What a dancer eats before an audition depends on lots of individual factors that impact their baseline energy needs: training schedules around audition time (because let’s face it, auditions are just an added part of a dancer’s already booked schedule), travel times to and from auditions that impact accessibility to meals, and emotions like nerves and anxiety are all part of the equation. Every dancer’s nutritional needs are different and a meal (or snack) that works for one dancer may not work for another dancer.
A successful audition is a fueled audition, but there are common obstacles that impede a dancer’s ability to build a supportive audition fuel plan. Dancers remain vulnerable to disordered eating habits when much of the audition process (like program admittance, company evaluations, and promotions) feels out of their immediate control. And if you fear audition rejection, then read this ASAP. This article will uncover these challenges and provide you with actionable tips to seamlessly move through your audition season.
Fueling For Auditions: Your Ultimate Guide
There are key differences between fueling for performances and fueling for training schedules. I’ve previously deciphered between the necessities of both (here’s the link to learn more about performance planning for dancers and here’s the link to learn considerations for a dancer’s training diet considerations). But where do auditions fall?
Nutrition considerations for dance auditions will align more with the nutrition considerations for performances. Unlike yearly training, auditions require periodization with a proactive approach. Here are three to start:
- Prioritize carbohydrates with more than half your meal or snack coming from carb-rich foods. Grains like rice, pasta, and bread are examples, along with starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, beans, and lentils. Here’s an article that dives deeper into the role of carbohydrates for dancers.
- Since you’re likely to be putting in your all at the audition, muscle recovery is even more critical to support the natural wear-and-tear that occurs. Add protein and fat to your meals and snacks. Protein-rich foods like chicken, ground meat, fish, eggs, tofu, and dairy are examples. Foods rich in fat, particularly monounsaturated and omega-3 fats found abundant in plant oils (olive, canola, avocado), nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon will further support muscle recovery.
- Hydrate to support your mental clarity and enhance your ability to pick up and retain new choreography. As discussed in this article, fluids aren’t the only addition to your hydration plan. Electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, will also help to maintain your hydration status.
- Food flexibility is incredibly important and The Healthy Dancer® Food Flexibility Algorithm can be used in your mealtime decision-making prior to your audition. As a dietitian for dances, I encourage you to evaluate what is accessible to you and consider the above tips to gently optimize your energy and recovery. Planning ahead will be useful, especially when navigating travel times and longer commutes to and from your audition.
Practice: Dance Audition Fueling Plan
The Night Before
Balance and adequacy are key for the night before your audition. As mentioned above, craft a plate that includes a source of each macronutrient. Since the morning may be hectic, consider this your time to top off those energy stores. To do this, bump the carbohydrate content of your meal with about half your plate coming from complex carbs (like rice or pasta). Carbohydrate-rich foods on the night before and in the days leading up to your audition will ensure that muscle glycogen is readily available to power your dancing. A few easily digestible options include:
- Rice and tofu stir fry (added peas and corn if tolerable)
- A lower-fiber pasta served with tofu or shrimp
- A sandwich or wrap (especially if you’re coming from a late night of classes) with turkey and avocado
Plan for produce if and when accessible. Whether fresh or frozen, fruits and veggies are rich in potassium, an electrolyte that supports your hydration efforts. If you’re consuming a varied and adequate diet, you will naturally obtain a sufficient amount of electrolytes from food without having to spend on expensive supplements. Potatoes, bananas, citrus, juice, and leafy greens are examples of potassium-rich foods.
The Morning of
It will be incredibly helpful for you to eat a balanced meal on the morning of the audition. But if pre-audition jitters make it challenging for you to get in a full meal, then consider a few smaller nutrient-dense alternatives. A trail mix made with nuts, seeds, pretzels, and dried fruit can help. Fruit paired with peanut butter or yogurt topped with granola are also examples. If you’re eating while commuting, then consider a packable whole grain/fruit bar paired with a pre-made shake.
During The Audition
Despite misconceptions about “highly processed” foods not being supportive, dancers can benefit from these easily digestible and energizing options. Another bonus? They’re portable! Salty snacks like goldfish and pretzels are great options for mid-audition (or during shoe changes). The added sodium will replete electrolyte losses from sweat.
What if I’m too nervous to eat?
Practicing an inclusive approach to meal planning is essential. But there are some options that dancers may need to reconsider prior to an audition if they are prone to pre-audition jitters. A surge of nerves can leave you with stomach discomfort, making it hard to eat. Highly fibrous foods, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage), along with sugar alcohols (commonly used in sugar-free drinks and foods) are common culprits that can worsen stomach discomfort. Knowing what foods exacerbate symptoms is helpful, and working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help in the process of self-discovery.
Adding a few pre-made shakes to your day (like Ensure or Orgain) can help- but these options shouldn’t replace full meals. Craft meals with easily-digestible foods. A few examples include:
- Toast with scrambled eggs and a fruit smoothie
- Yogurt with a generous handful of granola and a drizzle of honey, paired with a fruit
Where You Learn From Matters
Auditions are a tense time for dancers and the temptation to subscribe to diet culture is high. Identifying those diet-y messages can be challenging (it’s a topic I help dancers unravel in this article, during this intensive, and every New Year). Dancers should be wary of self-proclaimed nutrition experts who lack the appropriate qualifications to understand a dancer’s unique needs. If anecdotal reports are being prioritized over science, then consider it a red flag. Such “advice” to avoid specific foods and entire food groups (like sugar or processed foods) and to choose “clean” foods can be especially triggering for dancers. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is familiar with dancers is your best bet for helping to craft an audition eating plan that supports you.