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What I Learned About Fueling My Dancing from Cross-Training

Posted By Stevie Oakes on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Friday, June 23, 2017

Preparing myself nutritionally for a long dance day has always been a little tricky. As a contemporary modern dancer, rehearsals alternately require endurance or short bursts of power (usually both, in my experience, throughout the course of the process); the “right” combination of preparing with solid meals before hand with adequate and healthy snack options while not feeling too full seemed elusive. And while my education and interest in wellbeing – plus lots of resources and publications from the IADMS team - gave me a starting off point for balanced meals, energetic needs, and nutritional considerations, I found out the most from tuning in to sensation. Challenging myself physically and meeting those needs with good eating habits. And, by knowing what good fueling for me FELT like after applying the evidence-based information I was able to continue to commit to a viable and sustainable balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) for energy along with good hydration and a plethora of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). No surprise that I might learn bigger lessons from listening to my body, but I’m so glad that I did! Good fueling feels good.

 



I started running over the summer – I had dabbled before, cautious to avoid pushing too hard, but decided that I could prove to myself that a step-wise, science-based training protocol could prepare me for a half marathon. While various organizations that facilitate races have a variety of resources and tools like the Nike + Run Club App certainly helped me track my training, a reliable resource like Runner’s World can help anyone pick the right training program. (I’m sure I should also acknowledge that Western concert dance professionals often demonstrate an interest in more extreme athletic feats…a need to which I am not immune.) I planned my approach around a calendar that also overlapped mindfully with the beginning of my semester – I would be returning back to dancing, teaching and rehearsing while continuing to train. The challenge was not – as I’d anticipated – the time management, or even the additional musculoskeletal impact (actually, I couldn’t have imagined the kind of power and strength increases I noticed in my dancing…but that’s for another day). Nope. What really required my full attention was my FUELING.  In order to maintain even the beginnings of my training regimen, I had to learn much more about macronutrient intake for energy balance, the timing of my eating, and better hydration strategies. The IADMS Nutrition Resource Paper was a perfect place for me to start!


The energy demands of this aerobic training were all new – as a dancer, most of my physical activity takes place in shorter bursts and so my body may rely on anaerobic pathways – think intervals, which require a different kind of energy production in the muscle cells – with muscular endurance rather than full-bodied, increased heart rate, sweaty, long lasting workouts. I’ve enjoyed reading the newly published book Dancer Wellness, by Wilmerding, Krasnow, and the IADMS team to refresh and revise my understanding of overall healthy dance practice. The challenges were foreign with respect to the elements of Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (FITT Principle). For more details on how changing up your exercise plan with these factors in mind, be sure to check out the IADMS Dance Fitness Resource Paper and a few other references at the end of this post! Not only did I need more overall calories to fuel the increased energy expenditure, but I immediately discovered that the kind of calories really mattered in order to FEEL my best. I knew that. At least from a textbook, studied perspective. But, I am ultimately a kinesthetic learner…an experiential learner. I understand the world most by feeling and sensing in my own body. And so I quickly noticed that the integration of a revised balance of carbohydrates and fats to support the running made the increasing mileage possible. Whole wheat pasta dinners topped with a mix of brightly colored vegetables and a bit of mozzarella cheese made for an awesome night-before meal.


 

 

 

 

Fruit smoothies laced with spinach and a touch of almond butter were life-saving morning rituals to prepare me for longer runs. For more ideas and meal-planning brainstorms, I often consulted Livestrong. Without these foods – these combinations of nutrient dense, minimally processed fuels – my body simply didn’t feel fully capable of continuing through my run and the rest of my active day. The easily accessed sugars in fruits and veggies gave me energy quickly to start (and maintain my blood sugar); then my body could rely on the complex carbohydrates (CHO) found in the almond butter to hang tough for availability throughout the workout, stored away efficiently in my muscles and liver. Predominantly unsaturated fat, -  again, from almond butter in the shakes or avocado on my toast -  added a healthy energy source that allows access to aerobic pathways and fat-burning in the body for additional fuel. Protein sources were also crucial. While the CHO and fatty acids predominantly supported my aerobic energetic needs, I was also building and repairing muscle (despite my belief that my legs were already maximally mighty and sculpted from dance, running gave me a new kind of power!). I had to be sure that my proteins were high quality – chalk full of each of the essential amino acids (the ones the human body cannot self-produce) while also serving as an energy resource as I continued to train with higher mileage. The notion of a balanced plate was tricky to master each time, but critical to my success.

