Coffee & Caffeine: Where Do You Stand?

When I was training back in the day, “dancer nutrition” was an oxymoron. Company dancers I knew seemed to subsist largely on coffee and cigarettes. Today’s dancers are much better informed about what they need to fuel their bodies, and cigarettes aren’t nearly as common. Thank goodness for progress.

That said, I have been surprised how many young dancers drink coffee daily. Dancers as young as 12 or 13 years old have told me they rely on the caffeine in coffee to perk them up during the day.

I don’t have anything against coffee and I’m not here to tell you to give it up. But, like all things, I’m asking you to investigate your relationship with it. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, here are some things to think about.

Why Coffee: For Taste?

If you drink coffee because you love the taste, I hear you. And if you’re only drinking one cup per day for the taste, then you’re fine.

Just an FYI: the health benefits associated with drinking coffee are only when it’s drunk black, when the roast is dark, and when the beans are freshly ground. So if you like yours with heavy cream, flavored syrup, and/or lots of sugar (ahem, fancy coffee Starbucks fans), then you’re most likely canceling out the benefits. Again, if it’s only one per day, then it’s basically a caffeinated dessert.

Why Coffee: For Energy?

Dancers should not have to rely on caffeine to perk them up: healthy pre-professional dancers should have good energy for the duration of a normal dance day.

If you’re drinking it for energy, then chances are you aren’t eating a proper diet or getting enough sleep, and those things often go hand in hand. Dancers who get under 7 hours of sleep per night will certainly feel it the next day. And dancers who aren’t getting the right amounts of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats in their diets can also feel regularly sluggish. So those are two things to remember. If you’re getting good sleep and eating a good diet, and still tired all of the time, there might be some other things going on that could be solved with cross training or some tweaks to your diet or a visit to your doctor.

The bottom line: you should not be relying on more than one cup of caffeine for energy on an average day. There are better, healthier, and more nutritionally sound ways to find energy.**

Tea vs Coffee

Some dancers prefer tea over coffee because it has a lower caffeine content; dancers who find that coffee makes them jittery may find that tea does not. And many are now choosing matcha, the powdered version of green tea, over both options. There’s a nice comparison of tea and coffee on Dr. Mercola’s website here.

Keep in mind that his recommendations regarding quantity are for the average American, not a young, pre-professional athlete dancing all day long.

Next Steps

If you aren’t happy with your caffeine consumption but don’t know how to change it, consider this. This summer, tune in to what your body is feeling and needing. Make notes in a journal as you go so you can keep track of what’s happening. Notice the following:

  • How do you feel first thing in the morning after you get out of bed?
  • What’s the first liquid you reach for?
  • How long until you feel “awake”?
  • What effect does caffeine have on your body at home, in dance class, after dance class, in the afternoon, in the evening?
  • Alter what you put in your coffee/tea. If you use cream, try regular milk; if you like sugar, try honey or no sweetener; mix it up and see if you feel a difference.

Remember that comparing your use of caffeine to anyone else’s is a moot point: every is different and each body reacts to substances differently. Tune into your own instrument, be mindful of how it’s feeling, and take notes. Chances are high you will learn something and maybe even want to make some changes.

** Are you dependent on caffeine to get you through your dance day? Would you like to learn how your peers are fueling themselves for better energy and strength? Set up a Discovery Session with me to talk about it.

On Track with Eating: Three Dancer Tips

How to eat healthily is a very popular topic among dancers and it’s a big piece of the work I do coaching and mentoring. And with my guidance, over time, my dancers become the experts on how to develop and stick with better eating habits.

Today I thought I would share three of their go-to tips for when they start going off the rails…

I. Eat the Right Food (or Turn Knowledge into Action). 

Knowing what to eat is rarely the issue; every dancer I’ve met has all kinds of information in her head about what’s healthy and why, and what to stay away from and why. Other than the weird food trends that pop up and misleading “factoids” about eating, most everyone can get their hands on some decent nutritional information these days. And my dancers have all that info because they’ve learned it with me. So the knowledge isn’t what’s missing.

Turning knowledge into consistent action is where dancers fall short of their healthy eating goals. Why is that?

The most common challenges I have witnessed are:

  • A lack of connection with the “why”: WHY am I making these choices? What’s my real motivation?

