Energy Boost

April 24, 2018

In 2011, members of the men’s soccer team at Drexel University told students and staff at the College of Nursing and Health Professions that they were taking a squirt of honey for extra energy at halftime. When Nyree Dardarian, MS, RD, LDN, Assistant Clinical Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNP) at Drexel, measured the team’s honey after a game they found that each player ingested about 10 grams—not nearly enough for the boost they needed.

According to an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer, that set the ball in motion for a new way to fuel the team. Dardarian and her team of nutrition interns wanted to find a carbohydrate-rich snack that would be tasty, easy to chew, and easy to package.

After spending a few years testing flavors and consistencies, the newly made Dragon Gels were ready to roll. The blue raspberry-flavored gels are made from a mixture of gelatin, filtered water, fructose, glucose, blue powder that is like sugar and has the berry flavor, along with a couple other ingredients.

Carbohydrates are the only nutrient that crosses the blood-brain barrier, and sugar is the most efficient way to get energy into the bloodstream. Each of the Dragon Gels has 36 grams of carbohydrates and 149 calories, along with one gram of protein.

The nutritionists with Drexel’s department of athletics work with student-athletes to determine how much of a gel they should consume. They are always taken with water to help deliver the carbohydrates.

Although there aren't plans to expand marketing to the public, Drexel’s student-athletes aren’t the only ones using Dragon Gels. The Philadelphia Union soccer team has been using them since 2015.

“They are not heavy on my stomach,” Captain Alejandro Bedoya, a midfielder, said. “I tend to take them at halftime to give me that extra energy and I feel like that has helped me.”

Students in the CNP make the Dragon Gels in the CNP Metabolic Lab Kitchen, averaging between 300 and 500 gels per week based on demand. One batch consists of 36 squares and takes about 20 minutes to make. Moving forward, they are hoping to experiment with more flavors, such as strawberry or sour watermelon if the nutrient level checks out.

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