During your summer dancing at Broadway Dance Center, you’ll be sweating a lot and dancing more than you maybe do normally. Here’s how to have stamina, lower injury risk and reduce muscle soreness.
Timing is everything.
Energy balance is the secret for dancing stronger, improving body composition, building muscle, having more endurance and improving performance. Backed by sound science, the concept of energy balance is all about timing healthy meals and snacks to work for you. Plus, managing your energy balance intelligently can play an important role in injury prevention. This means fueling the activity you are about to do in the next 1-3 hours. When you provide fuel for working muscles (and brain), you improve jump height, stamina and strength. You also actually keep your body from struggling to produce its own fuel from inside the body. That could mean breaking down hard earned muscle tissue to be converted to fuel.
We dancers need calories to be converted to readily available energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (CP), particularly for the short, high intensity bursts of activity that we dancers do in class and in performance. Longer energy needs (performing Swan Lake, for example) require the use of stored glycogen and fats. The body adjusts what it uses for energy based on the intensity of work and level of training. Providing calories before exercising, preferably from carbohydrates, results in better performance and helps preserve muscle mass. Providing energy intake after exercise will help the body rebuild those key muscle glycogen stores for the next day’s energy needs. Dancers do well with a grazing pattern of eating – meaning eating smaller but more frequent meals and snacks regularly spaced throughout the day, especially when the body’s energy needs are high. So try to get something to eat within an hour pre-exercise and post-exercise with the goal of eating roughly every three hours.
Type of fuel: A few ideas for foods for energy and stamina.
(These and many more recipes are described in detail in Emily’s Nutrition Resource Book for Dancers)
- Cooked oatmeal with fruit, ¼ cup walnuts and 1 tsp seeds of your choice.
- Overnight rolled oats soaked in almond milk/soy milk/yogurt with fruit of your choice, seeds and 1-2 Tbs slivered almonds.
- Smoothie with calcium fortified almond and soy milk, berries, tart cherry juice, banana, 2 Tbs raw almonds, kale leaves and a teaspoon or two of cordycepts mushroom energy elixir.
- Whole grain bagel with peanut butter and honey.
- Whole grain toast with a spread made from ½ avocado, chili powder and sea salt.
- Sweet quinoa cereal with cooked quinoa, blueberries, hemp seeds and coconut milk.
- Chia seed pudding with blended chia seeds, almond butter, water, dates/raisins, vanilla and cinnamon.
- Energy rolls combined in a mixing bowl with rolled oats, hemp hearts, nut butter, honey, dried fruit, dried coconut (bonus points for throwing in maca powder or hemp protein powder).
- Boil or roast your own sweet potato bites or just bake Dr. Praeger’s brand frozen sweet potato shapes.
- Veggie sushi make rolls with a side of edamame or tofu ginger salad.
- Pasta salad with veggies.
- Prepackaged energy bars can be fine. Just look for ones with carbohydrates from dried fruit and whole grains and without too much added sugar.
Hydration = Stamina.
Anyone who has been in one of my nutrition classes for dancers over the past 10 years has heard me emphasize the importance of being well hydrated. A cascade of physiological reactions happens as the body becomes gradually more and more dehydrated, but the first two things are fatigue (decreased stamina) and poor balance.
If you’re thirsty, you are already well past the point of having lost 1-2 liters of fluids. Your water bottle should be your regular companion. Aim to start the day hydrated and sip regularly so that you never allow yourself to get thirsty. Have fun with your water bottle and fill it with chunks of frozen fruit, cucumber or mint. Long days might require 8-16 ounces of a sports beverage, but you can also make your own by adding 4 cups water with ¼ tsp salt and ¼ – ½ cup pineapple juice or coconut water (for potassium). Green teas with ginseng and ginger can be a refreshing boost in the morning or midday.
Get your Vitamin D.
Dancers often think that vitamin D is only for bone health because it increases calcium absorption in the bones, but this key vitamin is also important in muscle strength. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common even in the summer because dancers spend so much time indoors. Deficiency has been shown to be associated with muscle fatigue and decreased immune function. It’s easy to supplement with 800-1200 IU per day.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Getting adequate sleep will undoubtedly affect your stamina the next day. It will also help with learning choreography quickly and maintaining a happy, relaxed mood, even when rehearsals get stressful. Try to shut down electronics an hour before bed, and make bed time a priority. There are some great meditation apps, books and programs out there for those who have trouble sleeping.
By Emily C. Harrison MS, RDN, LDN of Nutrition for Great Performances.