If your motivation is external, like a teacher or parent is the reason to eat better, then it won’t stick. Eventually, you will rebel. Motivation needs to be internal: you need a reason why you’re going to make this lifestyle change and stick with it. My dancers always define that motivation early on BUT it can get lost. It’s important to keep that motivation front and center in order to stay on track.

  • No plan for healthy eating

Once you commit to healthy eating, you need a plan: that’s part of turning knowledge into action. A big part of that plan must include shopping for healthy food, so it’s on hand and preparing foods you know are good for you, in a way that is also good for you.

My dancers always make a plan with me, but again, life can get in the way. When the plan gets lost in the shuffle, they can find themselves grabbing food on the go or eating whatever is around, which is often the first step away from healthy eating.

II. Eat the right amount of food.

When it comes to developing healthy eating habits, quantity can be tricky. Some dancers restrict calories, which sets them up for failure on many levels: strength and energy decrease with lack of nutrients, and often, restriction leads to binging when hunger takes over. Others overdo it, feeling that they’ve “earned it” or wanting to rebel against the expectations of teachers, parents, and fellow dancers.

The dancers I work with know how much food they need to be eating to feel energized and healthy and when they’re overdoing it. But a lot of dancers have no idea because they haven’t done any investigation around food and eating.

The bottom line is: you need to get serious about your eating habits and start finding out what works for you. Once you know, it’s a lot easier to eat the right food and the right amount of food.

III. Finally, accountability.

My dancers say that having someone to share their successes and challenges with is a big part of how they’re able to stay on track. My dancers build on successes to better understand why things are working. We anticipate difficult stretches (like being in the theater during Nutcracker season) and make a plan for maintaining good eating habits.

No matter how enthusiastic you are about your goals initially, it’s normal to hit a wall and fall back into old patterns over time. But at the end of the day, my dancers know that they have someone to turn to when that happens, so they can get back on track right away.

So the next time you feel like you’re moving in the wrong direction, think about these three tips:

  • Eat the right food (turn your knowledge into action)
  • Eat the right amount of food
  • And find someone to hold you accountable to your goals

**What about you? Do you want to have healthier eating habits but don’t know where to start? Or are you having difficulty turning what you know into action? Shoot me an email; I’d love to help.

 

Smoothies for Spring: Green and Scrumptious

Warmer weather brings me back to my Vitamix and green smoothies. I started making green smoothies when I was studying nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2010. Immediately, I felt a difference in my body as it soaked up all those micronutrients. I began craving one every day.

In the wintertime though, I find it more challenging to get into the smoothies. Instead, I use my Vitamix for blending soups and pestos.

Now that it’s spring, I’ve been back into a daily smoothie and I feel fantastic. Dancers have asked what’s the difference between a green juice and a smoothie? A smoothie is made in a blender where all of the greens, fruit, and water are blended together; a juicer presses the juice out of greens and fruit into a glass. The “husk” of the greens and fruit gets thrown away once it’s been pressed.

I like smoothies better than juice because

  1. I don’t own a juicer and I’m not going to buy a juicer. They’re expensive and take up a lot of kitchen space I don’t have.
  2. I like that the entire vegetable or fruit is IN the smoothie- that’s a lot of soluble fiber, which helps keep my intestines clean and happy.

That said when wandering the streets of Brooklyn or NYC, I will occasionally stop for a fresh green juice at the local juicer. The benefits of green juice shouldn’t be understated – I just don’t happen to make it.

The recipes I start my dancers on are the following:

Sweet Smoothie

  • Add 3.5 glasses of water to blender
  • Add 5 oz washed baby spinach
  • Add flesh from one mango, peeled
  • Add 1 banana
  • Blend at high speed until smooth

Savory Smoothie

  • Add 3.5 glasses of water to blender
  • Add 5 oz washed baby spinach
  • Add flesh from one avocado, peeled
  • Add 1 cucumber
  • Add handful of fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Add juice from half a lemon (or more, to taste)
  • Blend at high speed until smooth

Depending on the power of your blender, you may have to chop fruits/veg into cubes or blend in stages. With the Vitamix, it can all be blended at once.

I always start with water and suggest you do too. (Too much unneeded sugar in juice.) The banana and avocado act as the emulsifier- the thing that makes all the ingredients stick together.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll learn which fruits and greens go well together and which tastes work best for you. There are tons of recipes online, but I’ve found it fun just to experiment and see what I like.

