Sweet 'n' salty treats for athletes

Don't ask me how I know this, but Swedish Fish taste much better after they've been sitting in your bra for 20 minutes.

Such are the priceless life lessons one acquires while rocketing through the Sweets & Snacks Expo, a sort of alternate candy universe where milk chocolate flows from sky-high fountains, open vats of gummy bears reach for you with outstretched arms and giant Peeps sneak up and embrace you. This week, I joined 14,000-plus "kids" in the candy store in sampling all things sweet and salty. My goal: investigate the functional foods claiming to give athletes and hardcore exercisers a performance-enhancing boost. Check out my booty (ha!) and our take on whether you should shoot ... or pass.

Big League shredded beef jerky. The mastication-obsessed former Yankees pitcher behind Big League Chew has replaced bubble gum with red meat. Tagline: "Something to chew, but nothing to spit." Beef jerky is sky-high in protein and low in fat.

Shoot or pass? Shoot. Just don't spit.

Quench Gum. The key ingredient: citric acid to prevent cottonmouth, a surefire performance-sapper. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, R.D., the author of "The SuperFoods Rx Diet," said the gum's "pucker effect" might remind you to stay hydrated. Research also shows chewing gum may help athletes reduce stress and boost focus. "But sugar alcohols might give you the runs," Brazilian said, "and I don't mean better athletic advantage."

Shoot or pass? Shoot -- but don't forget to hydrate!

Zips Energy Seeds. Sunflower seeds -- heart-healthy and loaded with antioxidants, protein and fiber -- get a savory dusting of caffeine, taurine (an amino acid often used in energy drinks) and other unpronounceable mojo-enhancing ingredients. Though ancient Greek Olympians were said to have fueled up on seeds and nuts, I doubt they had to deal with getting glucuronolactone stuck between their teeth.

Shoot or pass? Pass. Regular sunflower seeds are fine on their own, and probably less pricey.

Chick-O-Stick. Undefeated mixed martial arts fighter Jessica Eye was touting this old-time concoction of peanut butter, coconut and sugar as "a great after-workout snack because it brings my glycogen levels up and renews my energy." Look, I'm not going to challenge this chick, but any candy will hike your blood sugar. You'd be better served with a combo of carbs and protein.

Shoot or pass? Pass ... but I am not saying that to Eye's face.

Leslie's Shoot or Pass column will appear every other Thursday. Up next: The hottest --and most ridiculous -- retro fitness trends.

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