9,000 feet above sea level. At this high elevation, three things need to be taken into consideration: lack of oxygen, hydration, and digestive issues. In this unforgiving environment, issues in any of these three areas can quickly lead to problems for an athlete so we need to be prepared.


There is a common misperception that there is less oxygen at high altitude. This is not technically true. The same 21% percent of oxygen is in the air at the 12,000 foot summit of Columbine Mine (Leadville 100) as at sea level; what is different is the barometric pressure (PB). The PB at sea level is 760 mmHg and at 10,000 feet it is 534 mmHg – so there is 21% of a smaller number as one goes higher. Put another way, when pressure decreases gas molecules expand and take up more space within a given area. The result is that for a given volume of air there are less total oxygen molecules present.

In addition, the reduced atmospheric pressure at altitude reduces the driving pressure for oxygen to enter the lungs. Oxygen enters the body and the cells through partial pressure gradients. The lower partial pressure exerted at altitude makes it harder for the body to consume and use oxygen. This produces hypoxia, where our blood carries a lower level of oxygen than normal. The body compensates by increasing our heart and breathing rates to try and absorb more oxygen and deliver it to our muscles. Plus, hormonal changes occur, like the pumping of adrenaline to help with oxygen transportation and delivery.

The only cure for these dramatic changes is time. We need time to let our body adjust, or acclimate, and increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells that improve our ability to deliver oxygen to the brain and working muscles. Most adaptations occur within two days to two weeks of exposure to altitude. During this time the amount of oxygen that the body can consume and utilize is reduced and endurance performance may be impaired. So aim to get to the race location a week in advance and stay active — which accelerates the acclimation process. Don’t, however, workout at your full intensity. Instead, take the first day or two off, and if you aren’t experiencing symptoms of acute mountain sickness, gradually start training.


High altitude presents the perfect storm for dehydration. The air at high elevation is very dry, so sweat evaporates quickly and we experience increased evaporative losses from our lungs. High altitude also causes an increase in urination. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we lose the sensation of thirst at higher elevations since lower temperatures suppress thirst even when the body needs fluids.

The obvious conclusion is that proper hydration is of the utmost importance while training or racing at high altitude. Athletes can lose as much as 12 liters of sweat in a 100-mile race! It is equally important, however, to get adequate electrolytes and glucose in our fuel to ensure the proper absorption of liquid. Tailwind does just that. It keeps you hydrated and provides the optimum ratio of sodium and glucose to keep our inner hydration pumps working at their peak.

GI Distress

Your digestive tract gets compromised at altitude. Period. Symptoms like nausea and vomiting are common signs of altitude sickness and are seen in 81.4% of short-term visitors. At high elevations, the body is working on overdrive so it suppresses the digestive system in favor of increasing its cardiopulmonary reserves. In other words, the heart beats faster and non-essential bodily functions are repressed, resulting in a decline in food digestion efficiency. Tailwind’s use of glucose as its primary fuel source makes it easy to absorb since it doesn’t need digestion to get transported into our blood. By literally bypassing the need for digestion, Tailwind is the fuel that is easiest on the GI tract.

Strategies at High Altitude

It is important to have a solid game plan for race day. Here are some important strategies to keep in mind:

  • Stay hydrated with a target of 20-24 ounces of water per hour. Most GI problems stem from the fact that you get dehydrated. If you are taking gels, don’t forget to drink – this is a fairly common problem since gels are somewhat viscous.
  • Carbs, like glucose, are the body’s fuel of choice at high altitude because carbs can supply 15 percent more energy for the same amount of oxygen in comparison to fats.
  • Don’t overload the gut with too many calories. Aim for 200-300 calories/hour.
  • Have your crew monitor your intake of calories and fluids.
  • Avoid drinks or foods that are high in protein. Although protein is important for recovery and as part of your overall diet, it is too hard on the digestive tract during a high altitude race.
  • Don’t go too hard. At altitude where your GI system is already compromised working too hard can just stress it more. Instead, strive to maintain a nice achievable pace.

