What are the benefits of having good nutrition as a dancer? I’ve heard it time and time again: “I train a lot anyway so I’ll burn it all off eventually, I’ll be fine”. Well here’s a few things that could be enhanced by improving eating habits:
– Increased energy levels
– Better concentration
– Quicker recovery between sessions
– Build lean muscle
– Improved immune function = Less missed sessions due to illness
– Decreased incidence of injury
– Improved injury healing rate
– Improved cognitive function
Finding a diet that is nutritionally balanced and provides enough fuel is important for a long and successful dance career. In this article, I’ll provide simple and easily digestible (pun intended) information on how to create better daily habits that require little effort but make a huge difference in the long run. As an advocate for natural health I will use naturopathic concepts to provide nutritional information to enhance performance during your classes, battles and showcases.
ON TRAINING DAYS:
Eating a nutritious breakfast is very important for your vitality as it could determine your energy levels, concentration levels and is a great way to kick start your metabolism. As a dancer, it’s a big deal if you miss breakfast. The whole point of having breakfast is to BREAK THE FAST, as we usually eat several hours before sleep and then have a 6-12 hour sleep. Essentially, by missing breakfast you’re going 16-18 hours without food. Some of the side effects of missing breakfast include:
Remember when you wake up you’ve essentially just come out of a 6-12 hour fast. Skipping breakfast makes you more susceptible to cravings for sugary foods (quick fix to replenish low energy levels) and constant snacking throughout the day. To put it simply, the higher your hunger levels are, the higher the food quantity intake and this makes it easier to exceed your required calorie intake which could lead to weight gain.
Decreased energy levels = Bad mood
This is self-explanatory, if you don’t eat, people won’t like you. Seriously, there are several studies showing a direct link between poor breakfast nutrition and having a negative mood. In an industry where networking and creating relationships is so important, small changes such as eating breakfast could go far.
Can cause headaches
One of the bigger triggers for migraines is hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels). It is therefore very important to start your day with great fuel sources to keep your blood sugar levels consistent throughout the day.
Lowers cognitive function
Studies have shown direct links between energy levels and brain function. Skipping breakfast can have a dramatic effect on your energy levels which directly affects concentration, memory and co-ordination. Let’s face it who needs to concentrate or remember anything in their classes right?
So, we’ve worked out the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast, now let’s look at the types of things that will help you kick start the day in a positive way.
A balanced intake of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is a great way to kick off the day, as a good source of these will not only give you a morning boost but also help you maintain a steady level of energy. A steady level of energy will reduce cravings, mood swings and concentration lapses. One way to do this is to consume complex carbohydrates. Here are a few examples:
– Rye bread
– Wholemeal or multigrain bread
– Green vegetables
Contrary to popular belief, eating fats is a great way of maintaining a lean physique and staying healthy. Fats are important for brain function, healthy gut function, hormone balance, organ health, nutrient absorption and to prevent heart disease. Fats are also a great source of energy which will help boost dance performance by providing a high amount of energy that’s gets released slowly. This means maintaining good levels of energy for longer which will prevent snacking and sustain performance levels. A combination of both animal and non-animal fats is the best way to source these fats and here are some examples:
– Whole eggs
– Oily fish e.g. salmon
– Chia seeds
– Coconut oil
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Dark chocolate
– Full fat yoghurt
Finally, I will outline the benefits of having a good amount of proteins. Proteins are important for athletic performance as well as general health. Proteins are an important component in tissue repair. This means they are important for recovery as they are the main component in building and repairing muscle, bones, ligaments, tendons and skin. It is therefore very clear why a good amount of proteins is important in the diet of a dancer. Proteins are also important for general health as they are important to produce hormones and other chemicals in the body. For anyone who has a plant based diet it is essential that you get protein from a wide range of sources because some plant food sources do not contain all the required proteins for a healthy diet. Look to consume a wide range of plant based proteins to ensure a balanced spectrum of protein consumed. Its best if you gain protein from both animal and plant sources and here are some examples:
– Fortified plant based milk
– Soy beans
– Chia seeds
– Cocoa powder
These lists are by no means exhaustive. These nutrients can be sourced from a variety of foods. When making your breakfast, you should keep in mind to keep your plate balanced.
The recommended amounts are:
– Carbohydrates: 45-65%
– Proteins: 10-35%
– Fats: 20-35%
These are simply recommended levels; you can play with the levels per how they suit you as it is your body and you know it best. It is very essential that you eat food that you enjoy as it will be easier to maintain and will feel effortless. The journey of finding your balanced diet is a great adventure so allow yourself to experiment and get creative. Be open to suggestions and research well from credible sources and go wild with your creations!