What you eat and drink before dancing can have a considerable impact on how you perform. A dancer’s diet needs to be carefully thought out because it can keep you healthy, help you recover from injuries and keep you focused.
A good dancer’s diet, like any diet, needs to be balanced and full of nutrients. However, it is good to eat anti-inflammatories and antioxidants to help relieve muscle pain. Staying hydrated is very important, as well as a good breakfast.
This guide on what to eat and drink for dancing includes what to eat before and after you dance. We’ll also show you what to avoid to keep you in the best shape possible.
What to eat and drink before dancing
- Whole Grains
- Green Tea
Carbohydrates are a fundamental part of a dancer’s diet. Dancers should make sure that carbohydrates make up over half of their food intake. This should increase when you’re dancing more often.
Your brain and muscles are very demanding in terms of the energy they need. The body supplies this energy with glucose, which our bodies create from carbohydrates. This is why carbohydrates are so important for supplying you with energy.
Bananas and berries have more carbohydrates than most fruits and try having oatmeal or wholegrain versions of bread, rice and pasta.
Protein is also important for a dancer’s diet. Dancer’s put their bodies under a lot of physical stress and muscles will need protein to repair themselves. Fish and lean meat like chicken or turkey are your best option here.
The most important thing is to have a balanced diet relative to the amount of exercise you do. Keep your body nourished, ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients and avoid the bad foods that we cover towards the end of the article.
Best foods and drinks for dancers
Bananas are arguably the best food for dancers. They are packed with potassium and other nutrients, help prevent cramps and can help regulate bloating. Bananas are low in calories but can help you feel fuller than other fruits because of their higher carbohydrate content.
They aren’t as rich in water as other foods on the list can help combat symptoms of dehydration. This is because dehydration can cause an imbalance of electrolytes like potassium, which can cause a loss of focus.
Berries are loaded with great nutrients and antioxidants, which are great for preventing you from getting ill, as well as helping your brain and body function. They are also high in fibre and are great for digestion. They can be eaten with loads of other great foods and also improve your blood sugar levels.
Most importantly, they are a great anti-inflammatory, especially for delayed onset muscle soreness. This is muscle pain that can be felt for up to three days after exercising. This is why berries can help keep you in good condition if you’ve been practising a lot recently.
Water is the most important drink for dancers. You need to stay hydrated because most of our body is made up of water. Without it, we just can’t function and failing to drink enough will seriously affect your health and performance. You can also help yourself out by eating hydrating foods.
What to eat an hour before dance class
You should eat foods and have drinks that are going to keep you hydrated while you dance. The hour before dancing is very important because you don’t want to be bloated from loading up on food and drink be bloated. You also want to make sure you’ve had a good breakfast that can keep you going throughout the day.
Whole grains are great for getting your carbohydrates and also protein. This will help give you energy whilst also helping your digestive system stay strong.
Oatmeal is probably your best choice here. You might want to eat it a couple of hours before you dance as you will want some time for it to settle in your stomach. Also, try to make it without dairy as it could upset your digestive system. Don’t be afraid to combine it with bananas and berries.
If you think you’ve left it too late then some whole grain toast is a quick fix. It’s easy to digest and will help give you energy. Make sure you have some fruits as well because toast on its own probably isn’t the best diet for a dancer.
Cucumbers are 95% water and are one of the most hydrating fruits. This doesn’t leave much room for nutrients but it does contain vitamin K, which is supposedly good for injuries and bone health.
They are also great to eat after a performance because they can help reduce swelling and bruising. This is why cucumbers are used as face masks to reduce puffy eyes.
Watermelons are 91% water and will definitely help you stay hydrated. Like cucumber, it doesn’t contain much else but watermelons do have lycopene, which can be good for your heart, as well as vitamin C and low-calorie content.
Best food to eat before a dance competition or audition
A competition or audition is an important moment for dancers. The stakes are higher so it requires a step up in focus. This is why it’s a good idea to eat foods that will give you energy and help you focus.
Fish is an incredibly healthy option for dancers. They tend to be low in fat, rich in omega 3 and hold anti-inflammatory properties. They are also great for your brain, containing vitamin A, vitamin D and oils that are great for cognitive function.
