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dance nutrition: myth or fact?

Dance is a physically demanding art form that requires strength, agility, and endurance. Proper, balanced nutrition is essential for dancers to maintain their physical performance and avoid injury. You might have heard things from teachers, mentors, or peers and their intentions are certainly meant to support + help. However, it’s often that common nutrition myths are shared rather than anecdotes rooted in fact + science, and it can be difficult to differentiate between the two. In this blog post, we'll debunk common nutrition myths we hear around the studio and provide tips for a well-balanced dance diet.

Myth #1: Dancers should avoid carbohydrates to stay lean.

Fact: Carbohydrates are one of The Big Three discussed in the eMpower performance method. IYKYK. They are also an essential source of energy for the body and are required for dancers to maintain their physical performance. Restricting carbohydrates can actually lead to fatigue, inability to focus, decreased endurance, among other symptoms. Rather than avoiding carbohydrates, dancers should aim to incorporate a balance of carbohydrates, from sources like grains, fruits, vegetables, and foods you love into your diet.

Myth #2: Dancers should avoid fats.

Fact: Again, fats are one of The Big Three discussed in the eMpower performance method - IYKYK. Fats are necessary for dancers to consume. All fats have functions within the body and some can help reduce inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, boost immune function, and more. Dancers should aim to incorporate a balance of fats into their diet from sources like animal products like dairy + meats as well as plants such as nuts, seeds, oils, and more.

Myth #3: Dancers need to follow a strict diet to maintain their physique.

Fact: While proper nutrition is important for any athlete, following an excessively restrictive diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies and decreased performance. A balanced diet that includes foods you love, foods that are satisfying, and are colorful + full of variety is typically the best approach. Eating regularly throughout the day is also vital for dancers to maintain energy levels and fuel their daily movement activities. Uncertain if your habits + behaviors are supportive? Let’s chat!

Myth #4: Dancers should skip meals to stay lean.

Fact: Skipping meals can be incredibly enticing when your day + your thoughts revolve around food. Doing this, though, can lead to low energy levels, poor performance, and even injury. Dancers should aim to eat regularly throughout the day to maintain energy levels and support their physical activity. Regular hydration - from water + other beverages - is also important for dancers.

Myth #5: Dancers should avoid drinking water before performances to prevent bloating.

Fact: Staying hydrated is essential for optimal physical performance, and avoiding water can actually lead to dehydration, increased muscular fatigue, decreased performance, and more. Drinking enough water can also help reduce bloating by keeping the body functioning as it should - like a well-oiled machine. Dancers should aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and after performances.

In conclusion, balanced food + nutrition habits are essential for dancers to maintain physical performance and avoid injury. By debunking these common nutrition myths and incorporating a well-balanced diet into your routine, you can fuel their bodies for success on and off the stage.

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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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