Gel Power

The Lowdown on Portable Pick-Me-Ups

Energy gels: You’ve probably heard of them. The instant, long-lasting energy they provide sounds like a dream come true. But are these supplements really good for dancers? DS investigates. —Sarah Badger

The Good
+ Prone to stomach problems? Some gels, like GU, contain small amounts of chamomile and ginger, which can help soothe your digestive system.
+ The simple carbohydrates in gels will send glucose to your muscles and brain almost
immediately, while the abundance of complex carbs will keep you from crashing later.

The Bad 

Carb BOOM and some other gels may pack as many as 100 mg of caffeine into about 2 oz. of gel—the equivalent of an entire cup of coffee! So if you’re sensitive to this stimulant, read the label carefully.
While some brands, like Clif Shot, contain a small quantity of electrolytes, it’s still nowhere near enough to replace the amount you’ll lose in one dance class.

What the Expert Says 
Marie Scioscia, nutritional consultant for The Ailey School, cautions dancers about consuming energy gels. “They’re meant for endurance athletes, which dancers are to some extent, but not in the same way as a triathlete,” she says.

The bottom line
If you have a long day of performing during which you’re not stopping, then an energy gel could be appropriate. However, when you have time, choose real foods that combine protein and carbohydrates for long-lasting energy.

Tip: If you decide an energy gel is right for you, be sure to drink at least 8 oz. of water with each packet to prevent muscel cramps.

Marie’s Non-Gel Power Picks

  • A hard-boiled egg and a handful of baby carrots
  • A cup of yogurt and a piece of fruit
  • Half of a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of soy milk

Your Aches and Pains Addressed
: Patellar Tendinitis, aka Jumper’s Knee

You feel: A sharp pain between your kneecap and shinbone, especially while or after jumping.

Try an ice massage. Fill a small paper cup three-quarters of the way full of water and place it in the freezer. Once the water has frozen, peel away the top half of the cup and use the exposed ice to gently massage the painful area.

Stretch and strengthen your quadriceps. Tight and/or weak quads are big contributors to patellar tendinitis. Ask your teacher or doctor to suggest exercises to get your quads in tip-top shape. —Michael Anne Bailey

Ever lie on the couch to watch some dance videos with your laptop resting on your stomach? Check this out: Doctors at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina have found that this behavior can have some pretty serious side effects, including headaches, neck and shoulder pain and wrist pain, collectively called “laptop-itis.” When using your laptop, sit in a way that creates 90-degree angles at your elbows, hips and shoulders. —MAB


Did You Know?

Using hand sanitizer too often can be bad for your health. According to a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found that overexposure to triclosan, an ingredient in many hand sanitizers, can negatively impact your immune system. Yikes! The next time you want to de-germ after ballet class, turn to good old soap and water. You should only resort to hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t readily available.  —MAB
Feeling down? Give someone a compliment and then give yourself one, too, for an instant boost.

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