Being a dancer is physically demanding so what you eat and drink is incredibly important. What you eat and drink will affect how well you rehearse and perform. Optimum nutrition will keep you well fuelled, in shape, healthy, hydrated, focused and alert but most importantly safe! As a dancer, if you have below average nutrition it may leave you at risk of injury, lacking concentration, sore, unable to develop new muscle and in less than ideal physical shape.
See my top 4 tips below to ensure optimum nutrition for dancers:
1. Include a carbohydrate rich food at each meal & snack:
Carbohydrates provide your body with energy, they can help to prevent fatigue while dancing and can also aid in recovery. Carbohydrates are a source of fibre as well as other vitamins and minerals that are important for health.
Foods that are a source of carbohydrates include:
- Bread, wraps, crackers
- Starchy vegetables: potato, sweet potato & corn (peas, pumpkin, carrot & beetroot contain moderate carbohydrates)
- Pasta, noodles, rice, couscous, quinoa
- Cereals, oats, muesli
- Dairy foods: milk, yoghurt & cheese
Be sure you are including a carbohydrate rich fuelling food at each meal and snack.
2. Include a protein rich food at each meal (particularly after dancing):
Protein is important for muscle growth but also for muscle maintenance and repair. Including some protein at each meal will also help to keep you satisfied, so you will be less likely to over eat throughout the day.
Foods that are a source of protein include:
- Lean meat: beef, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, ham
- Dairy foods: milk, yoghurt, cheese
- Plant based sources of protein: chickpeas/legumes, nuts/seeds, tofu/tempeh, edamame (soy beans), felafel, TVP, nut meat, Quorn products etc
3. Include a source of healthy fats each day:
Healthy fats help to keep your joints healthy and lubricated, as a dancer this is very important! By including some healthy fats each day it will provide essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Omega 3 fatty acids are good for the immune system and also have anti-inflammatory effects. Healthy fats are found in avocado, fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna etc), nuts and seeds as well as most plant-based oils (for e.g. olive oil, macadamia oil, sunflower oil etc). It is also important to limit your intake of saturated fats e.g. processed meat, snack and take-away foods as this can assist in controlling body fat but also keeps your heart and cholesterol levels healthy
4. Include 3 or more serves of calcium rich foods each day:
Calcium is important to keep your bones, teeth and muscles strong and healthy. You may be at risk of a calcium deficiency if you have low/restrictive energy intake, following restrictive diets or avoiding dairy products. This can lead to reduced bone density (osteopaenia) and stress fractures – a dancer’s worst nightmare! To ensure you are not at risk of calcium deficiency you should be including 3 or more serves of calcium rich foods each day.
One serve of dairy counts as a calcium rich food:
- A tub of yoghurt (approx. 200g)
- A glass of milk (250mL)
- Small glass of high calcium milk (e.g. PhysiCAL)
- 2 tubs of Le Rice or Fruche
- 2 slices of cheese (40g)
- 1 cup custard (200g)
- Up & Go Poppa
- 250mL calcium fortified soy milk (be sure to check your soy, almond, rice, oat, coconut milk etc as many are not fortified with calcium)
Dairy is the best absorbed form of calcium, however, some other sources include; 100g salmon (with bones), 200g sardines, 150g tofu (half serve calcium), 100g cottage cheese (quarter serve calcium) and 135g ricotta cheese.
Optimum nutrition for dancers is about:
- Consuming enough energy to meet your individual needs
- Including a variety of foods each day
- Ensuring you include adequate carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats each day
- Consuming at least 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables each day
- Ensuring enough iron, calcium and other nutrients from intake
- Drinking adequate fluid
- Having a healthy attitude towards your body, food and eating
If you’re a dancer and are concerned that you may have below average nutrition, or you are struggling with any of the above be sure to contact one of our dietitians today, we’d be happy to help!