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.