Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nutrition & Maintenance for Dancers”

L.A. Dance Friends & Family,

Imagine your body as a finely tuned vehicle: If you give it the proper fuel and maintenance it  requires, then it will run efficiently and take you to the places you need to go!

Food is fuel for the body and can directly affect energy levels, mood and performance. The “fuel” you feed your body with should be rich in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, etc.) because it will help keep your concentration & focus up, will help your muscles fire properly and give you a boost of natural energy. This is especially important to remember during our busy competition season in order to help keep our young dancers healthy, happy and injury free!

Below are a few quick tips for you and/or your children on how to stay healthy for the next couple of weeks until the next competition - STARPOWER!

Week Before Competition
It is extremely important to have adequate nutrition & rest during the days leading up to competition:
*   Always eat three main meals and never skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kickstarts your metabolism and helps with focus and concentration levels. When the brain isn’t properly nourished, the body slows down and feels fatigued/sluggish. A diet high in protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates will keep your energy levels up and sustain proper brain function (1).
*   Snack in between meals on healthy fats & protein.
*   Drink plenty of water - at least 8 glasses of water a day.
*   Avoid and/or cut back on processed foods and refined sugar. Most of the time processed food is loaded with sugar and trans fat which leads to the food having little to zero nutritional value. Your body then recognizes the processed food as “empty calories” and stores the excess calories as fat on the body, instead of using it as fuel to burn off the calories (2).
*   Eat plenty of protein leading up to performance day. Protein enhances muscle growth and repair after intense bouts of exercise, which dancers do on a daily basis.
*   Eat plenty of greens- like spinach and kale! These are loaded with nutrients that will keep you feeling alert and fresh.
*   Get plenty of sleep. It is recommended that children ages 6-12 get 9-11 hours of sleep and teenagers 13-17 get 8-10 hours of sleep (3).

Day of Competition
We all know how long competition weekends can be which is why we refer to them as “marathon weekends”. For this reason, it is super important to prepare by packing nutritious snacks that can quickly refuel and replenish nutrients in between performances. Ideas for snacks: healthy fats (raw almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, cashews, macadamia nuts, etc.) natural forms of sugar (apples, bananas, oranges, watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, etc.) and protein (think energy bars with at least 10 to 20 grams of protein— Clif Bars, RX Bars, Kind Bars, Primal Kitchen Bars, BulletProof Bars etc).

Warm-up your bodies properly and remember to trust your training and technique. When you get on stage, remember to keep correct body alignment when executing movements. You have all worked so hard in class over the past year that way when you get on stage you can focus strictly on the performance and connecting with the audience.

It’s encouraged to avoid pop or other “sugary” beverages to avoid the insulin rush and sugar crash that will eventually happen after about 15-20 minutes of consuming it. We want our dancers to consume sustainable forms of energy that allow them to keep going strong to last throughout the weekend. (If you are looking for an alternative, try G2 Gatorade because it is full of electrolytes and has a lower amount of sugar content compared to the original kind).

This may be one of the most critical components of taking care of yourselves during the competition weekend. If you go on stage without properly being warm, there is a higher risk for injury. When the adrenaline kicks in on stage dancers tend to push it further than they normally would, which could potentially result in an injury if the body is not warm and prepared to be stretched beyond its normal capacity. The best way to warm-up the body is to do some form of cardio (jumping jacks, running in place, etc.) mixed with some core work (holding planks, crunches, push-ups) and deep stretching (splits, tendus to warm up the feet and battements).

Protein are the building blocks of the body! It is important to replenish with at least 10-20 grams of protein 30 minutes to an hour after physical exertion to help with muscle repair and recovery. Dancers burn a ton of energy during competition weekends, so stocking up and replenishing with protein can help their bodies recover faster.

Think positive! Mental health is just as important as physical health. Remember why you love to dance and stay supportive of your peers and friends throughout the whole weekend! Positive thoughts generate positive feelings and attract positive life experiences!

Stay hydrated and don’t forget to refuel after every performance on stage. Dancers are constantly burning energy and sweating on stage, which is why you must replenish to avoid dehydration. Your body is made up of two-thirds water, so when you are dehydrated your body wont function properly.

Being a part of a team is very exciting feeling because you are guaranteed to have an army of friends and family that will support you unconditionally during the long competition weekends. Take responsibility and empower your peers by complimenting each other with positive remarks! Nothing feels better than knowing and hearing that your hard work has paid off on stage!

It is extremely important that dancers take advantage of any downtime they may have on competition days. You can either take a break by watching the competition or finding a place in the schools to stretch and/or meditate!

I’m super excited to be a part of the L.A. Dance family and can’t wait for the next competition! Take care of yourselves and be prepared to shine on stage at Starpower!

~Miss Michelle 

Works Cited