A green smoothie is great first thing in the morning before you jump into the shower. In fact, it’s recommended to be consumed on an empty stomach for maximum absorption of nutrients. It also makes a yummy snack in between class and rehearsals or right when you get home as you’re preparing dinner. Rather than reaching for crackers or some other empty-calorie snack food, drink down a smoothie. It will satisfy your hunger without ruining your appetite for that delicious dinner you’re making.

Let me know what you think if you try these recipes!

 

Meals: Four to Add to Your Rep

When it comes to meals, what I have found is that all of us need a few simple, easy recipes in our repertoire. Recipes that require no thought, almost no preparation, and deliver a good nutritional punch. These are four standby meals from my kitchen; I always vary the side vegetable depending on the season. Sometimes I add a whole grain like wild rice or a risotto, depending on how hungry we all are, but the basic meal is here.

 

Salmon with Green Beans and Almonds

Salmon

  • Rinse salmon fillet in water and pat dry with paper towel
  • Place salmon (skin side down) in frying pan
  • Squeeze lemon juice on top (or skip it if you don’t have any)
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Cover with lid and turn heat to medium.
  • Set timer for 15 minutes.

Beans

While that is cooking,

  • place 2 inches water in a medium saucepan
  • Turn heat to high
  • Rinse green beans
  • Add to water when boiling
  • Cover with lid and set timer for 4 minutes

In the meantime, open package of sliced or slivered almonds.* Plate salmon when cooked. Drain beans and return to pan. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, and salt to taste. Toss with almonds.

*If you’re really feeling fancy, you can toast the almonds: just place them in a small frying pan without oil on medium heat and toss regularly till lightly toasted. Toasting really brings out the flavor. 

 

Cod Fillet with Spinach

I like either Italian breadcrumbs or Panko for my cod. They both produce a nice thin crust that fancies up the fish just enough.

Cod

  • Place a pat of butter or oil (peanut and olive are nice) in frying pan over low-medium heat.
  • Rinse cod fillet in water and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Place fillet in breadcrumbs and turn to coat well.
  • Place fillet in frying pan and set timer for 3 minutes.
  • Flip cod and reset timer to 3 minutes.

Spinach

  • Place another pat of butter or oil in a saute pan.
  • When melted, add prewashed baby spinach.
  • Toss until all is wilted.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

The cod can be eaten as is or with a spritz of lemon juice or ketchup or even tartar sauce if that’s how you like it.

Salads

Meals don’t have to be on plates with separate components; sometimes our evening meal is a giant salad in a bowl. It’s a good idea to always have some salad or leafy greens in your fridge for just this purpose. I like the prewashed ones because… it’s easy! If you’re hungry for more, there are some great boxed soups out there these days that can be heated up in a few minutes. Here is one of my favorites.

Protein-Packed Salad Bowl – version 1

First, toast pumpkin seeds (and/or walnuts) in small frying pan on low-medium heat

Then,

  • Place prewashed salad greens (or baby kale, baby spinach, arugula, whatever) in large bowl
  • Add chopped tomatoes
  • Drain and add canned cannellini beans
  • Add leftover grains from fridge (quinoa and any rice works great in a cold salad)
  • Add raisins or dried cherries
  • Crumble blue cheese over top
  • Add toasted seeds/nuts
  • Toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Protein-Packed Salad Bowl – version 2

  • Place prewashed salad greens (or baby kale, baby spinach, arugula, whatever) in large bowl
  • Add drained canned tuna
  • Add leftover grains from fridge (quinoa and any rice works great in a cold salad)
  • Add chopped cherry tomatoes
  • Add kalamata olives (buy them pitted)
  • Add chopped cucumber
  • Crumble feta cheese over salad
  • Toss with red wine vinegar and olive oil
  • Add a pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

 

Stock Your Pantry (& Freezer)

Cute stocked vintage pantry. 

They say the worst possible time to grocery shop is on an empty stomach because the choices you make are going to appease your body’s worst cravings.

And I say the worst time to prepare a meal is when you are both hungry and have an empty fridge.

That’s when cookies and cheese for dinner start to sound mighty good.

But neither cookies nor cheese will replenish your body after a long day of dancing. Better to have a plan for those days when grocery shopping is out of the question and you need a quick, nutritious meal.

The solution is to keep your pantry stocked with non-perishable items that you can put together in a pinch to make a tasty, healthy meal. I am going to add freezer items to this list because, like the pantry, freezer items are just there whenever you need them. They don’t go bad and don’t require any care.

