Nutrition for Dancers

by Sports Dietitian Clare Wood

Here is a question from a elite level dancer about nutrition.

Question

I was hoping you could please answer a question for me about nutrition ... I am a dancer and I work full time, I do 12 hours of dancing a week (ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary). On Saturdays I do 4.5 hours of dancing back to back. I never know how to prepare for these classes food-wise to keep myself alert, focused and hydrated. I make sure I drink plenty of water and I drink coconut water during class but what foods should I eat before after and for a snack during classes?

Answer

Thanks for your question. All dancers have differing needs depending on your size (weight and height) and desire to change weight, as well as your training/dancing load.

Making sure you get the right amount of calories and carbohydrates to sustain energy levels for your size is important.

You definitely need to consume some good quality carbohydrate foods before dancing. Try and have this as close to class time as comfortable on the stomach. Snacks like fruit, dried fruit, bread based options, or more meal oriented food (e.g. breakfast) like cereal milk, and fruit, or grain toast and eggs, cereal and yogurt.

For during, if it's a 4-5 hr session, I would be fitting in a small amount of liquid carbohydrates, like a sports drink, maybe juice or milk if tolerated, or an easy to eat piece of fruit if you can manage that. The coconut water is the perfect sports drink! You can buy pureed fruit in sachets these days which would be perfect.

For after ballet, I would be trying to get in your next meal as as soon as you can - if its meal time. Otherwise a good protein and carbohydrate snack, like yogurt, a smoothie, flavoured milk, or nuts and dried fruit mix, would be a great option, plus fluids of course!

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