Tucked into a two-car garage in Dolores, an energy drink company is busy mixing up a powerful elixir that is gaining national acclaim among endurance athletes.
Tailwind Nutrition began in 2012 from personal experience, says owner Jeff Vierling, who competes in endurance mountain bike races and ultra-running competitions.
"The energy products I was using were making me physically ill, not a good situation for an extended competitive event," he says. "My nutrition plan was letting me down, and I wanted to find out why."
The entrepreneur and software engineer took on the problem, actually analyzing the small print on the back of common energy drinks and gels where he found something missing: sufficient calories.
"They had electrolytes and hydration, but limited calories," Vierling said. "I set out to create a drink with fluid calories so the racer can sustain peak energy levels all the way to the finish line."
Calories converted to sugar in the body are the engine of athletic performance. But when they run out, bonking and noodle legs are the demoralizing result.
Vierling turned to sports science for a solution to annoying energy depletion problem among endurance athletes. He learned the details on how the body absorbs caloric energy and experimented with several powdered concoctions added to water to find the right balance.
And as any credible innovator does, he used his wife and friends as Guinea pigs. One formula hit the spot.
"It worked for us, and our friends kept raving about it, so that gave us confidence to try and sell it on a larger scale," said co-owner and wife Jenny Vierling.
Orders for the couple's magic powder started rolling in. Soon they had employees, a shipping clerk, and a small, organized manufacturing plant on the ground floor of a nondescript apartment building.
A website was launched, and sales continued to rise, reaching into the rarefied air of professional athletes competing in top events such as the Leadville 100, Race Across America, and Ironman.
Testimonials began to pour in, triggering positive reviews from national magazines including Trail Runner Nation, Bikepacker magazine, and Mountain Flyer Magazine.
"It's been amazing, and now we running out of room to keep up with demand. We're planning to expand our operations and hire more people," Jenny Vierling said.
What is the secret? Efficiently metering calories into the bloodstream is what makes Tailwind work, Jeff Vierling said.
"Dial it in, and you don't have to take anything else," he said. "Eating an energy bar is not as efficient because it takes time for the stomach to break down the calories."
Digestion takes blood flow away from where you need it in a long race: the muscles, heart and lungs. Tailwind is designed to quickly absorb into the small intestine and then into the bloodstream to feed the body more efficiently.
Consistent energy is key during a grueling 500-mile mountain bike race, 100-mile foot race, five-set tennis match, or triathlon. Tailwind comes in a powder form and is mixed with water based on an athlete's body size. It should be regularly sipped to keep calorie levels at the optimum level.
"An athlete can store only so many calories, so when that is depleted, taking in a liquid calories prevents bonking," Jeff said. "Our fuel is designed to maximize uptake and exactly match what the small intestine can absorb. It has a clean, light taste, and no artificial colors or flavors."
Moderate workouts burn more than 500 calories per hour, but humans can only process 250 to 300 calories per hour, Jenny explained. The product's dextrose and sucrose mix works to overcome the deficit.
"Because it is easily absorbed and utilized as fuel, dextrose helps meet immediate calorie demands without causing an upset stomach," she said. "Other sport drinks contain longer-chain sugars that take more time and effort for the digestive track to break down."
Tailwind is attracting the attention of team managers and support crews as well, because the liquid fuel is easier to administer to players and cyclists. International customers have been ordering the product as well.
Sales are mostly online, but Tailwind is also stocked in 60 shops scattered throughout the country, including Kokopelli Bike and Board in Cortez and outdoor stores in Durango.
The Vierlings are planning to invest in more equipment to handle increasing demand and are seeking a larger facility, hopefully in Dolores.
"It has been going steady and we're excited about expanding. It is satisfying to help customers get over their nutrition problems and perform better," Vierling said.
Go to www.tailwindnutrition.com for more information.