A Beginner's Guide to Nutrition Products

Posted by Kirsten on 2023 Jul 3rd

A Beginner's Guide to Nutrition Products

Things in life that are confusing include:

  1. The purpose of Ticks
  2. Toddler Behaviour
  3. Sports Nutrition

We can’t speak much to the first two items on that list but in this blog, we hope to shine some light on nutrition products for endurance activities such as Trail Running. Consider this a first step to understanding how to navigate and choose what is right for your body.

At River & Trail, we sell a handful of products from brands we know and trust. Namely Tailwind Nutrition, Skratch Labs, Nuun and GU Energy Labs. These will be highlighted throughout this blog.

Let’s get into it.

What are we talking about exactly? We are referring to supplements such as powders that you mix with water that aid with balancing electrolytes and providing energy during exercise. Seems simple enough until you realize how many options there are. There are powders, gels, chews, tablets and more. They all have different purposes - and within each of them are different brands, types and flavours.

Why do you need them? There are plenty of occasions when water and real food are, of course, the optimal choice. That being said, when you are expending a high amount of energy over a long period of time, incorporating something such as an electrolyte supplement have significant benefits. A couple of occasions when these are particularly helpful are during Ultra Trail Races and Multi-Day Hikes.

A Taste of the Science

As we exercise, particularly in hot weather, we lose electrolytes through sweat. We can also throw our electrolytes out of whack by drinking too much water - or not enough. Keeping your electrolytes balanced will help with maintaining your energy output as well as warding off some scary medical conditions that vary from nausea to hyponatremia. Basically, we need electrolytes for our body to function properly. Electrolytes are made up of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Brands like Tailwind Nutrition and Skratch Labs have done the hard part of figuring out the right amount that we need to take in during our activity.

In addition to electrolytes, you are likely also looking for a source of energy, or carbohydrates, and perhaps some caffeine. The caviot is finding something that is also easy on your stomach as you continue to push your limits on the trail. This is another key reason why supplements are needed vs. real food. Finding a balance and a schedule for your body's peak performance comes with time.

Without getting too much into the details, here's a quick overview of some of the products we carry:

Nuun Sport tablets are electrolytes and minerals for hydration.

Endurance Fuel from Tailwind or Hydration from Skratch provide a complete blend of electrolytes for hydration and carbs for energy.

GU Gels have a blend of carbohydrates for energy, electrolytes for hydration and BCAAs to help muscles.

GU Chews have some electrolytes (sodium), carbs and amino acids

Skratch Labs Chews are mainly a carb source, as well as some caffeine.

There is a lot more to it than this so if you’d like to dive deeper into the science of it all, we recommend you check out this article from Skratch and this one from Tailwind.

How do you choose between brands?

Ultimately, that comes down to your individual body and taste preferences. Tim McDonough, who has numerous ultras under his belt, gave the following insight.

Skratch flavours are generally sweeter and Tailwind tend to be more salty. While both are similar performance wise, Tim uses Tailwind more because that is what his stomach is accustomed to. Additionally, he adds that the gels are an easy and convenient option to keep in your pack or shorts. After several kilometres, a flavour like chocolate caramel can be a nice “treat”, as a bonus. Although, not everyone is a fan of the texture of gels so it’s worth testing it before you are in the middle of a big day.

It takes some Trial and Error

As always, race day is not the day to try something new. What you put into your body is a crucial component to training. You want your nutrition dialed in as much as your physical training. With all of this in mind, you can start experimenting with the small packs to determine what you enjoy and what your body responds to well. Once you’ve found your system, then you have options for purchasing in bulk.

You've probably noticed we've only covered Nutrition supplements to take during an activity. There's a whole other world of recovery mixes too - but that's for another day.

If you have further questions, visit us in store or send us a message.

Happy Tasting!