So here are some pantry and freezer staples and how you can use them.

  1. Canned tuna packed in olive oil
  2. Canned organic beans
  3. Vinegar (I like red wine, balsamic, and rice wine)
  4. Oils (I like olive oil, toasted sesame seed, and peanut)
  5. Lemon juice (See Shortcuts below)
  6. Whole grains (i.e. cracked freekeh, mixed wild rice, steel cut oats)
  7. Frozen peas
  8. Frozen leafy greens (i.e. spinach or kale)

Preparation Tips

Whole grains take a while to cook, so I like to do them in the morning while I’m getting ready or throw them in to cook while I’m eating dinner – then they’re ready for the next day.

For example, as soon as you get up, put a medium pot of water on the stovetop on high heat. As soon as it’s boiling, toss 1-2 cups of grain it in, lower heat, and set a timer. By the time you’ve showered and gotten dressed, they’ll be ready to drain and stick in a Tupperware for later. Or do the same while preparing your dinner. Once you have grains stored in your fridge or freezer, it takes no time to heat them up and add to the meals below.

Meal ideas

These meal ideas are quick and easy. They are not fancy and not for every night, but they work great as backup. You definitely want a backup plan for dinner so you don’t skip it or eat something useless.

  • Tuna tossed with warm peas: add lemon juice and olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  • Beans and kale/spinach: heat frozen greens; drain; add to drained beans (cooked or not); toss with your choice of dressing. Try peanut oil and tahini or toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.
  • Tuna mixed with capers and kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper; eat over a bed of steamed greens.
  • Beans and grains. This is one of my go-tos. Doesn’t get any faster or simpler than opening a can of beans and tossing with pre-made grains. Jazz it up with grated cheese, if you have any or a nice oil and vinegar combo.

Shortcuts

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t take any shortcuts, but in the real world of evening exhaustion and nutritional need, shortcuts are sometimes necessary. So go ahead and buy the lemon and lime juices in the little plastic containers. (I like the Sicilia brand.) These keep forever in your fridge whereas real lemons and limes rot.

Also, I am a huge fan of ordering some foods online so that I can keep them in stock and not have to schlep them home. I order my tuna online here. For those of you who live far from a good grocery store (or don’t have time to shop), Bob’s Red Mill is a great place to get your grains online. Get a bunch so you never have to worry about running out.

And…get stocked! And then tell me about it. 🙂

 

Food Basics for Dancers & Parents

A lot of dancers and parents of dancers come to me for help with food and eating. Among the many questions I get are these:

  • What food, exactly, should I be eating?
  • How much of that should I be eating?
  • Are carbs really bad for me?
  • What kind of fat is “good” fat?
  • How many calories is “too many”?
  • What should my BMI be?
  • Can I ever eat dessert if I want to be a dancer?

Today, I want to focus on the “what” of a dancer’s diet. I use diet in the very relaxed meaning of “foods you eat.” For example, I eat a vegetarian diet or my diet is pretty clean. I don’t use it in a restrictive sense like, I’m on a diet.

So, what you should be eating is whole foods: food in its most natural state.

Obvious examples are fruits and vegetables as you find them in the grocery store or farmer’s market: uncut, uncooked, unseasoned, raw, and as they come out of the ground or from the tree or stalk.

The same goes for animal products: you want fresh, organic (when possible) cuts of meat and fish. Try to buy eggs from grass-fed hens, and dairy that is organic or at least hormone-free.

It gets trickier when we look at grains because so many are refined. Aim for rice in its natural state (not white, but wild, basmati, brown, long grain) and oats that are slow-cook or steel-cut. Oats and rice that are “quick cook” or microwaveable have been refined; whole grains take a while to cook. (But they’re worth it nutritionally as well as taste-wise!)

Now, once you go about cooking the above food, you will, of course, season and alter it to fit your needs and tastes. But in your kitchen,  your whole foods won’t be subjected to any refining processes that will harm them (or you).

Each meal should have (roughly)

  • 50-60% complex carbohydrates: vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, fruits, etc. Complex carbohydrates are carbs in their natural state.
  • 25-30% protein: beans, legumes, fish, meat, eggs, cottage cheese, etc.
  • 15-25% healthy fats: from foods like avocado, salmon, sardines, nuts and seeds, and olive oil, walnut oil, avocado oil.

