As a dancer, to perform at your best you need to have the right amount of ‘fuel’ on board for classes, rehearsals and performances.
A healthy diet will optimise your energy stores, enable you to train effectively, allow your immune system to fight off infections and illnesses as well as help you recover from injury.
To perform your best, dancers need to be well fueled for classes, rehearsals, and performance.
A huge challenge for dancers is not ingesting sufficient quantities of food to meet the energy demand of dance.
An easy estimate of caloric needs during heavy training for a female is 45-50 calories/kg of body weight (kg= lbs weight / 2.2 example: 100 lbs / 2.2 = 45.45 kg).
The caloric needs of a male are higher at 50-55 calories/kg body weight. While these are average estimates, each individual has different caloric needs based on a variety of factors.1
Consuming too few calories will compromise your energy availability and therefore may affect your ability to perform at your best.
Of course with low calories comes low intake of micronutrients which will also alter growth, performance, and overall health.
As an overview, the roles of the main nutrient groups are:
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Why? Energy from carbohydrates are a dancer’s best friend. A dancer should have a diet rich in whole grains and complex carbohydrates.
Fifty-five to 60 percent of their diet should be carbohydrates. Carbs are the main source of energy for any athlete because carbohydrates break down into glucose and quickly fuel muscles.
Without glucose, a dancer’s skills and strength would be compromised and the feeling of muscle fatigue would take over.
In addition to meals, a dancer should also ingest carbohydrates before, during, and after class or performance.
At least one hour before any activity begins a dancer should consume a quick energy carbohydrate to start glucose fueling.
During longer training sessions, you may want to consume a simple snack to help fuel you midway through class.
After rehearsal, refueling your energy stores with carbohydrates and protein will also be important. Sources of carbohydrates include whole-grain pasta, rice, beans, whole grain bread, and fresh fruit.
Omega Buns are a delicious and healthy flaxseed-based alternative to bread. In fact, Omega Buns are the only low-carb, USDA-certified organic bread on the market.
Why? Fat provides structure for all cell membranes, they are the insulating layer around nerves, and fats form the base of many of our hormones.
Healthy fats are needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and are used to fuel the muscles for energy. It is estimated that people need 1.2 grams of fat/kg of body weight.
Muscles and adipose (fat) tissue store fats called triglycerides. During exercise, triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids and produce energy for muscles to contract.
Fatty acids are very important during endurance activity such as dancing, where one is continuously exercising for over 20 minutes at a time.
Examples of healthy fats to include in the diet are nuts, nut butters, canola oil, olive oil, and avocado.
Why? Protein is extremely important for young dancers and all athletes whether the goal is to build muscle or not.
With constant use of muscles during competition and practices, protein is needed for building and repairing used muscle tissue.
Protein is also used as an auxiliary fuel when one doesn’t have enough of glycogen on board.
The estimated need for protein is 1.4 to 1.6 grams of protein/kg of body weight.
Healthy sources of protein include animal meats like chicken, fish, turkey, lean pork, or beef.
Vegetarian sources of protein are beans, quinoa, rice, and tofu. If you follow the recommendations above you are getting enough in your diet protein powders are not necessary.
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Dancers also can frequently forget about obtaining key micronutrients called vitamins and minerals, especially the B vitamins and Vitamin C (water-soluble vitamins) and Vitamins A, D, K, and E, which are fat soluble vitamins.
Our B vitamins are a part of energy production. The B vitamins don’t give the body energy but are used in the body to make energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These vitamins are also part of making red blood cells.3
Why? If you compromise your intake of these vitamins, you will compromise your performance over time.
Vitamins A, C, and E play a role in cleaning up damaged muscles that are overstressed and overused, while vitamins D and K play a role in healthy bone metabolism.
Calcium is a mineral used for bone growth. The most important years of bone development are the first 30 years of life --- which just happens to be the prime years for dancing.
Low bone density will result in increased chances of bone stress fractures. Iron is also a highly important nutrient for dancers, since iron is what our bodies use to carry oxygen to the blood.
Of course, oxygen is what we use to help our bodies produce energy.
Vitamins and minerals are found in a variety of foods: if you are eating balanced meals that include a mix of carbohydrates, fats and protein, you will get adequate nutrition and perform at your highest!
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Tip: Frozen fruits and veggies are a favorite! Not only are they budget-friendly, but these options are picked while in season- giving them a larger nutritional punch! They’re also just as nutritious as fresh fruits and veggies!
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Piquant Post takes advantage of two of the largest trends in food:
Do you want to become an expert on nutrition? Please see below a list of our recommended online courses:
Dance Nutrition: https://dancenutrition.com