Our bodies are made up of about 50-70% water. Therefore, Water is arguably the most important nutrient required by the body for good health, and for maximising performance. Many dancers do pay attention to their nutrition to maintain strong, healthy and lean bodies, but it is very easy to overlook water intake and how vital it is as a dietary requirement. Water has several vital roles in the human body and these include:
– Removal of waste products
– Temperature regulation
– Maintenance of healthy bowel
– Transportation of nutrients
– Electrolyte balance
During exercise, the tendency is to replace water with caffeinated drinks, or we forget to drink water. This is a double-edged sword as not only is the intake of water limited but the caffeinated beverages are diuretics. This means that not only do they increase the formation of urine, but diuretics also block the kidneys ability to reabsorb certain electrolytes which means they are passed with the water in urine. This could lead to dehydration and increase the chances of getting muscle cramps.
Fluid replacement and exercise performance
There are several good studies done about the effects of dehydration and rehydration on exercise. It’s been found that drinking plain water in small amounts can extend exercise duration and the use of flavoured water could prevent a decrease in performance. Simply put, it is very important to consume fluids during & in-between classes/ training sessions to maintain performance and keep you fresh for longer.
When choosing what and when to drink, you need to consider how long your class/ training session or performance is:
Less than 30 minutes duration
– The main goal is minimal interference to competition performance
– It is recommended you begin these sort of classes or performances in a well hydrated condition
– Drinking fluids with carbohydrates during exercise of less than 30 minutes will not benefit performance as they will not become available to the body in the timeframe.
– It will still be beneficial to take small sips of fluids to avoid dry mouth and to keep yourself cool.
30-60 minutes session
As we discussed previously, it is very important to listen to your body, as there are no set guidelines that apply to everyone as we are all different. It is vital to understand that some people sweat, utilize fluid from their stomachs, and generally absorb fluids and carbohydrates at different rates. Here are a few tips to consider when preparing for this duration of exercise:
– Remember the main concern is fluid intake with some sort of carbohydrate delivery.
– Have a plan on when you will have a drink during breaks in classes or performance. This means having your drink easily accessible.
– Make sure that your drink is cool as this will have a positive effect on performance.
– Make sure your drink tastes nice and provides some sort of carbohydrates (I will discuss examples later in this article).
– Drinking regularly will make it easier for your body to access and utilize the fluid effectively.
– It is important that you begin drinking early in your classes as it is better to maintain hydration than to try and reverse the effects of dehydration.
1-3 hours session
– The main concern for this duration of exercise is fluid placement plus carbohydrate delivery
– It is extremely important it is to begin exercise in a well hydrated state.
– Begin drinking fluid early in your class/ training session and maintain regular intake throughout the whole session.
– Make sure your drink is nice and cool
Be very careful on how much carbohydrates are in your drink. When the concentrations are higher it reduces the rate at which your body accesses and utilizes water. Monitor yourself, and if you’re showing signs of thirst such as dry mouth, water might be better, however if you are feeling tired then you’re better off having a flavoured/ sugary drink.
With this duration of exercise, you could also benefit from having drinks that will replace electrolytes (examples to follow).
As with nutrition fluid needs vary from person to person. My recommendation is to have a bottle of water and a sports drink with you. To avoid dehydration, experts recommend that an average person should consume around 2 litres or 8 glasses of fluid every day, with at least half of this to be in the form of water. Specifically, to dancers, they will require more fluids per day due to the loss through dance classes and performances. Remember that sugary drinks will be digested slower than plain water.
Planning to consume enough fluids starts with packing a bottle in your bag so that you can guarantee having some form of regular fluid intake throughout the day. Your aim should be to rehydrate before, during and after classes or performances, to keep your bodies operating at their peak! Below are a few examples of natural drink recipes to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Energy Boost- great before exercise
handful of raspberries
3 slices of pineapple
ice cubes & water to your preferred consistency
Refreshing Energy Drink – good to have during classes/performances
1 litre of water
1 cup of strawberries
½ tbsp. cinnamon
juice from 1 lime
Citrus & Coconut energy drink – good to boost energy and replenish electrolytes to reduce chances of cramps.
½ cup of coconut water
½ cup coconut milk
5-6 ice cubes
Berry Citrus Energy Drink – refreshing drink during exercise
1 litre of water
1 cup of mixed berries
Juice from 1 lime
4-5 mint leaves
Natural Electrolyte drink – Good for extended periods to reduce chances of cramps
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups of raw coconut water
2 tbsp. of organic honey or maple syrup
2 pinches of Himalayan pink salt (contains plenty good minerals)
A simpler alternative- when short of time
330ml of coconut water or regular water
2 pinches of Himalayan pink salt