During my pre-running dancing days, I had not yet encountered this kind of consistent endurance challenge. I ate well enough – I’d read and studied and practiced healthy eating – but truly FEELING this need for more energy was something new, and GIVING my body what it needed also felt more magical than I could have expected! In addition to noting the need for consistently thoughtful food choices, I had to keep up with my eating. While historically I may have been a bit more lax about attending to every meal and snack – now it wasn’t an option. I felt the effects of a big gap in fueling. I believed – I’d read – that replenishing my body with carbohydrates to build muscle glycogen (energy stores) as essential and could be maximized if I ate within a three-hour window after my workout. For more information on nutrient timing for optimal recovery, this article aimed at runners is totally user-friendly.  I also understood, scientifically, why the immediate availability of some carbohydrates in my system to jumpstart my workout was just as critical as ensuring digestion time so that blood flow could be directed appropriately and I didn’t have to navigate an overly ‘full’ sensation. But now, I felt the difference in my training and subsequently my dancing when I made sure to spread out my eating throughout the day. I noticed that a quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and kale was a perfect replenishing lunch. 


 

 

 

 

Or avocado toast with some honey and feta cheese could provide an ideal pick-me-up after any activity – a yoga class, a rehearsal, or teaching a technique class. Trail mix was a staple in my bag at all times for quick bites of nuts and dried fruit (and maybe even a dark chocolate morsel or two). 

 

 

 

 

Another key element of my fueling and care-taking: hydration. I thought I would simply develop more thirst as I needed it…and I would drink enough water to match. 

 

 

 

 

But I learned to be mindful of the sensations before I got behind. The National Association for Athletic Trainers has a great position paper that discusses the scientifically supported do’s and don’t’s of hydration for athletes. Water to start my day (along with a cup of coffee, because I just love it) and spread carefully throughout my workouts, no longer tied to how sweaty and slippery I felt. BUT, I also noted the difference in how I felt – more energized, clear-headed, and ready – when I kept drinking fluids into the rest of my day to help regulate my metabolism and rehydration. While this could, in itself, be a whole discussion, I also noticed what worked best for me varied a bit from day to day. I had to check in. To keep track of how I was feeling and assess whether hydration status might be playing an important role in continuing on with my daily plan and my training.

What is most exciting about this sort of nutritious and energizing personal revolution, however, is that as I move in and out of running as a cross-training mechanism, I am able to continue to FEEL what my body needs. And, while I often still refer to the IADMS Nutrition Resource Paper for reminders, I now have the memories of satiation and power that came from balanced, well-timed eating habits and I am able to return to that healthy motivation to fuel my daily activities in dance and in teaching. It isn’t always perfect, and I am aware of the micro-adjustments I need to remain in dynamic alignment with my energy and nutrient requirements. But, to be able to return to a physical sensation as a mover, grounded in my body’s knowledge, I’m happy to know that the science can also be experienced, felt.


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Stevie Oakes is an Assistant Professor of Dance at the College at Brockport, SUNY near Rochester, New York. With an MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Stevie continues to perform professionally for a variety of New York-based choreographers. As a member of the team at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, Stevie had the distinct privilege of honing her expertise in dance science. She blends these two passions of art and science in her teaching, paying specific attention to the application of research in the dance studio. 


A few additional resources and links – 

FITT Principle in Training: 
http://www.ode.state.or.us/teachlearn/subjects/pe/curriculum/fittprinciple.pdf

Cross-training design help:
http://www.active.com/running/articles/how-you-can-create-your-own-training-plan

More Meal-Planning Brainstorms:
http://www.livestrong.com/cat/food-and-drink/
http://www.livestrong.com/myplate/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/basics/nutrition-basics/hlv-20049477



Tags:  cross-training  nutrition 

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The Importance of Vitamin D for Dancers

Posted By Derrick D. Brown on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vitamin D has received a great deal of attention in the last 5 years both in popular media and in dance medicine and science research, and with good reason. While much emphasis is placed on its role in bone health, a key question revealed from the research is whether it also can provide other benefits for pre- and professional dancers.  The purpose of the post is to highlight some of the research done on dancers and discuss why it might be important to keep an eye on your Vitamin D levels.