Tailwind’s revolutionary fuel will keep you hydrated and powered-up with minimal digestive stress, and help you get to the finish line – even in the infamous “Race Across the Sky.”








Tailwind: Your Personal Hydration Station

All too often in endurance sports, athletes get so focused on their calorie and electrolyte intake that they forget about the most essential component, water. Proper hydration plays a critical role in delivering oxygen, hormones and nutrients to our cells. Why? Because water makes up about 50% of our blood which acts like a highway in our bodies.

Dehydration can impact your performance before any calorie deficit will. During exercise, water helps with thermal regulation (sweating) and a lot of water is lost – as high as 48oz per hour in hot weather! When you sweat, this water loss causes your blood to thicken which puts stress on your cardiovascular system. And, if you are taking in calories during this time and do not have adequate fluid balance, your GI system will start pulling water from your blood and the rest of your body to process those calories. These create an extremely low blood volume that reduces the capacity of your blood cells to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. The result? Increased heart rate, increased body temperature, decreased cardiac output, compromised mental concentration and delayed stomach emptying and GI upset. Yikes!

While it may be difficult to know exactly how much water you are losing during exercise and to properly replace all that fluid, many researchers suggest aiming for 20-24oz water per hour, to minimize the effects of dehydration and gastric distress. That is why Tailwind recommends drinking between 20-24oz of water per hour mixed with our endurance fuel to ensure that the risks of dehydration are minimized and you can have the best chance at finishing your race (or your epic climb) feeling strong and energized!


Want to learn more about the science behind Tailwind? Ask your support crew!

Spartan Race World Champ: Robert Killian

We had the recent opportunity to chat with Tailwind athlete and 2015 Spartan Race World Champion, Robert Killian. Currently Killian has been seen competing on the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge with his team, the Commanding Officers. When he’s not competing in OCR (Obstacle Course Racing), he’s busy being a father, husband, active member of the CO National Guard, Special Forces, and 2016 Army Best Ranger. Throughout  training and racing Killian uses Tailwind Nutrition, and we asked him a few questions about being a competitive Obstacle Course Racer and how he uses Tailwind to help him reach the finish line ahead of the competition.

How did you get into OCR and how long have you been competing? I started Obstacle Course Racing in 2015 when I was recruited onto the All-Army Sports OCR team. Our team captain Liam Collins contacted me after taking second place in the 2015 Best Ranger Competition. In 2014 I was a member of the Army Orienteering team which helped to develop off-trail running through the woods, having to break brush for much of the race to save time. This development, as well as years of training on military style obstacle courses such as the Darby Queen and Nasty Nick throughout Ranger and Special Forces training, are what really made it a seamless entry into the sport. I went on to win the Spartan Race world championship on my fourth official race in 2015 and have competed as a professional for two years now.

Why is Tailwind so ideal for OCR’s? OCR demands focus and balance between all aspects of fitness, especially nutrition. Having full glycogen stores is key and I go right to the source with Tailwind to fuel my body.

We saw you’ve been competing in the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge on NBC, can you share a little about that experience? As the sport of obstacle course racing gains popularity it’s truly the community, with so many positive life stories about overcoming adversity, that makes our sport special. Last year NBC and Spartan Race teamed up to not only highlight some of those stories, but to pit teams against each other on obstacles that can only be conquered by working together. This is my second season on the show and it’s been an amazing experience each year. The course is just under a mile and has a range of obstacles that test strength, agility, grit and teamwork. I’ve been fortunate to work with military veterans and members for both seasons, and I believe that even though we don’t train or live near each other, it’s the warrior ethos we live by that makes us a strong team. Be sure to tune in to NBC Monday nights at 10PM EST (9pm CST) and watch out for the Commanding Officers.

