A Balanced Dancers Diet – Nutrition Guide
A Dancers body is our temple – it needs to be preserved
Dancers have this old school stigma (especially ballet dancers) that we live off coffee, cigarettes and energy drinks to keep our weight down but yet still have the stamina to move. Hmmmmmm…..I think if this was a fact there would not be one successful dancer alive as I’m pretty sure our bones would become too brittle to hold us up and all of our organs would start shutting down.
Dancers need proper nutrition to maintain their strength, stamina and everyday health as well in assisting in reducing the chances of injury. There’s no time to be sick or injured as a dancer with a lot of pressure needs to be present in technique class, rehearsals and shows. Even if you’re the best in class there is always that dancer standing next to you just waiting to replace you. Also, if you’re sick you are letting down your fellow dancers and company directors which then puts your job at risk or position in choreography at risk.
“A dancer’s diet should be composed of 55-60% carbohydrates, 12-15% protein and 20-30% fat, as well as many high vitamin carrying fruits and vegetables! During heavy training and rehearsals the amount of carbohydrates should be increased to about 65%. The reason is that carbohydrates are the major energy source in muscles.” (International Association for Dance Medicine and Science).
Before I continue I just want to make this clear, that I am not a certified nutritionist but I have been a dancer for almost 3 decades now and I have learned a few things about food and it’s benefits over time. I believe also it’s about balancing and trying to get all your nutrients and vitamins naturally consuming a variety of real, actual, bona fide food and by trying not to supplement. I know there are others out there that would disagree with me and believe you can get your energy from protein shakes, vitamin tablets and god forbid the forsaken “energy drink” and still be effective. However, I can testify over time, having a very stringent schedule as a choreographer, dance instructor and dancer that I have only eaten organically or naturally without any supplements in the last 4 years and have found this to be very beneficial with only 3 sick days and no injuries. I believe eating properly from veggie markets, local butchers and food shops is not only crucial for a dancer’s diet but also a lot easier on the ol’ bank account.
So lets talk about our food groups!
Carbohydrates are what give dancers their fuel for energy, which is why it’s at the highest percentage. However, it’s also important to know that it should be consumed at the appropriate times. For example the biggest portion should be consumed at breakfast, medium portion at lunch and a small portion at dinner. Again, it’s an old school idea that dancers should eliminate carbohydrates all together as it was believed to be fattening. This can be true if you are inactive, but when your actively dancing it is essential you include carbs in your diet. It’s also all about portion control and tracking how active you are on a day-to-day basis.
A good list energy boosting carbohydrates include: Rice (brown if possible), lentils, kidney beans, chick peas, potatoes, whole-wheat bread, oats (porridge), yoghurt, trim milk, pasta (whole-wheat is also better for you), beans and soy milk. I believe all vegetables and fruits add to this category as well as fresh or frozen as they hold the same nutritional value.
Protein is important for dancers as this is what stimulates the brain creating awareness. It helps in promoting alertness and assists in concentration as well as focus, which is crucial in a dancer’s performance. By combining protein and carbohydrates it will make you feel fuller for longer so it’s suggested to consume both of these food groups especially at breakfast or before long consistent hours of training. A list of recommended protein below include:
Eggs, skinless, chicken, fish, lamb, nuts/seeds, pork, lentils, tofu, avocado, yoghurt, peanut butter, milk, soymilk, cheese, lean red meat and grainy bread.
Fats Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are “essential” as this assists in functioning your brain, nerves and cells throughout the body. It also helps regulate inflammation and is most beneficial also sensible to increase during injury and muscle/joint recovery. Some of these include:
– Flaxseeds, salmon, walnuts, sardines, beef, soy beans, tofu, shrimp, brussel sprouts and cauliflower and avocado.
Fruits and Veges – This is the most important part of the dancers diet as we get most of our vitamins and minerals from fruits and veges. The recommendation by nutritionists is to have at least 5 different fruit and veges a day. And we are spoilt in Fiji to have an abundance of affordable organic fruits and veges at our markets. Veges rich in anti-oxidants to help in keeping the blood circulating and clean. If dancers consume plenty of vegetables and fruit (especially the most colourful ones) this will assist the body getting rid of toxins.
Hey! – Also it helps to avoid processed foods such as instant noodles, white bread and fizzy soft drinks, as these offer no nutritional value and no long term sustainable energy for the busy fabulous dancer.
Water – Drink lots of it. Hydrate, hydrate hydrate.
OK dancers! (And anyone who is wanting to be healthy in general) If you incorporate all of the above in your meal plans and snacks you will be guaranteed to have a healthy, happy, well-preserved body.
Finally, it is extremely important to REST!!!! When you get the opportunity to rest and sleep at least 8 hours a night, do it. Without rest all of the above is not as effective.
Conclusion: good nutrition = strong, healthy, intelligent dancers. Happy Eating!!!
Gina Janus – Choreographer, teacher and dancer August 2015
Gina is a Canadian choreographer, dance instructor and dancer from Vancouver, BC., Canada. She has been trained in contemporary, jazz, tap, modern, ballet and hip-hop in Canada, America, New Zealand and now Fiji. She is a graduate from Grant MacEwan Universities Dance Program in Canada graduating with honors and bursaries. She has also received the Grade 8 Ballet award in the Royal Academy of Dance Syllabus. Gina has choreographed works for prestigious festivals around the world including Canada’s Calgary Dance Explosions, Dance at Noon and Dance at Night. In New Zealand she was honored to have her work accepted into Tempo Dance Festival for the Fresh Cuts program and Tertiary Colors. Her work was also accepted into Fringe Festivals, Bang Bang Caravel. Gina was the Director of her company in New Zealand known as FUZE DANZE that showcased their first successful production in 2010 collaborating with Rhythm Interactive as well as Side Project. Gina started teaching at the age of 16 and has since freelance instructed in New Zealand, Canada and is now teaching for VOU Fiji. She is very excited and honored to belong with VOU now as their School Manager and also training and choreographing with the core company members.