Energy Drinks: Extreme Move?

January 21, 2007

Energy drinks like Red Bull, Rock Star, Monster, and Amp fall into the category of performance enhancers. Weekend athletes often use them. But while all dancers are athletes, all athletes are not dancers. Performing choreographed steps demands the fine-tuned articulation of many aesthetic ideas.



A great sports performance enhancer does not necessarily translate to an art form that requires musicality and emotional nuance. In addition to caffeine and sugar, each drink has its own particular formula, often a mix of guarana, ginseng, and B-complex vitamins. (Guarana is a berry found in the Amazon that essentially is a stimulant like caffeine, but longer acting.) What happens if you take all of them at once? Amy Seiwert, a dancer with San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet, tried an energy drink before a performance recently and found it had an effect like very strong coffee that made her jittery. She also had trouble winding down afterwards, which proved a problem because she had a double show the next day. To top it off, she disliked the intense chemical after-taste. “I wouldn’t drink one again,” she says.


Of course, it’s tempting to rev up before a performance, not to mention a challenge keeping energy up during a dancer’s typical start-stop day, but there are ways to do it naturally. The true energy producers are hydration, good nutrition, replacing your electrolytes and carbohydrates, and sleep. Fluids are key. All dancers require extra hydration throughout the day. Even a two percent loss of our body’s fluid content (we are 75 percent fluids) can cause mental fogginess. Dancers also need to replace their carbohydrates. Rest, too, is all-important. In deep sleep the body heals itself from daily physical and mental strains.

Here are some ways to stay energized.


Drink at least one glass of water when you first get up, and eat at least a bit of carbohydrate-rich food, like a few bites of banana, to raise your blood sugar. If you tend to have low blood sugar, have a little soy milk or yogurt to get your system started. Plan on having several similar snacks during the day.


Make sure you drink fluids frequently, about four-to-six cups a day. Pediolyte makes a better replacement drink than commercial sports drinks, because it’s made with dextrose, which helps keep fluids in your muscle fiber. Also eat or drink a little carbohydrate-rich snack, like fruit juice or an energy bar, within 15 minutes of class or rehearsal. Then eat a more carbohydrate-rich meal, such as pasta, to replenish your muscle sugar storage after performing. If you have trouble eating solid meals in the middle of a heavy rehearsal or performance schedule, drink Ensure, SlimFast, or Carnation Instant Breakfast.


What to do in a pinch? The overture is playing and you have five minutes to go on. Stick with tried-and-true. Drink two-to-four ounces of water; maybe mix in an Emergen-C vitamin packet. Eat light, like a few bites of an energy bar. If you need a boost, green tea is an excellent caffeine source. Don’t drink too much near your entrance, so you don’t have to run to the bathroom right before it.


Through trial and error, each dancer finds what works best to keep her energy flowing. You need to discover the “golden foods” that your system responds to well and quickly. Remember, though, the most potent energy source is your own adrenaline. It comes from your state of mind as much as what you put in your mouth. It’s up to you to make sure what you combine with it won’t send you over the edge.