Dance students attend classes and rehearsals after already completing a long day at school. It is at the time when most people begin to experience the “afternoon slump” that dancers are expected to begin the next part of their day. Classes are starting and are often followed by rehearsals and require enormous amounts of energy. Eating intelligently will help dancers perform at their best and feel good while doing it.
It is imperative that dancers, who are expected to perform at their peak during the late afternoon and evening hours, make healthy eating choices throughout the day. Eating food every few hours helps maintain a constant metabolism (the rate at which the body converts food into energy) and keeps energy levels even. Eating a breakfast consisting of proteins and complex carbohydrates sets a healthy metabolic rate for the rest of the day. Dancers need to be mindful about what they eat for lunch since this meal will need to help sustain them through classes and/or rehearsals until they get a dinner break.
Healthy lunches containing complex carbohydrates could include:
sandwiches made with whole grain bread
whole grain pastas
fruit and yogurt smoothies with granola
While having a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch will stock the body’s energy stores, it is also important for dancers to have a snack between lunch and class to keep energy levels constant.
Snacks should be easy to digest but able to provide energy that will last throughout classes. Unfortunately, sometimes the easiest snacks to grab may not be the healthiest choices. Candy bars or fruit juices are high in sugar. Sugar is metabolized quickly by the body and used rapidly. High sugar snacks cause a spike in energy followed by a sudden drop in energy. Simple carbohydrates like white bread or crackers made from enriched flours are treated the same way as sugar. Fruit, although naturally high in sugar, is a healthier choice than fruit juice because the fiber in fruit is digested slowly and helps slow down the metabolic process.
It is also important for dancers to know that snacks that are high in fat content are not the healthiest choices. Snacks like doughnuts, potato chips, pepperoni and french fries are difficult to digest and could cause cramping. Because they are so difficult to digest, it will take a while before the body is able to turn them into energy.
Some healthy snack choices are:
whole grain crackers
trail mix containing whole grain cereals, nuts & dried fruits
apple with almond butter
After class and rehearsals are done, overworked muscles need protein to help repair muscle fibers and to help reduce soreness. Some healthy choices after intense workouts include:
peanut butter, graham crackers & bananas
meat or fish
Knowing how to fuel their bodies before, during and after class will help dancers keep their energy levels constant and even which allows the body to operate efficiently and optimally. Fueling the body efficiently is not difficult and will produce positive results. Making healthy choices is every dancer’s responsibility –ensuring that their instrument performs well and lasts a lifetime.