March is National Nutrition Month. What does that mean for dancers?

Dancer Nutrition
Is this you?
•    Really don’t know good example of proteins, carbs, and fats
•    Go for long periods of time without eating or deliberately skip meals
•    Feel shaky and barely have strength to hold up arms and legs in class
•    Don’t drink much during the day
•    Believe that to keep body weight low you must eat very little

You’re not alone. It’s confusing. It’s difficult to find nutrition information geared to dancers.
Dancers need to eat! What you eat and the time of day you eat will affect your energy and strength levels.

Why should dancers eat? To fuel their bodies for:
•    Training (classes, rehearsals, performance) 
•    Periods of high-intensity and/or long duration
•    Recovery (post class/performance/injury)

There is a way to feed yourself to support your energy requirements, maintain strong bones and muscles, and keep your weight aligned for dancing. It takes planning. 

Don’t start the day on an empty stomach
o    Better suggestions: Oatmeal with ½ banana and raisins, hard boiled egg with multi grain toast and avocado😊

Eat small meals throughout the day, making sure you include protein and eat it first at every meal. Include an array of foods with healthy fat, and carbs
o    Get most of your nutrients from unprocessed and fresh food
o    Stop substituting energy/protein bars in place of food
o    Pack healthy snacks: String cheese, fruit, edamame, humous & carrot sticks

Limit fast foods
o    Most fast food is highly processed and packed with (bad) fats and sugar
o    Eat foods in their more natural form. If you can’t identify all the ingredients on the label, they’re probably processed

Drink water frequently throughout the day. Dehydration can happen quickly
o    Drink more water. Make your own drinks by adding natural ingredients like oranges or berries. It’s easy to do! 😊
o    Most coffee drinks from shops like Starbucks are tasty but loaded with sugar and calories
o    Limit drinks that seem healthy but are packed with hidden sources of sugar: Juice, sports drinks, Jamba Juice shakes, full fat milk, soda, coconut water ☹
o    Energy drinks have lots of chemicals and additives. Don’t waste your money!

Helpful Hints
Keep a food log and write down everything you eat and drink over 2 weeks. Note your activity and how you felt 😊
•    Listen to your body: How does your stomach react after you’ve eaten? 
•    Identify foods that may upset your stomach
•    Tune in to how you feel after you’ve eaten and when you feel energized or sluggish

Examples of dancer friendly foods packed with nutrients
•    Proteins: Fish, turkey/chicken white meat
•    Fats: Avocado, nuts (especially almonds, walnuts, and cashews) 
•    High carb foods: Whole grain pasta, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, corn, brown rice
American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine & Science Sports Exercise. 2009:709-731. 

 International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, May 2016.                    

Challis J, Stevens A. IADMS Dance Nutrition Resource Paper