 

 We could say, that ‘if vitamins had a prima ballerina assoluta , Vitamin D (Vit-D) would almost certainly receive that rare and prestigious honour. Such a unique status usually reveals a high level of complexity, which fully describes this vitamin, as D appears to be one of the few organic substances that the human body processes both via our food and from the sun. Two major forms you might have heard of, are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.  Both D2 and D3 are found in dietary supplements and fortified foods. While there are differences, they do not greatly influence metabolism or activation in the body. You might have seen many confusing letters/ numbers combinations that describe Vit-D. The table below offers an overview of the many ways in which Vit-D is characterized in popular and health-based media.

 


 

Vit-D exerts considerable influence on the metabolism of micronutrients calcium and phosphorus, as well as key bodily organs: intestine, bone, and kidney.  The image below provides a schematic of Vit-D metabolism as it occurs naturally due to sun exposure. Oral forms of  Vit-D follow similar metabolic pathways through organs.

 


Fig.1 Metabolism processes of Vitamin D

© Designua | Dreamstime.com

 

 As mentioned above, thanks to the photochemical processes from ultraviolet B (UVB) light, our bodies can produce significant levels of Vit-D from the sun. As with most rules there is an exception. The amount of D3 that your body can convert from UVB depends on your skin pigment. So naturally dark-skinned individuals may block UV light and prevent D3 synthesis. Geography also plays a role; more Northern countries, including, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany, receive less sunlight than, say, Mexico. Sunscreen, once considered a ‘must’ is now cautioned for some; and should be used after sufficient time in the sun to allow for Vit-D synthesis, but not at the risk of sunburn (see practical recommendations below).

 


© Hanna Monika Cybulko, Dreamstime.com

 

 Vitamin D and Dancing

Wolman et al (2013) studied a group of 19 UK based elite classical ballet dancers over a six month period for vitamin D levels.  During the winter, all 19 dancers were either insufficient or deficient, and even in the summer months only three dancers had normal levels of the vitamin.  Similarly, Dulcher and colleagues (2011) found similar results and whilst such small cohorts are not generalisable, they do provide a glimpse of the challenges that young dancers may face. Notable in both studies are the similar findings made across genders and, importantly, in different geographic locations. A possible reason for Vitamin D deficiency in young dancers, is that while studying at pre-professional academies most dancers spend considerable time in the dance studio, upwards of 5-6 hours a day, and so receive little exposure to sunlight, particularly in the northern latitudes during winter months.

 

 Vitamin D and diet.

Even with the complexity of skin type, geography and adequate healthy exposure to the sun (see practical recommendations below), we can also receive some of our D from the diet. Those who opt for an omnivore diet that is well balanced should have no trouble with additional Vitamin D sources from some dairy products, fatty fish and egg yolks, as well as fortified foods. However, vegans and vegetarians might need to work a bit harder to find significant dietary Vit-D. Larsson and Johansson, (2002) in a comparative study which assessed the dietary intake and nutritional status of young Swedish vegans and omnivores. All youths had dietary intakes lower than average of Vit-D with female vegans particular low even with Vit-D production via skin exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Similar results have been seen in Danish (Kristensen, 2015) and Finnish vegans. Together with the aforementioned studies on vegetarians and vegans from Nordic countries, it is reasonable to presume that some vegan dancers may also have low levels of this nutrient.  Vegetarians and vegans can find many products fortified with Vit-D. Many alternatives to milk (oat, almond, rice) are now fortified with Vit-D.  Even certain mushrooms (Portabella and Cremini) are exposed to large doses of UVB during growth increasing Vit-D levels dramatically, although due to the complex process mentioned above don’t expect to receive adequate amounts of usable (bioavailable) D by eating multiple servings of mushroom ragout!

 

 Supplementing Vitamin D

Given much that was mentioned, one might conclude that the easy route would simply be to take a supplement. But before you run out, buy up and start popping Vit-D, it is important to caution that for athletes (dancers being a type of athlete) there may be complications. Multiple studies suggest that taking more than 5,000 IU (125mcg)/day could actually negatively impact your performance. And then quality of supplements is equally important so that no undue toxins from inferior supplements are ingested. If extremely low levels are suspected, seek the advice of a suitable medical professional/ clinical dietician who can assess serum (blood) Vitamin D levels and discuss if supplementation is right for your individual needs. A more comprehensive overview of the process and interactions can be found in the newly published book Dancer Wellness or via the nutrition resource paper, both under the auspices of IADMS.

