5 Tips for Helping Your Dancer Eat for Performance


Best Food to Eat Before a Dance Performance

Dancers are poetry in motion, all fluid lines and graceful turns. While they may make all the moves look easy, the fact is that dancers are highly skilled athletes.

And because dancers are athletes, they need to ensure they’re putting the proper fuel into their bodies so they can perform well in the rehearsal studio and on the stage. 

While getting young dancers to understand that their bodies need a proper balance of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins to power the workouts that come with rehearsals, there are some ways you can help your dancer understand the need for proper nutrition without being too strict about their eating.

Here are 5 tips for helping your dancer eat for performance:

Understand Macronutrients

There are three types of macronutrients, and each serves a different purpose in our bodies: fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

Eating too much of any one macro can cause weight gain and sluggishness, but too little of some key macros can lead to poor performance, muscle loss, and irritability.

  • Proteins are your muscle-builders; this is what helps make dancers stronger and leaner, ready for all those high jumps and big lifts.
  • Fats help promote brain function and give the feeling of being full. They also reduce inflammation, helping dancers recover faster from hard workouts.
  • Carbohydrates are the energy boosters. Eating complex carbohydrates fills the muscles with energy, giving dancers the fuel they need to give it their all on the dance floor.

Each dancers’ macronutrient needs is a little different, but all dancers must have food that properly balances each of the macros without going too low on any one. 

Fresh Is Best

While grabbing a granola bar or pre-packaged smoothie isn’t going to wreck your dancer’s diet, it’s best to prioritize eating fresh, minimally processed foods over anything that comes in a box or from a drive through.

Dancers need plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal and whole wheat grains.

Spending some time at the beginning of each week, or each day if it’s feasible for your schedule, preparing meals and snacks from fresh ingredients is the best way to ensure your dancer is getting the best mixture of macronutrients without added fillers or calories.

Remember Your Timing

When your dancer eats certain foods is almost as important as what foods they’re eating.

The night before a big competition or performance, for example, focus on a nice, balanced meal full of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins. The theory of “carbo loading” before a big day isn’t necessarily effective, so hitting that big plate of pasta may not make your dancer feel any better come morning.

The day of a competition or performance, the focus should be on complex carbs with some proteins and healthy fats. Carbohydrates are going to fuel the muscles and the energy boost necessary to turn in a great performance, so supplying them with fresh fruits, oatmeal, or whole grain toast and peanut butter will help your dancer perform.

Just be wary of sugary cereals or baked goods, which include more sugar than dancers need. Yes, they may provide a short-lived rise in energy levels, but once those sugars burn off, your dancer’s energy levels will crash.

Small Is Better Than Big

The standard American meal scheduling builds in three big meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with little to no snacking between.

While this may work for someone who’s sedentary most of the day, eating large quantities just doesn’t work for athletes and dancers. If they have too much food too soon before a workout, it can lead to stomach aches and poor performance; on the reverse, eating too far from a rehearsal can lead to low energy levels.

Rather than having your dancer focus on eating three main meals per day, aim to have them eating small meals every three hours or so throughout the day. 

Keeping meals small helps manage energy and blood sugar levels, improve focus, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy balance of macronutrients at each meal.

Drink Up

Part of a healthy diet is watching what your dancer drinks throughout the day.

As always, water should make up the bulk of what your dancer drinks in a day. Being well-hydrated before dance class or a performance is key to getting things started on the right foot, and sipping water every so often maintains that hydration for optimal brain and muscle function.

Sports drinks should be consumed in moderation, usually if your dancer is practicing or performing for long periods of time, sweats a lot, or is in hot conditions. Any amounts of sports drinks should be followed by an equal or greater amount of water to avoid too much sugar intake.

Coffee, tea, and sodas should be limited, as they all dehydrate the muscles and can lead to performance issues. On top of that, these drinks often come with extra sugar and hidden calories, things your dancer doesn’t need.

Quality Dance Instruction in Frederick, MD

For more than 30 years, Dance Unlimited has offered students in the Frederick, Maryland, area high-quality dance instruction in a welcoming, supportive environment. Whether you want to just dance for fun and exercise or have designs on a career in the arts, our experienced teachers can help make your dance dreams come true. Visit our studio today!