Get Energized: 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
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