 


 

Further Resources

 

 Brown DD, Challis J.  Optimal  Nutrition for Dancers. In: Wilmerding V, Krasnow D, eds. Dancer Wellness. 1st ed.; 2017:163-191.

 

 Challis J, Stevens A, Wilson MA. IADMS Nutrition Resource Paper 2016. 2016:1-36.

 

 Ducher G, Kukuljan S, Hill B, et al. Vitamin D status and musculoskeletal health in adolescent male ballet dancers a pilot study. J Dance Med Sci. 2011;15(3):99-107.

 

 Kristensen NB, Madsen ML, Hansen TH, et al. Intake of macro- and micronutrients in Danish vegans. Nutrition Journal. 2015;14(1):1-10.

 

 Larsson CL, Johansson GK. Dietary intake and nutritional status of young vegans and omnivores in Sweden. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(1):100-106.

 

 Wolman R, Wyon MA, Koutedakis Y, Nevill AM, Eastell R, Allen N. Vitamin D status in professional ballet dancers: winter vs. summer. J Sci Med Sport. 2013;16(5):388-391.         

 

 

 Derrick D. Brown is Programme Manager and Lecturer at Bern University Masters of Advance Studies in Dance Science, Bern Switzerland. Associate researcher/ lecturer at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts , Arnhem, The Netherlands. He is also a Doctoral candidate in neurocognition and motor control at Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behaviour; Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. 

 

 

 

Tags:  dancers  health  nutrition  sun  teachers 

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The female athlete triad in college dance students: Video from the 2014 Annual Meeting

Posted By Amy Avery, BFA, MS, and Jane Baas, MA, MFA, Monday, August 24, 2015

IADMS Avery Baas from Steven Karageanes on Vimeo.

Diet and exercise is an important factor in addressing the health related problems of the estimated sixty seven percent of American adults who are overweight or obese.However, diet and exercise can also become a potential problem when mixed with a strong desire to become or maintain a very thin physique.  Eating disorders can result from these desires, where harmful behaviors are used to lose weight or maintain a thin appearance.2 When taken to the extreme, the practice of excessive calorie restriction and expenditure can have severe health implications.3

            The Female Athlete Triad (Triad) can result from disordered eating patterns and can have severe health consequences.4 The Triad is an interrelated problem and includes three syndromes: 

     1.      abnormal dieting behaviors include restrictive eating, fasting, using diet pills,
                   diuretics, enemas, overeating, binging and purging,5 
     2.      amenorrhea, is characterized as the loss of menstruation, and 6
     3.      osteopenia or osteoporosis, is known as a decrease of bone mineral density. 

The Triad can affect the entire body and mind in ways such as:

·         a reduction in speed, endurance and strength.7
·         fluid and electrolyte imbalances, with depleted muscle glycogen stores and blood
               glucose which can increase risk of injury.
8
·         a higher incidence of  infection, anemia, and electrolyte disturbances; impaired healing,
               cardiovascular differences, osteoporosis and endocrine conditions. 8 Without the
               production of estrogen, bone health can be compromised leading to increased
               occurrence of injuries and osteoporosis. 

Without the proper intervention, the consequences of the Triad can be as simple as the loss of participation in physical activity or as severe as emaciation or death. 2,3 What may begin as a simple diet can lead to a psychological disorder, with eating disorders having the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.9

            The occurrence of the Triad is a growing concern among populations, such as athletics, who focus on body image and body weight . 4 This population includes dancers.  Research has indicated the figure to be as high as 60% or greater for athletes in particular sporting events. 10 Historically, having a thin physique has been essential for consideration in the dance world.  Unfortunately, this can encourage eating disorders that are associated with the Triad. 11  The prevalence is unknown in college dancers. However, it is known to be higher in the dancer population due to collective pressures to maintain a thin body. 12 It is a common occurrence for dancers to limit their food intake to meet the demands of professional expectations of body image.  Weight control is influenced by aesthetic considerations and body image.8 Much has been written concerning eating disorders in dancers. 5,8,12-15 However, few studies have been conducted regarding the Female Athlete Triad and the premature occurrence of osteoporosis.16,17

            The purpose of this pilot study was to discover the prevalence of the Female Athlete Triad in college dance majors and minors. An anonymous survey was used to collect data from the current female dancers at an American university to determine if a relationship existed between injuries and eating disorders. Sixty female dancers participated in the survey that included a combination of questions extracted from the Eating Attitudes Test-26 (EAT-26) and the Pre-Participation Evaluation from the Female Athlete Triad Coalition. Findings indicated that 25% of participants could be classified as being in the symptomatic range for disordered eating patterns and behaviors; 48% stated the absence of a monthly menstrual cycle; and 16.67% had sustained stress fractures. 