Carbs: Simple & Complex

The carbs that people try to eliminate are simple carbs. Simple carbs are carbs that have been refined or altered. Anything with a sugar base – like soda and candy – as well as anything with a flour base – like cakes, breads, croissants, muffins, bagels, crackers- contain simple carbs.

Simple carbs are processed much faster in the body and generally deliver less nutrition than complex carbs. Simply stated, they are “empty calories”- calories that don’t provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your dancing body craves.

Your Plate

Use the above percentages as a guide when looking at your plate: you should have all three of these macronutrients at every meal, and roughly in these quantities. I recommend getting that much into your routine first. Then, after you’ve got it down, start mixing up your choices so that over the course of a week, you have a nice variety of foods. (i.e. Don’t always make chicken your protein or brown rice your grain – vary it.)

***         ***        ***

Questions about your particular diet or way of eating? Think you’d like to learn more about how dancers should be eating? Please set up a Discovery Session with me to talk about where we can start!

Ham and Cannellini Bean Soup

If you live in a cold climate, then you probably already eat lots of soup in wintertime. If you haven’t ever made soup, give it a try! It’s one of the simplest meals to make, is very forgiving, and stores well. (See here for my vegetable soup recipe.)

For busy dancers, soup keeps well in the fridge (or freezer) and heats up in an instant. If you have trouble finding energy to prepare dinner on a regular basis, having a big container of soup in your fridge makes it a lot less time-consuming. Pair with a side salad or a piece of chicken for a complete meal, or with a piece of crusty bread for a snack before collapsing into bed.

I am a big fan of bean soups as they deliver protein in a non-animal way – most of us consume a lot of animal protein and not enough beans and legumes.

Soups are also a good platform for whole grains: rice, quinoa, or a more exotic grain like freekah, can all be dumped into a pot of boiling broth to give body and nutrients to your concoction.

I made a version of this recipe in the slow cooker* over the holiday break and froze half of it. It’s thawing for tonight as my answer to yet another rainy, grey, and raw day in NYC. The silky beans take on the smoky flavor of the ham hock and the result is a deeply satisfying, rich bowl of goodness. It’s a meal in itself.

  • Chicken broth (2 quarts)
  • one smoked ham hock
  • 3-4 cans cannellini beans
  • sliced red onion
  • herbs de provence, 2 teaspoons
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the sliced red onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add herbs de provence and stir till fragrant. Pour in chicken broth, beans and finally ham hock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the ham hock from the soup and pull off the meat. If you like ham, add the pieces back in to the soup. If not, discard.

Pour into a bowl and eat with a crusty piece of bread or a side salad.

*For the slow cooker version, use a 1-pound bag of dried cannellini beans that you’ve soaked overnight and 2 quarts chicken broth; toss everything in the slow cooker (no need to sautee anything) and put the cover on. Cook 6-8 hours on low heat. 

The Incredible Edible Egg

The Incredible Egg: Nature’s Gift to You

The egg is considered by many to be nature’s most perfect food: contained inside that little shell is a perfect source of protein (all nine essential amino acids) and an explosion of nutrients. And that old myth about the yolks being bad for you? Not true. In fact, the yolk contains almost all of the vitamins and nutrients of the egg; it’s arguably the healthier part of the egg, full of carotenoids, essential fatty acids, iron, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Check out the table comparing yolks and whites below.

Separating whites from yolks is another one of those weird food fads that makes no sense. Nature makes this perfect little morsel of nutrition and tastiness and the only fuss we need to make is in learning how to prepare it. (For safety cooking tips, see here.)

Most people think of eggs as a breakfast food: scrambled, fried, “omeletted,” etc., but eggs don’t have to come with bacon and toast. Here are a few ideas of how to add eggs to your diet beyond breakfast.

  • Eggs (fried, scrambled, poached) over sautéed spinach or kale
  • Hard-boiled eggs: chopped in a salad, like a Nicoise
  • Egg salad in a sandwich or on healthy crackers: try making it with olive oil instead of mayo
  • Deviled eggs: try with mustard, vinegar, olive oil, curry powder and chives instead of the usual mayo.
  • Dropped into a soup: if you stir with a fork, it will ribbon through the soup as it cooks
  • Cooked or baked in tomato sauce (a Southern Italian favorite) for dinner
  • Plain hard-boiled eggs are a great snack after dance class: your body will thank you for the protein; you can prepare them the night before and store in the fridge. Easy to make, easy to eat.

