Strategic snacking can help your body get through, and recover from, an intense dance class or rehearsal. But what foods should you be eating when?
Before class, you need to fuel for maximum energy. That's best achieved by eating a snack with a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein anywhere from four hours to 30 minutes before class. The carbs will provide the energy you need to dance your best, while the bit of protein will keep your stomach from grumbling by the time you reach petit allégro.
With sun-up to sun-down summer intensive hours approaching, remember that there are some vitamins you can’t get from snacks and meals alone. Researchers have found that athletes who train indoors have low levels of vitamin D due to lack of sunlight. Vitamin D allows bones to absorb the calcium they need to stay strong and it helps to strengthen the immune system.
Many dancers arrive home and pull out their foam roller to ease those sore muscles after rehearsal. But could the need for a post-rehearsal rollout be avoided altogether? Studies show that if you want to help prevent injuries and ease muscle tension, rolling is most useful when done before dancing.
What you eat when you're injured can change how quickly you get back in the studio. In The Injury Diet: Foods That Heal in Pointe's current issue, Royal Winnipeg Ballet apprentice Emily Docherty shared how her stress fractures didn't get better until she looked at her nutrition. Now she pays close attention to her daily meals.
I've never met a dancer who didn't wish she had the perfect ballet body. But ballet is about making the most of what we do have—and directors understand that. During her interview for Pointe's June/July issue, Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar told writer Michael Crabb:
Ballet dancers spend so many hours in the studio that they often don't get much sun—which makes Memorial Day beach or barbeque time all the more delicious. But watch out: Red, sunburned shoulders and tight leotard straps don't make a happy couple. What can you do when your skin feels like its on fire in class? Try these easy steps suggested by the Mayo Clinic:
1. Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, to relieve the swelling and sensitivity. This is most effective if you do it within the first 24 hours of getting burned.
Are you getting enough protein? Dancers need almost twice as much as normal people because our bodies require protein to repair the muscle fibers that get broken down in class and rehearsal. According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, dancers' daily diets should include about 1.4-1.6 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. That means a 120-pound dancer would need almost 80 grams a day.
Do you avoid eating nuts because of their high fat and calorie counts? You shouldn't! Researchers recently gathered the results of 31 trials across the world, and found that there was little difference in the weights or waist sizes of people who ate nuts and those who didn't. They believe this might be because nuts' protein, unsaturated fat and fiber all help suppress our hunger. Just don't go nut crazy—keep your servings to a small handful.
Still aching from last night's rehearsal? Don't use sore muscles as an excuse to skip today's class. In fact, getting moving again will actually help you feel better. A new study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that light activity could help ease soreness as much as a massage. Researchers believe that because exercise increases blood flow, it may help your body drain the metabolic waste and chemicals that are making your muscles sore— and it will speed up the delivery of healing nutrients.
It's finally springtime! Which means it's the season for getting your fill of juicy, fresh fruit. Two of my favorites are blueberries and raspberries, both fantastic options for dancers. But I was curious: Which gives you more nutritional bang for your buck? In Pointe's April/May issue we broke down the details.