Nutritional Pitfalls To Avoid During Competition Season
As every dancer should know, diet and nutrition play an important role in overall performance outcomes. A dancer’s body relies on the proper fuel to perform its best at competitive levels. If you have a performance or competition in the near future, avoid these common nutritional pitfalls to make sure your body is capable of the demands it will soon face. The following are five common mistakes that can hinder a dancer’s performance.
1. Not drinking enough water:
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
2. Trying to Lose Weight:
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.
3. Eating the wrong foods:
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.
4. Not eating and drinking enough on performance day:
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.
5. Not getting enough sleep the night before a performance weekend:
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.
If you don't get enough sleep, your overall performance may suffer in the following ways:
How to Get More Sleep
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:
Try your best to make sleep a priority, even when you are not performing. Getting an ample amount of sleep can not only help with your training, it can also help sustain high immunity levels, reduce aches and pains, and keep you happier and much more productive on the dance floor.
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