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performance nutrition: protein

Protein is a crucial component of a dancer's diet. It not only provides the energy needed to keep up with rigorous training and performances but also plays a significant role in overall health and recovery. In this blog post, we'll delve into how to incorporate protein into your dance nutrition and offer specific recommendations for recovery. For in-depth information on "What is protein?" and "Why protein matters," please visit our previous blog post here.

incorporating protein into your diet

To maximize the benefits of protein for dance performance, it's essential to balance your protein intake throughout the day and week. After a rigorous dance session, a protein-rich meal or snack can best optimize muscle recovery. Some of the best food sources of essential amino acids, known as complete protein sources, include quinoa, eggs, beef, fish, soy products, dairy products, and more. It's worth noting that plant-based sources also make the list, offering a wide range of options for dancers.

protein + carbs, a match made in heaven

Rather than limiting your carbohydrate intake, it's important to understand the synergistic relationship between protein and carbohydrates within your muscles. Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles as muscle glycogen, providing an almost immediate energy source during physical activity. Combining protein and carbohydrate snacks can be particularly useful for recovery after a dance session.

digging deeper

The research varies when it comes to what amino acids to focus on, but generally, studies are in agreement that the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Lysine are the essentials to consumer post-exercise/dance. Notably, BCAAs have been shown to reduce muscle catabolism (or breakdown), ensuring that we’re not using our muscle as a fuel source. Food sources of BCAAs, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are found in whey, milk, soy proteins, corn, beef, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, whole wheat, and brown rice. Lysine is beneficial in the utilization of calcium (good for our bones), used in the formation of collagen (ideal for joint health), and more. Collagen formation indicates, too, that we must ensure adequate Vitamin C intake as well. Food sources of Lysine include soy-based products, avocados, potatoes, peppers, dried apricots or mango, chickpeas,beans, lentils, and more.

specifics for recovery

For optimal recovery, consider the following:

  • Consume a protein-rich snack in combination with carbohydrates within 30 minutes after exercising or dancing to boost recovery.

  • Extra boost: Ensure this snack contains a combination of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Lysine.

As a dance nutrition specialist, I encourage a food-forward approach to your dietary choices. While you might not feel particularly hungry right after dancing, a well-balanced snack or protein shake can work wonders for your recovery.

And remember, my recommendations listed below are my personal preferences and are not sponsored. Use this information to meet your personal taste + preference and don’t be afraid to test out protein powders! I’ve done my fair share of taste testing.

choosing the right protein powder

When selecting a protein powder for your shakes, consider the liquid you'll use. Whether it's water, milk, or a plant-based alternative, your choice will affect the protein content of your shake. If you opt for dairy or plant-based milk, you'll further increase your protein intake.

For those interested in a plant-based option, Orgain, specifically their pea protein powder, is a favored choice as it contains all nine essential amino acids. Orgain also has a Whey Protein Powder, if that’s your preference. My personal, whey favorite is from Barbell Medicine.

To conclude, your protein intake plays a significant role in your dance performance and overall health. If you have questions about your protein intake and how it supports your dance performance, feel free to schedule a free strategy session and embark on your performance nutrition journey. And for more information on the basics of protein and its importance, check out our previous blog post here and take a look at my Review of Protein Bars.

Sources -

Other sources to check out:

Dr. Stacey Sims books: ROAR and NEXT LEVEL


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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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