There’s often a common misconception about dancers’ eating habits. As a dancer myself, I know it’s hard to be in front of a mirror for more than an average amount of time and still maintain a healthy body image. So although there is certainly a population of dancers who struggle with eating disorders, there is a larger, and often unrecognized, population of dancers who have a healthy, loving relationship with food.
This means eating foods that make you feel good about your body and that give you natural energy. Think about it: if you feel bloated, you’re likely to have more sluggish movements and an overall poor performance quality. This is as true with dancing as it is with any form of working out. Chances are, if you eat pizza before heading to the gym, you’re gonna feel pretty slow as soon as you step foot on the treadmill.
So, I talked to my fellow dancer-friends to see what they like to eat before dancing and performing that doesn’t make them feel bloated but rather gives them the right energy they need to feel good and perform well. What I came up with is a list of their favorites that are perfect pre-workout snacks for any type of exercise.
Almonds, cashews and peanuts, galore. Roasted or raw nuts are the perfect snack to give you energy and fill your tummy without making you feel too full. Almonds are considered the healthiest nut, but really any nuts will do the trick. Personally, my favorites are cashews and peanuts; I’ll toss them into a ziplock baggie, throw in some salt, and eat them on my way to dance.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? No, but seriously, fruits might be even better than nuts for energy and for preventing bloating. For us dancers, we like to eat continuously throughout our day-long rehearsal schedules. Fruit is simple, on-the-go, and definitely energy-rich.
The natural sugar in fruits will give you a burst of energy, and because fruits are low in calories, you can eat a whole lot without feeling bloated. Berries are high in antioxidants, citrus fruits are a good source of fiber and vitamin C and melons provide potassium and vitamin A. One of my favorite fruit snacks is banana with peanut butter (or some might suggest almond butter) – it’s yummy, easy and the perfect amount of energy before working out.
Yogurt is a probiotic, which means it helps with digestion and immune system function. So, a healthy immune system and strong digestion means you’re less likely to get sick, you’ll feel more energetic and, as a result, you’ll be more inclined to want to work out and feel good while doing so.
Before I hit the gym I like to have yogurt with granola and berries for breakfast – it makes me feel active and ready to exercise without feeling slow or heavy on my feet. A lot of my dancer-friends also said they like to eat yogurt right when they wake up, before heading off to dance for the day.
Veggies and Hummus
This combo is definitely one of my favorite snacks for exercising. I think hummus goes with just about anything and everything, and carrots or bell peppers with hummus make my heart sing. The protein-richness of hummus will help you fight hunger cravings, and all of the iron in hummus will give you an energy boost to help get your tuchus on the StairMaster.
Carrots are mostly water weight, making them a low-calorie snack you can feast on, just like fruit. Bell peppers are high in potassium, which aids in muscle function, as well as a good source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.
One of the most common responses from the dancers as a pre-exercise snack was Kind Bars. Kind Bars are packed with nuts, which we decided earlier were good for you, as well as all kinds of yummy ingredients like chocolate and coconut. They’re probably one of the easiest and simplest of our energy-boosting-non-bloating snacks, but definitely not the most natural, either.
Healthy snacking is the key to a successful, non-sluggish workout. You can always binge on your guilty pleasures afterward. Reward yourself, right?