Avocados actually contain more potassium than bananas and whilst it is high in fat, it has monounsaturated fat. This is much healthier than trans and saturated fats. Most of its fat is made up of oleic acid, which can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
As far as drinks go before a performance, green tea is one of your best options. It contains theanine, which has many benefits for dancers. It can help improve mood, control blood pressure and most importantly, reduce anxiety. This makes it perfect before a high-pressure situation where you need to manage your nerves.
Strawberries are very hydrating and contain a good amount of potassium and antioxidants. They are also one of the fruits with lower sugar levels, meaning you can eat more of them and not worry as much about sugar.
Like strawberries, papaya also has a relatively low sugar content amongst fruits. It also contains papain, which breaks down meat and proteins. This will help with digestion and can ease any bloating before your performance.
What to eat after dance class
Some foods and drinks are great for you but are better had after dancing. This is because they can take longer to digest or are simply better for aching muscles.
A good glass of milk is great for after dancing and exercising. It is full of calcium for your bones and protein to help repair muscles. Dairy does take longer to digest because of its lactose content, which is why it’s better after and not before dancing.
Asparagus has a low amount of calories, is packed with nutrients and contains prebiotics, which is good for developing healthy bacteria in your gut. It is also good for bloating because it helps flush out excess water in your system. It does this by making you pee so it is better to have it after dancing.
Squeezing a lemon into your water is a great way to improve your hydration after dancing. It contains electrolytes that can help with cramped muscles and is also a good source of vitamin C. It freshens you up, which will be appreciated after an intense performance.
Your greens are great for keeping you strong and healthy. They can be a wonder for your muscles and ease your muscle pain by improving your body’s metabolic process. The reason you should have them after is that they can cause bloating and you don’t want to be uncomfortable when you’re dancing.
Peppermint tea is very soothing on your stomach and can help with digestion. If you’re eating leafy greens after dancing then you might want to accompany it with something that will balance it out.
What not to eat and drink before dancing
Foods high in sugar
Too much sugar will give you a massive sugar rush in the short term. While this might sound appealing for the extra boost in energy, it can be really detrimental. The rush is followed by a crash, which can make it difficult to stay focused while you’re dancing.
In the long term, eating too much sugar can cause weight gain, acne and contribute to a multitude of other health risks, such as diabetes, cancer and depression.
Salt is important for regulating water in your body. However, eating too much salt (over 5g a day) can be very bad. If you’re severely excessive with your salt intake then you increase your risk of high blood pressure. Salt can also be dehydrating but too little will result in cramps, nausea and dizziness.
Processed foods are difficult to digest and often contain too much salt, sugar and unsaturated fat. They can have serious long term health effects including heart problems and a general link to premature death.
Fast food chains tend to give you processed food that is high in sugar, leading to the health problems mentioned above. The fat and calorie content is usually way higher than it needs to be and won’t do dancers any favours. Maybe once in a blue moon is acceptable but consistently eating fried fast food is going to negatively impact your health.
Like sugar, caffeine gives you a boost but can also make you crash. Coffee has a high caffeine content and can also make you bloated. This can be made even worse by adding milk and sugar.
Possibly just as bad as any of the above, eating and drinking nothing is bad for your health and can even be more dangerous. Dancing requires a lot of physical effort and your body needs fuel to make it happen.
Without eating, your focus and mental cognition can suffer, leading to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Your physical health will also decline with a weakened immune system, fragile bones and chronic fatigue.
Dehydration can also make you dizzy, give you headaches and make you physically sick. Always stay hydrated and make sure you’ve had something to eat before you dance or do any exercise.
How do dancers lose weight?
Dancing is a great form of exercise so you are naturally going to be shedding any excess weight. However, you are also building muscle, which is heavier than fat. Because of this, you may find that your weight won’t change much, even if you’re dancing a lot. It really depends on your condition when you start dancing and what your body fat percentage is.
Ideally, you want to focus on being as fit as possible for dancing. This means focusing more on your stamina, flexibility and body fat percentage. Women naturally need to have a higher body fat percentage than men. This is typically between 20-30%, with top female athletes having around 15-20%.
Dancer’s diet tips
What do you eat and drink before you dance? Share your tips for a healthy dancer’s diet in the comments below.