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RETURN TO BLOG Posted 14 October 2020

Nutrition for Dancers

By Claudia Dean

Dancers, did you catch Rachel’s takeover on our Coach Me World stories? If you missed out, don’t worry, we have you covered! Rachel from To The Pointe Nutrition shared some incredibly valuable tips & resources I want to ensure every dancer has access to!

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping our bodies well fuelled with wholesome foods is one of the most vital elements to a long and sustainable career. Rachel is a registered dietitian nutritionist, specialising in health & wellness for dancers, having danced herself, for many years. I’ve summarised her advice and a few of her tips on how to fuel your body as a dancer for optimal performance, so you can consider how her suggestions could apply to your own body and circumstances.

Before we get stuck into this, I want to remind you all that there is no one size fits all approach to nutrition and lifestyle. It’s important that you consume and apply this information as you see fit for yourself! 

1). Build a healthy, balanced & positive relationship with your food choices

  • To be a successful dancer, you do not need to follow restrictive diets. While it is crucial to be aware of what you choose to fuel your body with, dieting leads to burnout and is not a sustainable lifestyle choice.

2). Learn how to utilise food as a tool 

  • Nutrition is a way to optimise performance. Create a food plan that will fuel you throughout the day. Rachel suggests planning three main meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as snacks spread throughout your schedule (for example, a midmorning & afternoon snack).

  • We all have different schedules, so consider what solution will work best with your routine!

3). You do not need to cut out junk food!

  • Restricting your favourite foods will cause major cravings down the road. The more you deprive yourself of the food groups you enjoy, the stronger the desire to eat them will become. 

  • You may end up overdoing it when you finally allow yourself your favourite foods, likely not enjoying it as much as you should!

  • Learning how to incorporate them as part of a positive, mindful experience is one of Rachel’s suggestions to break the cycle of restricting and feeling guilt about overeating, or even simply eating.

  • If you feel guilt & shame around your food choices, it is important you take some time to assess your relationship with food to create a healthy approach, and seek help if needed. 

4). Food is an important part of fuelling your performance, both mentally & physically

  • Rachel warns of some of the negative impacts a restrictive diet can have on your performance. If a dancer restricts what, or the amount they eat over a long period of time, they risk suffering from consequences such as bone health impairment (weak bones or even stress fractures), loss of mental clarity (for example struggling to pick up combinations) or burnout.

  • Not getting adequate nutrition for your lifestyle and demands as dancers could mean sacrificing the longevity of your career in the long term.

5).  You do not need to diet to be successful!

  • Stay away from fad diets! Restrictive dieting is not sustainable for a dance schedule in the long term, or the physical demands this amazing art form places on the body! 

  • Rachel explains that figuring out your individual portion sizes is the best way to ensure your nutrition suits your needs! 

  • Serving sizes on packages are good for initial guidance, but are not ideal for the individual. What suits one person, will not necessarily work for another! 

  • She recommends trusting your body to gage natural portion control and assess how much is too much or not enough. Notice if you feel hungry or not satisfied after a meal, or if you are comfortable going a few hours to your next meal. 

Rachel suggests focusing on two very important factors I’d like to highlight: Balance & Consistency.

Tracking calories and macronutrients in extreme detail is a very time consuming habit that takes away from time you could be spending in the studio perfecting your technique and dancing. Instead, Rachel recommends ensuring you include a source of the main three macronutrients (carbs, fats and protein) in each meal and snack. This will teach you to fuel your body, without relying heavily on external cues. If you follow a plant-based diet (vegan or vegetarian), no need to worry, Rachel wants to reassure you, that a balanced lifestyle is absolutely possible, despite nutrients being limited, as long as you are eating enough abundance and variety!

While dance is an aesthetic sport and art form, with an emphasis on body aesthetics, this does not mean it needs to lead to restricting calories, food groups and ultimately unhealthy eating habits. I agree with Rachel’s point of view, that normalising eating in the dance industry is absolutely necessary. A balanced and wholesome lifestyle is the best way to sustain a long and healthy career! 

I hope you have gained some knowledge and valuable insights from Rachel’s contribution! Check out her website for plenty of free information and material. If you have any questions, or you feel that you or a friend needs support when it comes to healthy habits, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email, DM or FB messages! On that note - who would like to see another cooking tutorial on my Instagram?

To learn more from Rachel, you can visit her website here: https://pointenutrition.com/