Eating for Dance

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April 3, 2014 by Nicole

Today I’m so excited to share a guest post with you from Health Coach Jennifer Sugarman. We were talking about our blogs and I asked for her perspective on nutritional advice for dancers, especially when some of us live in training environments where healthy habits may be not cultivated, or worse, unhealthy ones are not discouraged. Here’s what she had to share:

I am often asked about conflicting nutritional advice. Full fat vs. low fat, high carb vs. low carb, whole wheat vs no wheat, but perhaps a more common theme (among dancers and athletes anyway) is TO eat or not to eat?

Everyone is different, and there is no “one diet fits all” approach. Bio-individuality is key for any athlete and getting to the bottom of what your body needs is essential. Football players tend to “carb up” and pack on the protein while some dancers trying to maintain that lean “dancer’s body” tend to go for the grapefruit only diet due to its fat burner reputation.

Now, while I am all for the right kind of carbs and fruit intake, there are a few tips I have for eating properly for dance:

  1. Eat. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? In a world with Dancing with the Stars and The Biggest Loser, we can sometimes lose our focus on what health looks like TO US and not to someone else. Eating disorders begin with a thought that gets embedded in the mind like a CD in a stereo and then that CD is put on repeat. Here is what should be on EVERYONE’S soundtrack (athlete or not): “I cannot perform without the fuel my body needs to make it run.” Would you expect your car to win a race when the gas light is on? Sooner or later, your tank will be empty and you’ll be stranded on the side of the road.
  2. Hydrate. What a concept, right? The body is made up of 70% water. If we are not consistently replenishing ourselves with this essential element, the body can begin to act out. When the body acts out, you can’t perform. Start your day each morning with 32 oz of water. This will wake up your cells with a refreshing and hydrating kick! Not to mention, it will most likely induce a bowel movement which in turn, helps YOUR movement!
  3. Think green. No matter what your sport or body type, think green. Green veggies that is! With a slew of health benefits, ranging from essential vitamins and minerals to phytonutrients to reducing inflammation, green veggies are our best friends. Load up on a big, healthy salad before or after your workouts for added fuel and quicker recovery. It’s best to put some good, clean protein on your salad (this can be vegetarian) for an added bonus to your bounce back!
  4. Be a Team Player. There are a lot of different emotions tied to food, perhaps none more powerful than the sense of belonging. If you are on a sports team, or in this case, dance class or part of a cast, even if it’s recreational for you, think of it as your duty to become a team player and an example that becomes contagious. If your team looks up to you, and you are eating five peas a day and a walnut (or, on the opposite spectrum, challenging the guy from Super Size Me), something has got to give. If you’re unsure of how to make changes, you can work with a Health Coach to find your healthy balance. Others will follow and that makes for a healthier, happier, and better sports team!
  5. You are what you think. Think of the body as an instrument. If you are a flute for example, it’s important to keep a steady stream of air flowing across the top of your mouthpiece so that beautiful music can come out. If you blow down into the mouthpiece, the end result is an awful sound or NO sound. Much like the flute, if the thoughts in our head are telling our body that it’s not good enough, it’s not worthy, or it’s too fat, the body will listen and respond in a sub-conscience way. However, if we take a deep breath and keep a constant, even-keeled flow of positive thoughts in our head about how worthy we are and fuel our mind with self love, the end result will be beautiful music. Or a beautiful dance, a touchdown, whichever applies to you!

Good health is about the way you think, the way you eat and the way you move…and good health is vital to your dance life.

Thanks so much, Jennifer! This was a great post on a topic that hits home for dancers as well as our Dance Moms & Dads. We hope to hear more from you on Dance Orlando soon!



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