As artistic athletes, dancers intertwine the body’s beauty of motion with physical strength and endurance. Technically, a dancer’s body is their instrument and a nourishing diet will largely impact its capabilities. An adequate meal plan has the ability to enhance jump height, build endurance, improve aerobic capacity, and reduce injury risk. A well-fueled dancer is better equipped to build sustainable habits and a supportive relationship with food. But when compared to the general population, dancers are 3 times more likely to develop an eating disorder — this article will break down one of the most common reasons why.
Dancers require adequate nourishment
Dancers are vulnerable to the internal and external pressures of maintaining a specific physique, among other contributing factors like perfectionism. Energy imbalances result from low-calorie dieting and/or exhaustive exercise routines that quickly deprive dancers of the nourishment needed to both perform and function at a basic metabolic level. It’s simple: a diet that is low in calories translates into a diet that is also low in nutrients like carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Nutrition interventions designed to support dancers
With gruesome dance training schedules, it is important to eat enough throughout the day. Working with a licensed practitioner is essential, especially for dancers who are struggling to identify how much food is needed for meals and snacks. But where you get your advice from matters. Dancers should be aware that receiving nutrition information from generic sources, including those who lack proper qualifications, can cause more harm than good.
A dancer’s daily menu
Individual nutrition protocols are the gold standard for dancers since needs vary tremendously— many dancers can begin with a daily menu that includes at least 3 meals and 2 snacks, but some will require additional meals and snacks to account for higher energy expenditures and mealtime challenges that make it difficult to consume enough food. Here are resources for a few starting interventions to consider:
- Food choices and avoidances: everything dancers need to know.
- Nutrient density and how it can support your performance. Adding nutrient-dense options when accessible can support metabolic demands while supplying energy for your dancing.
- Calories for dancers– a comprehensive guide
- Gentle nutrition and how dancers can implement nutrition education without obsession
- Food flexibility and a special algorithm designed for dancers.
Convenience is helpful, not scary
Suggestions to “avoid processed foods” are unhelpful for dancers with busy schedules and little time for meal prep. Relying on a handful of balanced and convenient snacks is often required. Keep packaged options like bars, trail mix, hummus packs, and nut mixes in your dance bag. If some prep time exists, try there:
- Fruit with a generous handful of nuts or nut butter
- A sandwich constructed using your favorite bread, hummus, turkey (or tofu), sliced avocado, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- Yogurt topped with granola, flax, pepitas, and honey.
- Trail mix containing salted pretzels, chocolate chips, raisins, and nuts.
If you’re looking for help with creating balanced options that fuel your dancing, reach out. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are licensed professionals who will determine your specific needs as a dancer and guide you through sustainable meal planning for your demanding routine.