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Dance Talk: Top 10 Nutrition Tips for Dancers

Originally researched and written by Val Schonberg of EnlightenU Nutrition Counseling. Summarized below by Richelle Stevenson. Read the full article here

Do you train in nutrition with the same deliberation you train en pointe? Dancers often put a great deal of focus on how they use their bodies but not enough focus on what fuels it. For example, do you notice how much water you drink before, during and after each class? Or regularly pack a snack for both before rehearsal and on your drive home? This article dives into key concepts every dancer needs in to be strategic with nutrition. The author is a licensed dietitian and sports dietetics specialist with a background in the performing arts. I've summarized my favorite 3/10 of her tips below. Be sure to read the full article and see the additional resources for more information!

1) Plan ahead. Like many specialists in this profession, this author recommends dancers eat 3 regular meals with 1-2 snacks each day. This can be difficult and it is often easier to curb hunger with a coffee instead, but "skipping meals/snacks affects performance and concentration... [and usually] leads to overeating and increased cravings for sugary treats." Intentionally planning your food and packing intentional snacks will increase your energy and focus throughout the day, which are two things every dancer can use during rehearsal. 2) Strategic carbohydrates. This author recommends consuming at least 2 to 3 carbohydrate choices each meal since carbohydrates are the main energy source for muscles. Instead of grabbing a dinner roll to meet this requirement, however, I recommend finding a nutrient rich source such as fruits, vegetables and dairy or dairy substitutes. Try loading your salad with a whole grain or handful of fruit; or perhaps a glass of almond milk on the side of your breakfast. Ensuring your body has enough carbohydrates accessible will go a long way during a long dance day. Intentionally selecting your carbohydrates to have phytonutrients (plant nutrients) and healthy proteins and fats is an extra bonus to give your body everything it needs to perform its best. 3) Healthy fats. Consuming healthy fats, in moderation at each meal helps satisfy hunger and is a secondary energy source for extended performances. Fats are vital for brain development and help to sustain energy during long training sessions. The author includes these examples of how to add nutritional fats to your meals: "add flaxseed with oatmeal or a smoothie in the morning; avocado slices with a sandwich at lunch; and, chicken breast or tofu sauteed in olive oil for an evening stir fry."

Read the full article for sample meals, snacks and post workout recovery too! Check out the clinician's corner below for an exclusive recipe from professional dancer and vegetarian, Katie Bittner.

Additional Resources: Nutrition for Dance Nutrient Timing

Clinician's Corner

The Secret of Seitan

Katie Bittner

As a vegetarian, I am constantly searching for nutritious sources of protein to keep me going. I have tried (and love) all kinds of protein sources aside from meat, but my favorite discovery is seitan. Seitan in its purest form is just wheat gluten. You can find it in many forms- large chunks for slicing and baking/frying, shreds, and crumbles- you can also find it seasoned or plain. Upton’s brand is my go-to.

Crockpot Vegan Mexican Layered Dip:

Ingredients: 10-12 oz Brussels Sprouts (Either frozen or fresh) 2 Yellow Onions 16 oz Seitan (Upton’s Chorizo seasoned crumbles) 1 Can Vegan Refried Beans (most brands are vegan, but some are flavored with lard) 1 Can Kidney or Pinto Beans ⅓ Cup Oat Milk 1 Package Vegan Cornbread Mix (Jiffy vegetarian mix is my favorite) 3 oz Vegan Cheese (Daiya is my favorite) 1 Packet Reduced Salt Mexican Seasoning Mix Directions: Shred or chop brussels sprouts and onions into small pieces Saute in a pan with a little oil and half of the seasoning mix until well softened Prepare cornbread mix- leave egg out and use oat milk instead of cow’s milk Add other half of seasoning mix to refried beans and stir well Layer brussels sprouts and onions, seitan, refried beans, other beans, followed by cornbread mixture and cheese Let crockpot cook for roughly 2.5 hours on high or until cornbread is cooked (it will not be super firm)

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