 Whites vs. Yolks: Nutrients
Nutrition: Whites vs. Yolks

New Superfood: Nutella!

New Superfood: Nutella!

Is it true that Nutella is a ballet superfood?*

Indeed. This carefully guarded secret was brought to light recently when a stash of recipes was discovered in the Vaganova Ballet Academy’s kitchen archives. It turns out that since the 1960s, the Academy kitchen has served 2 tablespoons of Nutella per day to its students. Like morning medicine, students line up for their spoonful before technique class, and then again before bedtime.

The Russians have closely guarded this secret while crediting the school’s curriculum and training for generations of exquisite dancers. How clever! Who would have ever guessed that a simple chocolate and hazelnut spread could produce such astonishing results as increased multiple turns, tighter battements in petite allegro, and the totally unexpected, guaranteed “perfect fifth” closing to double tours and entrechat six.

Whether slathered on fruits, breads, or eaten off of a really big spoon, Nutella has been found to increase your likelihood of landing a triple tour en l’air and closing those 32 foutees with something fancier than a double. 

How can I eat it? (How can you not?)

  • Melted in hot milk for a wintery treat
  • Spread on crackers
  • As a dip for cut up fruit
  • On warm toast with peanut butter (oh la la!)
  • and the list goes on…it’s endless really.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, all dancers can benefit from this secret weapon. It’s my most fervent recommendation that you drop what you’re doing and hit the closest supermarket, armed with cash and a can-do attitude. (Don’t be shy. Go for it. As much as you can carry!) Fill that pantry full of this powerful, all-natural superfood.

Finally, be sure to get your “Vaganova Academy Recommended” daily allotment of two heaping tablespoons. (That’s bigger than a teaspoon, FYI.) Then, watch your legs lift, your turns whirl, and your jumps soar.

 

 

 

*Too good to be true, alas. Happy April Fool’s Day!

Eat More, Do More

Eat More, Do More

A dancer-friend of mine once told me that she wished someone had imparted this piece of wisdom to her when she was training: rather than eating less (as many dancers seem to do), and feeling that she had to conserve her energy and be careful about not overdoing it, wouldn’t it have made more sense to eat more and do more? Yes! In fact, that is the way to go. The question is, what to eat and do more of?

When most of us think about eating more, we often think this means eating everything. We hear “eat more” and think, “Yes! I AM going to have dessert after lunch…AND dinner! And throw in that bag of chips!”

That’s not what I mean though. What I mean is to eat more whole foods, more REAL foods: more greens and veggies, more whole grains, more fruits, more beans. As athletes, dancers need adequate fuel, and that fuel cannot be substandard in quality. If you were taking a road trip across the country, would you fill your car with the dirtiest, cheapest gas you could find? You could, but you wouldn’t get very far and your car would be in a sad state after a few hours.

It’s a crude metaphor, but the same is true for your dancing body: if you fill it with processed foods, sugar, simple carbs, and/or junk food, you’re not going to much out of it. Most dancers I have worked with tend to eat very little actual food. Instead, they exist on snack foods: pretzels, nuts, rice cakes- nibbles of finger food rather than the real deal. And they usually think that they have good energy and strength; they don’t even know what they’re missing. Once we get them on a diet of whole foods, there are some pretty exciting changes like increased energy and power reserves they never experienced before.

Once you have adequate fuel, you’ll know you can do more- you’ll feel stronger and more energetic. You’ll have the fuel for the cross training which is so critical to improving. (What kind of cross training to do depends on your body, what kind of dancing you’re doing, and previous injuries you’ve sustained. Check out this post from a few weeks ago about fitness and this link to a Dance Spirit article on cross training.)

You’ll also have energy to get through your day. It used to surprise me to hear young dancers talk about how tired they were all of the time- then I realized how little they were eating and it made perfect sense. Of course you slow down when there is no fuel in the system: your body is conserving energy. And with low/no fuel, your dancing suffers. But with a full tank of whole foods that is regularly replenished, your body will be capable of amazing things. How else do we explain marathon runners, mountain climbers, and cyclists? Are we saying that dancers aren’t capable of that level of exertion? I think not. I think most dancers can do a lot more than they think- the trouble is, without adequate fuel, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.