Food & Dance
Every professional dancer I have had the pleasure to work with as a dance colleague or ballet master. All have probably tried every possible food combination to help fuel up the body energy before a dance performance. I can speak for my self, chocolate, coffee, protein bars and the list goes on! When a dancer has a long national or international tour, hard performances, evenings out after a performance, training every day. It all adds up! So to find the right food and to go with it the right timing, developing the right combinations, portions, and understanding food’s nutritional content. I believe and have heard from others one should eat small meals, and always try to keep carbohydrates in ones daily diet. carbohydrates would be whole wheat bread, pasta and brown rice.
Some companies I have worked in have nutritionists coming in time-to-time who basically say the same thing, especially if a dancer has a heavy performance schedule. Most would say one should eat at least six small meals a day. Adding such things as protein bars or shakes, nuts, or turkey sandwich with brown bread pasta. The best is to eat something at least two hours before a performance. Or if you not up to eating before because of nerves. You should have a protein shake. I have known some dancers to eat in the break protein bars or bananas. Come to think of it, Bananas are potassium-rich so they help prevent cramping.
On that note, one should always; whatever the circumstances keep hydrated. Keeping hydrated also prevents one from risk of injury. If you imagine a dry flower how easy it is to break, that is the same for our muscles. So I would say some thing that gives you energy and keeps you hydrated. Soups are good with noodles for example, cereals with warm milk. I know it’s hard, but one should eat most of their food in the morning. Now I hear you all say “before class, never.” True, but something before class is important, then in the break between class and rehearsal. Then if possible a big lunch and small snacks up to the performance. Whole grain toast with peanut butter and honey at breakfast—and he’s adamant about not skipping that first meal. “Don’t make the mistake of having your system work on no fuel. You’ll run the risk of overeating, having no energy, or eating improperly later on.”
Try to eat when you’re hungry. Eat smaller amounts and eat better. I know from experience very often I would eat nothing all day, and at the end of the day eat a lot of heavy food. Not such a good idea.
The main reason one talks about eating whole foods not white bread, white rice, and other junk foods. Is because they break down so quickly. Its true you do get a rush of energy but it only last about 15 minutes. Then mostly one is hungry again. Things like brown pastas, brown bread and brown rice. They stay in your system for a few hours, and continue to feed you energy.
Then not to for get the good fats such as olive oil, or fats from some fish. Regardless what many people say they are very good for dancers. They break down very slowly and help protect your heart. Dancers need non-processed foods, some healthy fats, and adequate protein to replace muscle tissue that’s being broken down.
I think more dance companies and schools should offer workshops on nutrition. Lets face it there is life after dance. Stay strong healthy and most of all fit for your performances.