Rehydration is key for active dancers
Not drinking enough fluids, especially during the summer season, can induce a wide range of negative impacts on performance. While recommendations vary among dancers, most pre-professional and professional level dancers should aim for a planned approach to stay hydrated throughout their day. Click here to read more about the role of hydration in dance performance.
In this article, we will discuss the most popular types of rehydration therapies available to dancers and what to consider for each.
When are electrolyte supplements not needed?
If you’re only dancing for an hour a day or less, then plain water is sufficient. This is especially true if you generally eat in a way that includes regular meals and snacks that are both sustaining and varied. This means that your meals and snacks are balanced among the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) and incorporate a variety of options, including colorful fruits and veggies that offer a spectrum of micronutrients. For those who don’t like the taste of plain water, coconut water offers a more palatable option and can still help to restore energy levels if that hour of exercise was strenuous.
When are electrolyte supplements needed?
If you’re dancing for 90 minutes or longer, then you’ll want to consider additional rehydration therapies. This is especially important for dancers during the hot and humid summer months when sweat rates are higher.
Will it help with cramping?
While potassium deficiency is known to cause muscle spasms, you lose much less potassium through sweat than sodium. And to date, there is no sufficient research that links exercise-related muscle cramps nor nighttime muscle cramps to potassium insufficiency. So while including foods rich in potassium (like bananas and coconut water) can help to replete modest losses, high-dose potassium supplements are not recommended.
What’s the deal with electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals found both in food and in the human body. Specific electorates, namely sodium, potassium, and chloride, are essential to maintaining fluid balance and homeostasis. These electrolytes are lost through sweat, so it’s important to replete them with food and drinks.
There are three important considerations when determining an ideal rehydration therapy for dancers:
- It contains sodium (the most abundant mineral lost through sweat)
- It contains potassium (the second most abundant mineral lost through sweat)
- It contains a sweetener (type matters- keep reading!) to restore blood sugar and energy levels. And while sugars are not required for electrolyte replenishment, they do make drinks more palatable. Therefore, sweetened beverages are likely to encourage fluid consumption. Sugars also help to restore energy when post-performance snacks are unavailable and even enhance the absorption of sodium and water.
The Institute of Medicine recommends the following guidelines be considered for each constituent of a 16-fluid-ounce rehydration beverage:
- Sodium: 218-326 mg
- Potassium: 37-92 mg
- Carbohydrates (sweeteners like glucose ): 5-10% in concentration or about 23-45 grams
Electrolytes drinks and supplements for dancers- ranked
- When compared to most sports drinks, Powerade is highest in sugar. But despite misconceptions about sugar, this can be very beneficial. Dancers who are expected to dance for prolonged periods without access to a snack, such as during long performances. This can also be beneficial to dancers who struggle with performance anxiety as drinking might be easier to stomach mid-show than eating. Also, the main electrolyte in Powerade is sodium chloride, which is ideal for rehydration (according to The Institute of Medicine). Another bonus? Powerade is friendlier on your wallet when compared to Gatorade Zero and Pedialyte.
- Similar to Powerade, Pedialyte and Liquid I.V. contain some sugar (half the amount). They’re also adequate in electrolytes (sodium, chloride, and potassium) and therefore are great options for rehydration.
- Gatorade Zero and Nuun are sugar-free and also contain minimal amounts of chloride. The minimal amount of chloride might not be a concern though, especially since chloride deficiency is rare. For dancers who are choosing either of these products, consider an additional carbohydrate-rich snack (like pretzels or crackers) to help replete energy levels. Dancers should be weary if their “sugar-free” beverages contain sugar alternatives and sugar alcohols. These have been known to cause stomach upset and unpleasant symptoms that can impede upon performance.
- Coconut water is known to be very refreshing and under certain conditions, can be a helpful rehydration therapy. A 16-fluid-ounce serving of coconut water is made of about 800 mg of potassium, 20 grams of sugar, and only 100 mg of sodium. In regard to its rehydration capabilities, coconut water is comparable to plain water. So, consider it a more palatable option during less-intense rehearsals or when actively dancing for an hour or less. But for those dancing more intensely and for prolonged periods, it’s important to pair your coconut water with some salty snacks (pretzels and goldfish are examples).
Can I make a homemade electrolyte drink?
Yes! Homemade rehydration therapies can be a fun (and very economical) way to experiment with flavors. These options are a bit less convenient given the prep time, but still easy nonetheless! You can make a large pitcher and utilize it throughout your week, but make sure to adjust your ingredients so that your electrolyte and carbohydrate concentrations remain intact.
A Homemade Electrolyte Booster for The Healthy Dancer®
Start with this base, then choose a flavoring option from the list below. If you’re a heavy sweater, you can increase it to a 1/4 teaspoon salt (about 580 mg sodium).
- 1 cup water
- 6 ounces coconut water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (290 mg sodium)
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar
- Freshly juiced lemons (about 3-4 lemons) and a sprig of mint
- Freshly juiced oranges (about 3-4 lemons)
- Crushed strawberries and blueberries (allow to sit in water overnight)