Dancer's Diet: The Do's And Don'ts by Charlotte McCormick

“What can I eat to dance my best?” “How many calories do I need to lose weight?” “How much protein do I need to eat?” “What supplements do I need to take?”

To a dancer, diet goes hand in hand with how we look, feel, and perform. But how do we find out what's best for our body? We often get nutrition advice from our friends, family, teachers, studio owners, magazines, the internet- the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, few dancers have access to a professional nutrition expert that understands the dancer's special dietary needs. Here at DancePlug, our goal is to provide accurate nutrition information geared to the dancer's lifestyle.

Our bodies and brains run on fuel called glucose, which is another word for ‘sugar’.

DO eat a well-balanced diet of 3 meals plus 2-3 healthy snacks per day.

Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, lowfat dairy or calcium-fortified products, lean meat, fish, or vegetarian alternatives (soy, vegetable protein), and whole grains.

DON'T assume eating less will make you lose weight.

In fact, UNDEReating can slow your metabolism, deplete your energy level, and INCREASE body fat storage.

DO eat breakfast.

Our bodies and brains run on fuel called glucose, which is another word for ‘sugar’. In the morning, our fuel supply is low and needs to be replenished. A light breakfast that includes a starch, dairy, or fruit will bring glucose levels up and give you the energy you need to start the day.

DON'T skip meals.

If you find it difficult to eat before dance class, have at least a light snack of, for example, fruit and yogurt or crackers and hummus. After class, have another snack- perhaps a half or whole nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, tahini, soynut) sandwich and fresh or dried fruit or trail mix.

Taking too much of an individual vitamin or mineral supplement may do your body more harm than good

DO consider taking a daily multivitamin with minerals.

It's not always easy to get all the nutrients we need in a day. As a safe backup, taking a standard daily multivitamin with minerals ensures that you are getting the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance, or the amount scientific research has found to be safe and adequate for all healthy people, including athletes and dancers!). Two exceptions: research suggests that dancers (especially female) may benefit from calcium and iron supplements, though, if not enough of foods rich in these minerals are eaten daily.

DON'T OVERDO supplements.

Taking too much of an individual vitamin or mineral supplement may do your body more harm than good by interfering with your body's normal metabolism. Eating a well-balanced diet can provide all of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs.

DO drink fluids (preferably plain old-fashioned water) throughout the day to maintain adequate hydration.

Sports drinks, milk, coffee, and tea all contribute to your daily fluid intake.

DON'T drink a lot of soda, diet soda, or alcoholic beverages.

Both can deplete amounts of certain nutrients in your body. Excess soda intake affects bone health, while alcohol in excess of 1-2 servings per day for adults can potentially harm the body in a number of ways.

DO limit your intake of protein and/or energy bars/drinks.

It's okay to have them once in a while when access to less processed whole foods isn't available. Plan ahead! For instance, a peanut (or almond, cashew, soynut, etc) butter sandwich on whole wheat bread provides comparable nutrition and is far less expensive. Not to mention you'll be helping the environment by minimizing packaging waste.

DON'T rely on these supplemental foods to regularly replace meals or between-meal snacks.

Many are high in sugar and calories. Some contain high amounts of sugar alcohol (making them “low carb”) that can create discomfort (stomach upset, bloating, gas, etc).