Well it’s my favourite time of year again... Dance competition season!! Many of you may or may not know that when I am not spending my time counseling clients, educating groups or developing recipes, I can usually be found in a dance studio. Dance was my first love, my first career and the reason why I got into nutrition in the first place. I am passionate about helping dancers strive for their personal best, whether it means fine-tuning their ballet technique or fueling their body adequately for a long and jam-packed day at competition. Nutrition can play a very important role in a dancer’s journey to success and here are a few tips and tricks to help you achieve your very best!
When you are looking at your schedule for competition day, you are probably strategizing costume changes, hair and makeup changes, warm up/rehearsal time, but are you planning your nutrition? Why not? After you have spent 7 plus months learning and perfecting choreography, it would be a waste to then go on stage feeling exhausted and nauseous because you forgot to pack a lunch and the only thing nearby was a hot dog from a street vendor. When you are packing your bag of costumes, accessories and props, take the 10 extra minutes to bring snacks to fuel yourself in between dances. If it is a busy day, try to plan for snacks every 2-4 hours to provide you with adequate energy for the entire day. Look for foods that:
- Are easy to eat quickly in case you do not have much time in between dances
- Are enjoyable and easy to digest because many dancers can feel nervous and have “butterflies” before going on stage making it harder to eat
- Provide healthy carbohydrates to give your muscles and your brain energy
- Contains protein, fiber and/or healthy fats to stabilize absorption and help prevent you from getting “hangry”
Here are some examples to get you started:
- Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts
- Overnight oats with nuts and fruit
- Yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole grain bread
- Egg salad made with spinach, served in a whole grain pita
- Vegetables and crackers with hummus
- Nut butter with apple
- Leftover chicken pasta with tomato based sauce
- Roast chicken or turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and spinach on whole grain bread
- Tuna salad served on mixed greens with bread roll on the sid
- Homemade whole wheat muffin with a piece of fruit
Competition day can be so hectic and nerve-racking that many dancers forget to drink or cannot find a water fountain backstage. Make sure to pack a large water bottle to carry with you at all times. Drink small amounts throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Not getting enough water can lead to cramping, light headedness and nausea – not things that you want before going on stage! Contrary to popular belief, most dancers don’t lose enough sweat to need a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade – water is good enough. If, however, you find that you sweat a lot over the course of an entire day, then you may want to consider an electrolyte replacement. If you are someone who doesn’t like plain water, then try adding a small amount of fruit juice or sports drink to your water.
Take time to honor how much you have achieved – even if you didn’t win first place. Celebrate what your body has done for you, both on stage and in the classroom. It takes a lot of courage, dedication and grit to be a dancer, as the training can be nit-picky and frustrating. Professional dancers spend a lifetime perfecting a tendus, so try not to be too hard on yourself. Instead, rejoice in the positive feedback you received, enjoy the celebratory team building and sense of community backstage, and then take the critiques back to the studio to be worked on for next time.
Still not sure how to prepare your nutrition for competition? Or if you want some guidance as to how you can take your performance to the next level with proper nutrition? Contact a dietitian such as myself for nutrition counselling.
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