Nutrition for Dancers
While proper nutrition won't make you a better dancer, poor nutrition will certainly hinder you. Obviously all vitamins and minerals are important, but as a dancer and an athlete, your nutritional needs differ from the needs of the average person. Here you will find important general nutritional information for dancers, but everyone is a little different, and your specific needs can only be determined through consultation with a trained nutritionist.
These are nutrients it is important you get on a regular basis. Consuming a lot of these nutrients at the last moment will not help you, so make sure you start now!
All athletes will be building muscle mass through practicing, and your body needs protein to use as the building blocks for that new muscle mass. Don't worry, you aren't going to become Mr Olympia from dancing, but building muscle in the right places is essential to be able to perform well.
To calculate how much protein you need, first find your weight in kilograms (for our North American friends, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to find its equivalent in kilograms). Next, depending on how active you are, multiply that number by a number from 0.8 to 1.8. The result is how many grams of protein you need per day. See the examples below.
- Edita weighs 55kgs, and exercises
vigorously every day of the week. 55
x 1.8 = 99
- Mirko weighs 80kgs, and never exercises, sitting at a desk job all day. 80 x 0.8 = 64
- Big Larry weights 100kgs, and exercises moderately 3 times a week. 100 x 1.5 = 150
Note: The body can only process 20-25g of protein at a time, and all the rest is converted to sugar. That means Big Larry should be spacing his protein out to six times per day.
There are eight different B Vitamins, all of which are used in the Krebs Cycle, which is a set of chemical reactions that occurs inside each cell for the purpose of releasing stored energy. As a dancer, you will be expending more energy than the average person, so depending on how much you practice, you may need twice as much B Vitamins as the average person.
B Vitamins are all water soluble, so if you end up consuming more than your body uses, the excess will be excreted in urine (usually turning it bright yellow).
Iron is used to help red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Especially important for cardiovascular endurance, enough iron in your body will allow you to keep dancing for longer without feeling out of breath. Only a blood test can accurately determine whether your iron levels are too low, too high, or just right.
The body's main source of fuel is glucose, which is a fancy name for sugar. You may have heard the term carbohydrates or starches used before, which abound in foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, and many other foods. When you eat carbohydrates, your body will break them down into glucose, at which point it becomes available for your body to use for energy. If you exercise after eating, your body burns that glucose as fuel. Extra glucose you don't burn is turned into fat, to be used later.
There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre is found in things like celery and corn, and helps clean out your digestive track, but soluble fibre is directly beneficial to exercise. When you eat a lot of carbs, your body will suddenly be filled with glucose, and usually you can't use it all up before your body starts to remove the glucose from your blood stream. That's where soluble fibre comes in. Soluble fibre slows the body's absorption of carbs, meaning your stomach will deliver a slow and steady supply of fuel to you for hours after you eat.
Drink water. Seriously.
After practice, it's important to consume three things to help your body recover: carbs, protein, and water. This is why many athletes follow practice chocolate milk or a protein shake, for example. Making sure to eat soon after ending your workout will not only help your body recover the energy stores it lost, but also help it rebuild itself to be stronger.