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Dance nutrition


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great starting point for basics on nutrition for the dancers, performing artists

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Dance nutrition

  1. 1. Nutrition Fact SheetFueling the Dancer by the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science www.DanceMedicine.orgT o perform at their best, dancers need to be well fueled for classes, rehearsals, and performances. This paperwill present a strategy for obtaining the energy needed for During long rehearsals it is also important to ingest some carbohydrate to maintain circulating levels of glu- cose to prevent fatigue. A good way to ingest this carbo-dance training and the right balance of carbohydrate, fat, hydrate is in solution such as sports drinks that areprotein, micronutrients, and fluids. specially formulated to contain the right amount of carbo- One important challenge facing many dancers is not hydrate (6-8% glucose) to empty from the stomachingesting sufficient quantities of food to meet the energy quickly. Ingesting carbohydrate in a solution provides thedemands of dance. The first step in planning a high per- added benefit of fluid replacement.formance diet is to be sure that the dancer is obtaining After a period of dancing, the muscles require an ade-adequate caloric intake. The easiest rough estimate of quate supply of carbohydrate to replenish the musclehow many calories a dancer requires during heavy training glycogen stores. Because the fastest rate of glycogen re-is 45-50 calories per kilogram of body weight for females synthesis occurs in the 2 hours following exercise, it isand 50-55 calories per kilogram of body weight for males. important to ingest carbohydrate as soon as possible afterFor a more accurate assessment, dancers should consult a a long or strenuous exercise period to refill muscle storesdietitian. and be ready for the next activity. A low caloric intake will not only compromise energy Fatavailability, it can also lead to an under-ingestion of manymicronutrients that could affect performance, growth and Fat from the diet provides structure for all cell mem-health. After calculating the number of calories needed, branes, comprises the insulating layer around nerves,the next step is to estimate the necessary amount of carbo- forms the base of many hormones, is needed for thehydrate, fat, and protein, the building blocks of the diets. absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and is an important fuel for muscles. The estimated grams of fat in the diet are Carbohydrate about 1.2 gm per kilogram of body weight. Because in-A dancer’s diet should be composed of about 55-60% car- gestion of high amounts of saturated fats is associatedbohydrate, 12-15% protein, and 20-30% fat. During with chronic disease, the recommended amount of satu-heavy training and rehearsals the amount of carbohydrate rated fat in the diet should be less than 10%.should be increased to about 65%. The reason is that car- Muscle and adipose (fat) tissue store fat in the form ofbohydrate in the major energy source in muscles. Ingested triglycerides. During exercise, triglycerides are brokencarbohydrate is broken down into simple sugars (glucose) down into fatty acids which are metabolized to producein the digestive tract then stored in muscle in the form of energy for muscle contraction. Fatty acids are used as anglycogen, the primary fuel for energy production. Danc- energy source in the muscle for endurance activities suchers who do not ingest sufficient carbohydrate in their diet as during a long rehearsal where the body is continuouslywill compromise their ability to train because of low exercising for over 20 minutes at a time. A diet too low inmuscle glycogen levels. They may feel more fatigued fat can have serious health consequences and ultimatelyduring classes and rehearsals. can impair performance. To achieve a high carbohydrate diet, food choices Proteinshould be complex carbohydrate (bagels, cereal, bread,english muffins, pasta, rice) rather than simple sugars, Adequate protein ingestion is essential for all athletes whobecause complex carbohydrate has many micronutrients are training. For those athletes who are not building mus-associated with it (nutrient dense) while simple sugars are cle, protein is needed to repair the breakdown of musclenutrient poor. The estimated carbohydrate need is 6-10 fibers that are stressed by constant use. Protein is alsograms of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. used as an auxiliary fuel, and it is important for synthe- In addition to meals, other times when carbohydrate sizing the many enzymes necessary for metabolism. Theingestion is important are before, during, and after class, estimated protein need is 1.4-1.6 grams of protein perrehearsal, or performance. About 1-2 hours prior to these kilogram of body weight. For non-vegetarians, chicken oractivities, a small carbohydrate snack should be con- turkey without the skin are excellent low fat proteinsumed. This will increase glucose levels in the circulation sources. For vegetarians, tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), andand “top-off” muscle glycogen stores. A carbohydrate mixtures of beans and rice are good protein choices. Pro-snack, such as a bagel or commercially available “energy” tein powders are not necessary, even for male dancers, ifbars, can provide the added boost needed for optimal they are following the recommendations above. If a pro-performance. tein supplement is warranted, the best choice is milk pow-