Do you mind sharing with us how you use Tailwind? My pre-workout fuel is Tailwind because I like to go right to the source with all-natural ingredients, no gut bombs or GI issues. Tailwind Nutrition’s Green Tea Buzz is my pre-race fuel of choice, the caffeine really gives you that extra buzz needed as you conquer obstacles. On race day morning I’ll usually mix half a serving of Tailwind with water to make sure I’m well hydrated and to prevent cramping. For longer training days Tailwind is the perfect liquid fuel when mixed with water, giving you 100 calories per serving and electrolytes needed to replenish what is lost.

Do you still get race day jitters? If so, how do to calm them and focus on the task at hand? I’ve been racing for over twenty years now and I absolutely still get pre-race jitters. However with obstacle course racing it’s more excitement for the challenge rather than anxiety. Unlike other sports where you know what you’ll be facing, every single Obstacle Course Race is different and literally anything can happen during a race. I’ve been in situations where I thought I was going to finish a race in a certain position but approached an obstacle to see another competitor stuck at an obstacle and I was able to overtake them by completing it. I think it’s that excitement of never really knowing how the race is going to end up until the finish that keeps me coming back for more. With so many variables involved like terrain, weather, obstacles, and other competitors, I try to focus on other more difficult situations I’ve been in and overcome to help me focus on the race at hand. I also remind myself to just go out and have fun win, lose, or draw because in obstacle course racing you will be pushed outside your comfort zone and will put your limits to the test, which to some doesn’t sound fun but you’ll know at the finish!

One last question, just for fun ~ Do you have a mantra or song that keeps you going when you need it most in training and competing? I don’t really have a mantra other than never quit. One of the races that stands out the most in my mind was at the 2015 ORCWC where I got stuck at an obstacle for 35 minutes battling hypothermia but refused to drop out of the race. I just kept telling myself, “Don’t quit, Don’t quit” and I dug deep and got past it to finish the race. I went back to the event in 2016 and finished as the top American racer and 4th in the world.

SALT: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Many Tailwind users wonder about the science behind one of Tailwind’s main ingredients, salt, and its impact on performance and the body.

To begin with, most athletes think that Tailwind contains sodium to prevent cramping, but its primary function is actually to activate the glucose transport mechanism which accelerates the absorption of calories and improves hydration. Without the presence of sodium in your fuel, these pumps will not work. And, these pumps are not only the most efficient way to bring energy to your cells, but also increases your absorption of water at a higher rate than just drinking water by itself.

Tailwind Nutrition also includes sodium to help replace what you sweat out along with potassium, calcium, and magnesium (we’ll cover the role of electrolytes in a future post). One interesting aspect of sweat is that the ratio of salt to sweat doesn’t change regardless of the amount of salt you are consuming. Your body gets rid of excess salt via its urine. Conversely, if your body senses it has too little salt, it will use the sweat glands to reabsorb the sodium contained in sweat from your skin. If your salt levels are where they should be, then the sweat glands won’t reabsorb the sodium and the salt will remain on your skin which appears as crystals once evaporation has taken place.

We have quite a few customers who write in and ask us about an increase of salt deposits on their skin when they start using Tailwind. If you are used to a water/fueling combo that doesn’t contain sodium, you may have experienced a low sodium condition because you were replacing water, but not the sodium lost to sweat. With Tailwind, you are replacing both water AND sodium (along with potassium, calcium, and magnesium). The sweat glands are no longer reabsorbing sodium, resulting in more deposits on your skin.

So if you notice salt on your skin after your workouts, it means that your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: secreting sweat to cool itself off. These salt deposits can be due to a number of factors that have nothing to do with intake such as higher sweat rate due to exertion, environmental factors- temperature or humidity, evaporation rate (dries on skin vs dripping or soaking into clothing), or the length of exercise time (more accumulation).

Want to learn more about the science behind Tailwind? Ask your support crew!

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