Nutritional Pitfalls To Avoid During Competition Season
As with every active sport, fluids lost through sweating must be replaced. Even mild dehydration can impair your performance and reduce your ability to concentrate. Fluid replacement is especially important as temperature increases, or you sweat heavily. NEVER wait until you are thirsty to drink water. If you wait until you know you need it, dehydration has already developed. A dancer is an athlete and therefore requires a minimum of 35 cc per kilogram of body weight to stay hydrated. So for a 120 pound dancer this would mean she would need approximately 1,909 cc of fluids or 8 full 8-10oz glasses of water per day. This number is slightly higher for male athletes because they tend to have more lean
Some dancers feel that being a smaller size will make them look better on stage (an entirely untrue misperception) so they crash diet in the weeks before a competition. However, focusing on losing weight close to a competition can only cause a decline in your strength and ability. Your main focus should be on giving your hardworking body the right fuel it needs to keep up with the required stamina it takes to survive a competition weekend in a healthy and successful way.
Many styles of dance are anaerobic, consisting of short periods of intense activity in which the muscles of the body become fatigued quickly. During intense anaerobic dancing, your body relies on carbohydrates stored in the body as glycogen as well as blood sugars. If you are finding it difficult to get through your routines without complete exhaustion, try eating meals that consist of foods high in complex carbohydrates a few days before your performance day. A dancer’s diet should be composed of about 55-60% carbs, 12-15% protein, and 20-30% healthy fats. During weekends of non-stop competition and rehearsals the amount of carbohydrate should be increased to about 65%. Remember, carbohydrates are the main fuel source for your muscles! Foods high in complex carbs include pasta, rice, bagels, whole grain breads and fruit. Blood sugar spiking foods such as sodas and candy should be avoided. Short spikes in blood sugars can give you “temporary” periods of energy but will cause you to crash quickly; leaving you with less energy than before you ate them.
With all the stress that comes along with performance day, some dancers forget all about proper nutrition to fuel and keep energy levels at their all time high. Unfortunately, forgetting to eat will only lead to poor performance, as your body will be fatigued and you will suffer the physical effects of low blood sugar. Even if your stomach feels a little queasy with the familiar “butterflies” force yourself to eat something light and healthy. Try eating small healthy snacks such as fruit, natural granola bars, water, homemade trail mix, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, or Greek yogurt in the hours leading up to you performance. Even 30 minutes before it’s your turn to perform on stage would be a good time to consume those complex carbs that will give you the energy you need to compete at your best! Remember, all dancers need to ingest sufficient energy to meet the rigors of hard training. Consuming the right amount and type of food will provide the body with “high performance fuel” necessary to achieve optimal training benefits and peak performance.
Proper sleep and rest are critical to a performers success the night before a competition. Getting enough sleep is essential for dancers, both for preparing for, and recovering from, training and competition. Sleep is extremely important for many biological functions. Depriving your body of sleep can have significant effects on your overall performance. Sleeping helps you to recover from the previous day and prepares you for functioning in the next. Your recent sleep patterns can have a huge impact on your overall daytime functioning, including performance capabilities. While you are sleeping, your mind reviews and rebuilds things you learned during the day. For example, during sleep your mind continues to review new jazz choreography or tap sequences that you learned earlier that morning. Sleep allows your mind to have a chance to sort through new information, filing it away in strategic places to make it easier for you to find it later.
- Low energy levels - Sleep increases your body's ability to store glycogen. Glycogen is essential for providing energy that you need during a performance or competition.
- Slow reflexes - Dancers with sleep deprivation tend to have decreased reaction times. Missing a few hours of sleep the night before a competition could cost you that triple pirouette.
For many dancers, getting enough sleep is not an easy task. A dancer's daily schedule is sometimes packed, especially during performances or competitions. Rehearsal schedules can sometimes be rigorous and often times be extended at the last minute. But getting enough sleep should be a goal of every dancer. Here are a few tips for improving your sleep:
- Schedule sleep - Make it a point to go to bed 1 hour earlier than on a normal day
- Travel early - If you must travel for a performance or competition, try to get there early. Arriving at least 2-3 hours early can help you to stay relaxed and focused and leave plenty of time to warm up and stretch.