  

 


            Dancers with a higher eating disorder attitude tended to have more injuries. Further, the sample population had disordered eating patterns and that a relationship existed among the Female Athlete Triad symptoms. In addition, more educational resources should be implemented in dance courses, along with an increase in seminars, town meetings, and counseling services addressing the consequences of eating disorders.

 

A Need for Education

In 1998, the American College of Sports Medicine advised detailed approaches be established to identify, prevent and treat this syndrome. These strategies included education about the Triad for a wide range of individuals including teachers, choreographers, directors, coaches, trainers, administrators, health care providers, parents and the dancers/athletes themselves.  Identifying individuals who may be at risk is especially difficult in the dance population.  In a field where a preoccupation with weight and disordered eating is considered "normal," how can we determine when “normal” becomes excessive? Becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms may help increase the prevention of a full blown eating disorder. It is recommended by the NCAA that those who work with dancers and the students themselves need to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms. Being aware of the situation is the first step in changing behavior. A teacher or a coach can be influential in providing students and staff with the education they need to decrease the risk of Disordered Eating and the Triad. Instructors must promote intelligent knowledge to their students and be healthy role models for their students.

Promoting healthy choices is crucial to the wellness of their dancers. Robson and Chertoff 18 make the following recommendations:

• Encourage positive attitudes and healthy bodies;

• Provide information regarding calorie consumption and energy expenditure;

• Raise awareness regarding adequate nutrition and bone health;

• Be mindful of early signs of the female athlete triad;

• Advise vulnerable dancers to seek proper assistance;

• Insist on regular medical check-ups;

• Create strategies to develop ideal health and wellness resources for dancers.

Current research indicates a need for additional resources, education and information for dancers of all ages. This was especially true for dancers in a serious training facility.

 

References

1.  Center for Disease Control/National Center for Health Statistics. (2009). Fast stats:      Overweight prevalence. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm.

2.  American College of Sports Medicine. (1998). Position stand, the female athlete triad. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 2(1).

3.  Hobart, A. & Smucker, D. (2000). The female athlete triad. American Family Physician. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0601/p3357.html

4.  Reinking, M., & Alexander, L. (2005). Prevalence of disordered-eating behaviors in     undergraduate female collegiate athletes and nonathletes.  Journal of Athletic Training,      40(1), 47-51. Retrieved from    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1088345/.

5. Sonnenberg, J. (1998). Etiology, diagnosis, and early intervention for eating disorders. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 2(1).

6. Sherman, R. & Thompson, R. (n.d.) Managing the female athlete triad. NCAA Coaches Handbook. Retrieved from htttp://www.princeton.edu/uhs/pdfs/NCAA%20     Managing%20the%20Female%20Athlete%20Triad.pdf

7. Williams, N. (1998). Reproductive function and low energy availability in exercising     females, a review of clinical and hormonal effects. Journal of Dance Medicine &             Science, 2(1).

8.  Culnane, C., & Deutsch, D. (1998). Dancer disordered eating: Comparison of disordered eating behavior and nutritional status among female dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 2(3), 95-100.

9.  Sullivan, P.F. (1995). Mortality of anorexia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry. 152(7), 1073-1074.

10.  Kenney, W., Wilmore, J., Costill, D. (2012). Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics, (5th ed). 

11.  The challenge of the adolescent dancer. (2000) International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. http://www.iadms.org/?1

12.  Vincent, L. (1998). Disordered eating, confronting the dance aesthetic. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 2(1), 4-5.

13.  Glace, B. (2004). Recognizing eating disorders. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 8(1), 19-25.

14.  Ringham, R., Klump, K., Kaye, W., Libman, S., Stowe, S. & Marcus, M. (2006). Eating disorder symptomatology among ballet dancers. International Journal of Eating       Disorders, 39(6), 503-8. DOI: 10.1002/eat20299.

