Photo by Quinn Wharton

How can I wean myself off my coffee fix without experiencing headaches and crankiness that will disrupt my rehearsal process? —Lauryn

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Inside PT
Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet

This time of year, we're used to seeing dancers embodying the flavors of The Nutcracker's magical Land of Sweets. But the real-life equivalents of those seasonal treats are more than just holiday guilty pleasures, and have benefits that could help you get through a crazy month of performances. Here are a few reasons to indulge in the spices and flavors of the season—now, and all year long.

Peppermint: This powerhouse herb has an abundance of benefits to help you get through a busy performance season. It's been known to aid digestion and help calm anxiety, and one study found that inhaling its vapors may improve athletic performance. Smelling peppermint has also been found to increase focus. You don't just have to get it from candy canes: Try brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea between rehearsals, or to wind down after a long day.

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We've talked about the benefits of caffeine many times before. It can boost your short term memory and improve your physical performance. But drinking coffee has always come with a warning: Just a few cups can lead to dehydration.


New studies, though, might change all that. Researchers have found that moderate coffee consumption (four or fewer cups a day) may actually hyrdate enough to count toward your daily fluid intake. Should you sip on a cup of joe between barre exercises? Probably not. But don't feel guilty about that pre-class Starbucks.

We all know that a cup of coffee can provide a much-needed energy boost during a long day of dance. And several studies from the past few months have reiterated that caffeine can improve athletes' performance in endurance activities. According to research from St. Mary's University in the UK, the thought is that caffeine increases the frequency or size of neural transmissions and helps to suppress pain.

However, guzzling too much joe can lead to a host of side effects that you won't want to deal with. In some people, even small amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety, sleeplessness and restlessness. And many brands of coffee have much more caffeine than the average 100 mg per cup. So while coffee might help you power through that long rehearsal, it's still no substitute for taking care of your body in other ways, like staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and eating well.

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