  2. 2. der. The high tech and expensive protein supplements on mended 5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day), wholethe market are not any better than simple dry milk. grains, dairy products, and lean red meat. Because not all vitamins or minerals occur in all foods, dancers should in- Micronutrients gest a wide variety of foods. A calorie restricted orVitamins and minerals comprise the micronutrients in the monotonous diet could lead to a deficiency in some ofdiet. Water soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vita- these vitamins and could impair the ability to train strenu-min C. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble. The B ously and recover. As an insurance policy, a multi-vitamins play important roles in energy production (espe- vitamin/mineral supplement containing equal to or lesscially thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6) and in than the recommended level of each micronutrient willred blood cell formation (folic acid and vitamin B12). De- provide a balance that is not harmful. Read the label care-ficiency of these vitamins can impair performance. Vita- fully before purchasing a vitamin/mineral supplement.mins A (beta carotene), C, and E function as antioxidants There are many dietary supplements on the marketthat are necessary for the repair of over-stressed muscles designed to enhance performance or decrease bodyand are needed to help muscles recover from strenuous weight. Dancers should be warned that these supplementsclasses and rehearsals. Vitamin D is important in bone are ineffective or even dangerous. Dietary supplementsformation. can be marketed without adequate proof that they are Minerals are classified into macrominerals that are effective or safe.needed in levels of over 100 mg/day and microminerals Fluid(trace minerals) that are needed in levels of under 100mg/day. Macrominerals are calcium, phosphorus, and Exercise increases heat production by muscles. Coolingmagnesium, but only calcium will be discussed because of the body depends on evaporation of sweat from the skin.its importance for dancers. There are 9 trace minerals but Sweat losses during a hard class or long rehearsal can beonly iron and zinc will be discussed because of the possi- substantial–up to 2 liters/hour. Fluid loss results in dehy-ble deficiency of these minerals in dancers. dration that can impair performance and mental function- Calcium is important in bone formation. During the ing, such as the ability to quickly pick up complicatedfirst 2-3 decades of life, bone mass is developed and choreographic combinations and execute them effectively.thereafter, bone formation ceases. It is essential to ingest A cup (8 ounces or 250 ml) of fluid every 15 minutesadequate calcium during the bone growth years. Low is recommended. Whenever there is a break in class orbone mass and low calcium intake are also associated with rehearsal, the dancer should have ready access to fluid,increased risk of stress fractures. The richest source of and they should be encouraged to drink because the thirstcalcium is dairy products. mechanism does not keep up with the body’s need for Iron is a trace mineral needed to carry oxygen in the fluid. A water bottle or sport drink should be part of ablood because it forms part of the hemoglobin molecule. dancer’s “gear,” and, if possible, the dancer should be ableOxygen is used for the production of energy in muscle to bring the bottle into the studio for frequent drinks.cells. Dietary iron is of two types, the heme, found in Following class and rehearsal, dancers should continue tomeat, and non-heme, less absorbable type found in plants. increase fluid consumption for the next few hours. AvoidDancers should include some lean red meat in their diet to carbonated drinks and large quantities of fruit juice.obtain adequate iron. However, if dancers are vegetarians, A simple way to monitor hydration is to check urinethen they should be careful to ingest foods rich in iron, color: clear to light yellow is hydrated; yellow to darklike whole grains. Because vitamin C increases the ab- yellow means dehydrated. One caveat, vitamin B supple-sorption of non-heme iron, ingesting a source of vitamin C ments will result in yellow urine and make this dehydra-along with food will maximize absorption of non-heme tion “test” inaccurate.iron. Red meat is also a good source of zinc which is a All dancers need to ingest sufficient energy to meetcomponent of several enzymes important in energy pro-duction and plays a role in red blood cell production. the rigors of hard training. Consuming the right Dancers should be cautious about taking vitamin and amounts and types of food and fluid will provide themineral supplements because supplements containing only body with “high performance fuel” necessary toselected micronutrients could do more harm than good. achieve optimal training benefits and peakExcessive amount of one can interfere with the absorption performance.of another, and megadoses of some vitamins and mineralscould be toxic. Adjusting the diet so that it is rich in Written by Priscilla Clarkson, PhD, under the auspices of the Education Committee of IADMS. Special thanks to Elizabeth Snell.micronutrients is the recommended means of obtainingnecessary micronutrients. Furthermore, there are numer- This paper may be reproduced for educational purposes,ous phytochemicals in food that impart important health provided acknowledgement is given to the “Internationalbenefits. Association for Dance Medicine and Science.” To obtain all important micronutrients, dancers should ©2003-2005 IADMSincrease the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables (recom-