15.  Robson, B. (2002). Disordered eating in high school dance students: Some practical   considerations. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 6(1).

16.  Torstveit, M., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2005). The female athlete triad:  Are elite athletes at increased risk? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 37(2), 184-193.

17.  Myszkewcyz, L. & Koutekakis, Y. (1998). Injuries, amenorrhea and osteoporosis in active females. Journal Dance Medicine & Science, 2(3) 88-94.

18. Bone health and female dancers; physical and nutritional guidelines. (2008) International Association for Dance Medicine & Science.  http://www.iadms.org/?212

Tags:  nutrition  presentation 

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Do Dance Professionals think about their health? : Video from the 2014 Annual Meeting

Posted By Derrick D Brown, Tuesday, August 4, 2015
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Nutrition Research should drive advice and practice: which nutrients should the dancer be updated on and why: Video from the 2014 Annual Meeting

Posted By Jasmine Challis, BSc, RD, Monday, August 3, 2015

This blog looks at the information I presented at the 2013 IADMS conference in Seattle. It looks at an area where there is a lot of controversy and tries to steer a research based path to advise the dancer on current best practice considering the current evidence.

Introduction

Dancers interested in making sure their food and fluid intake optimises their performance are faced with a huge amount of nutrition information in magazines, newspapers, the internet, blogs(!), TV and radio programmes, Twitter and other social media, plus that from  teachers/colleagues/ peers/family and friends. It can take determination not to be drawn into believing the latest trend as to what is best. It is probably useful to remember that nutrition research changes knowledge slowly in almost every case, so if a claim sounds dramatic, it has probably been exaggerated or the actual information twisted to try and make a story.

When we think about nutrition we tend to think about energy, measured in either kcals (USA) or kjoules (Europe and Australia), which can come from carbohydrates and fats (and alcohol- though not relevant for training/performance), - and technically from protein. Although protein can be used as an energy source, it can’t then be used for its main roles in growth and repair so it’s not a viable option for most dancers. It is also the most expensive component of most meal plans so most dancers will have more of a challenge to take in enough protein to meet their needs than to have surplus to burn as a source of energy.

Moving on from energy we then need to consider the vast range of vitamins and minerals that humans, including and particularly dancers, need. There is ongoing research identifying new roles for established nutrients, such as Vitamin D having a role for a healthy immune system, as well as clarifying the roles of nutrients such as Vitamin E which we still don’t fully understand.

The tables below show the vitamins and minerals that are perhaps of most relevance to the dancer, and the body systems that are most important in dance and whether the nutrient may or may not be involved. Nutrition research is very challenging for a number of reasons. It is difficult to persuade people to keep to a fixed diet so that an experiment can be done to change just one food or nutrient; people do not all react the same; it may take a long time to see a difference, and all of this makes research very expensive and time consuming. Also, when trying to change a nutrient, unless it can be added to an existing part of your diet, for example adding folate to bread, then introducing more of one nutrient, means another typically must be reduced and this can impact your total energy intake which may in itself affect the results. Another problem is that large amounts of any nutrient is likely to do harm, and at extremely high intakes the body may process these nutrients differently compared to when taken in moderate amounts. 

  

There is also a problem that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist – though the title ‘Dietitian’ or ‘Dietician’ is legally protected – so there are many ‘experts’ who are taking some evidence (at best), and advising people without having the depth of knowledge to give the best advice. Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And that nutrition is almost never black and white, because of the simple reason that if you make a change you are most likely taking something out of your meal plan to put something else in. If you take out sweets and put in fruit, your energy level as well as your intake of vitamins and minerals may well be better overall, but if you were eating a lot of sweets you will need to put in a large amount of fruit which may upset your digestive system at least initially (you may adjust in time) and also be acidic for your teeth and result in some damage over time. So what sounds like a very good change may bring a less welcome effect.

Small gradual changes you can sustain are best – avoid making huge changes that take a lot of time and effort unless your starting meal plan really needs a complete overhaul and is causing you problems at the moment.

So, think about your food plan, be honest with yourself; if changes would be helpful introduce them gradually and make sure you can keep up the new plan, along with the benefits it will bring, before making further changes. If you can find foods that you enjoy and that help you achieve your nutrition goals that is going to make keeping to a meal plan easier!

Jasmine Challis, BSc, RD

Tags:  dancers  nutrition  presentation  teachers 

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