Nutrition for Dancers – The Basics

If you have a dancer in the household that spends an average of 3-4 hours dancing several times a week, even dancing after a full day of school and then still having homework to get done before bed, then you know how important getting meals into them [dancer] is. Fueling the body of a dancer isn’t always an easy task, but it’s important.

To perform at their best, dancers need to be well fueled for classes, rehearsals, and performance. A huge challenge for dancers is not ingesting sufficient quantities of food to meet the energy demand of dance. Consuming too few calories will compromise your energy availability and of course with low calories comes low intake of micronutrients that will alter performance, growth, and overall health. An easy estimate of caloric needs during heavy training for a female is 45-50 calories/kg of body weight (kg= lbs weight / 2.2 example: 100 lbs / 2.2 = 45.45 kg). The caloric needs of a male are higher at 50-55 calories/kg body weight.

Our bodies require two different types of nutrients in order to survive and function: macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Important: Always consult your doctor for any special considerations (ie allergies, dietary restrictions) when dealing with diet and nutrition.

 

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Carbohydrates – A dancer should have a diet rich in whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Fifty-five to 60 percent of their diet should be carbohydrates. Carbs are the main source of energy for any dancer because they break down into glucose and fuel your muscles. Without glucose, a dancer’s skills and strength would be compromised and the feeling of muscle fatigue would take over. In addition to meals, a dancer should also ingest carbohydrates before, during and after class or performance. At least 1 hour before any activity begins a dancer should consume a quick energy carbohydrate like fresh fruit to start fueling their bodies for class.

Fats – Fats are also very important as they provide structure for all cell membranes, act as insulation around nerves and form the base of many of our hormones. Healthy fats are needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and used to fuel our muscles for energy. It is estimated that we need 1.2 grams of fat/kg of body weight. Muscles and adipose (fat) tissue store fats called triglycerides. During dance, these triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids and produce energy for muscles to contract. These fatty acids are very important during endurance activity such as dancing where you are continuously exercising for over 20 minutes at a time. Healthy fats to include in your diet are nuts, canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.

Protein – Protein is extremely important for young dancers whether your goal is to build muscle or not. With constant use of muscles during competition and practices, protein is needed for building and repairing used muscles tissue. Protein is also used as an auxiliary fuel when you don’t have enough of the glycogen on board. The estimated need for protein is 1.4 to 1.6 grams of protein/kg of body weight. Healthy sources of protein include animal meats like chicken, fish, turkey, lean pork or beef. Vegetarian sources of protein are beans, quinoa, rice, and tofu.

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Micronutrients

Dancers can also forget about obtaining key micronutrients called vitamins and minerals. B vitamins and vitamin C which are water-soluble vitamins and vitamin A, D, K and E which are fat soluble vitamins. Our B vitamins are a part of energy production. They don’t give you energy but are used in the body to make energy from our carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
These vitamins are also part of making red blood cells. If you compromise your intake of these vitamins, you will compromise your performance over time.  Vitamins A, C, and E play a role in cleaning up damaged muscles that are over-stressed and overused.

Calcium is a mineral that is used for bone growth. The most important years of bone development is in your first 30 years of life which just happens to be the prime years for dancing. Low bone density will result in increased chances of bone stress fractures. Iron is also a highly important nutrient for dancers since it is what our bodies use to carry oxygen to the blood. And of course, oxygen is what we use to help our bodies produce energy.

Vitamins and minerals are found in a variety of foods and if you are eating balanced meals, you will get adequate nutrition and perform at your highest.

Elan Dance Arts (EDA) offers dancers a new level of dance training through programs that are not offered anywhere else in the city. Starting from ages 2.5 to adults whether it’s for certified examinations or simply for health, fun and recreation, we’re the studio for you! EDA is the only ADAPT certified studio in the SouthWestern Ontario area.
We specialize in educating students using the distinguished Associated Dance Arts for Professional Teachers (ADAPT) syllabus created by Brian Foley, one of Canada’s most renowned dance teachers, directors and choreographers. ADAPT offers yearly examinations in the dance disciplines of Tap and Jazz. The syllabus teaches a strong solid technical foundation, along with artistic expression preparing students to enter the dance profession.
At EDA we strongly believe that Dance as an art form is one of the most beautiful and exciting experiences one can have in life. We are highly devoted and dedicated to the process of the development and popularization of dance activities among people of all ages. We are also fully committed to providing our students with the highest level of education.