Dance revolves around significant technical, physical and aesthetic components. Because dancers are continually required to perform at the top of their abilities, proper nutrition and fueling of the body is essential. Dancers need to consume diets adequate in calories to support the demands placed on the body. Those calories should come from healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins and fats. Learning when and what to eat during the day is also imperative to a healthy diet for dancers.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This meal will determine your energy level for the rest of the day. Consuming a larger breakfast that is high in complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat will keep you feeling fuller longer and energized until your next meal. An example breakfast would be scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, low-fat yogurt and an orange.
If you are dancing throughout the day and eat a very early breakfast and late lunch, you should consider eating a mid-morning snack. To adequately fuel your body, try eating smaller meals every three hours. This will keep you from feeling fatigued before your lunch hour arrives. An energizing snack would be an apple with peanut butter, an energy bar, crackers and cheese, yogurt, or fig bars. Choose something that has healthy carbohydrates, protein and is low in fat.
For a dancer, lunch can be a difficult meal to plan. You will want this meal to be satisfying, yet not too filling to avoid after-lunch fatigue and/or stomach distress. Choose foods that are easy to digest, but high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. A good lunch might be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread and some grapes, or a pasta dish accompanied by a piece fruit. Don't forget to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. According to the joint position statement developed by the American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association and the Dietitians of Canada, proper hydration significantly affects performance. Have a light sports drink with your lunch to help fuel your muscles, maintain blood glucose, maximize performance and reduce recovery time.
If you eat an early lunch and late dinner, you might consider eating a snack between these meals. Again, your goal is to consume smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals, to keep your body properly fueled. A similar snack to your mid-morning snack would work well here. Some other examples might be a piece of fruit and low-fat yogurt, or carrots dipped in hummus.
Dinner is a meal important for dancers in that it prepares their bodies for the next day's work. If you have a long training or performance day ahead, what you eat the night before will supply your muscles with the energy they need. Again, choose foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, which provide energy; lean protein, which helps repair damaged muscles tissue; and healthy fats, which help your body function at an optimal level. A good dinner would be spaghetti with meat sauce, whole-wheat bread, broccoli and low-fat milk. Another dinner for those who don't eat meat would be a tofu vegetable stir-fry with brown rice and low-fat milk.