Kids Sports News Network

Dancers Can’t Eat Like Models


Dance requires more than normal caloric energy, and any kind of dancer can probably eat hamburgers and milkshakes and not gain weight.  A body plagued, however, by improper nutrition will not be able to maintain the muscle tone, bone density or overall strength to make the difficult leaps and spins in ballet.  Professional dancer, Stacey Horton, says, “Constant training takes a toll on muscles, joints and bones.  Good eating habits can improve the recovery from such strain, and even assist with lean muscle growth and soft tissue repair.”  Dancers require a healthy and varied diet to maintain overall well-being, health and performance in training, rehearsal and performance.  Ballet is an intense cardio exercise that requires the same type of nutritious diet that other athletes need.

BEFORE DANCING: eat breakfast and combine protein and carbohydrates.  Eat small meals throughout the day.  Breakfast jump starts your metabolism and gives you energy for the day.  If you aren’t feeling hungry, drink a glass of lemon water or eat something small like fruit and toast.  This will stimulate your mind and body and stir your appetite.  A small breakfast will give you energy and help you focus in dance class.  Here are some good breakfast options:

  • Toast and egg
  • Tofu scramble with cheese
  • Yogurt with fresh fruit topped with nuts, seed and ground flaxseed
  • Whole grain toast, almond butter and banana
  • Sliced lean meat or cheese and tomato
  • Tuna salad with cheese and a pickle
  • Leftover chili, stir fry, chicken or Paella

BETWEEN DANCING: eat small meals and snacks between rehearsals.  Small meals like soup, sandwiches, sushi and leftovers are good choices.  Choose snacks like vegetable sticks, fruit, nuts and seeds, hummus and yogurt dip over juice, muffins and other snacks high in sugar or fat.  Eating less but more frequently will help keep your energy levels constant.  Eating right before dancing may cause nausea or stomach cramps.  Eat three hours before dancing and within 40 minutes of exercise.

As in any high performance sport, eating the right foods after exercise helps repair muscle, prevent soreness, and build lean muscle.  The body absorbs nutrients and energy most in the 30-40 minutes after activity.  Thus, eating the right foods to replace depleted stores of energy and nutrients is critical to come back and dance some more the next day.  Food should be full of nutrients and easy to digest.  High glycemic whole foods combined with protein foods will help prevent fatigue, build lean muscle and repair damaged cells.

AFTER DANCING: eat a 4:1 combination of carbohydrates and protein and hydrate.  Water is essential for the body to function properly.  It is 70% water and we lose a lot of water every day just in sweating.  Not drinking enough water (and electrolyte imbalance) adds to muscle soreness.  You need one ounce of water per 2 pounds of body weight, which in general means eight cups of water or six generously sized glasses of water.  By the time you feel thirsty, it’s too late.  Drink fluids before any exercise but water is the best drink to re-hydrate you.

See Good Nutrition for Dancers for more information and suggested recipes.


Enjoy a Blueberry Soy Shake: Blend 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup soy drink, 1 banana and 1 tsp. flaxseed oil.

Make your own Sport Drink!  Juice ¼ of a lemon into a combination of 400-450mL filter water, 50-100mL green drink and a pinch of sea salt.



Author: Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine currently writes for several education blogs, vlogs about her travels, and teaches middle school in the DC Metro Area.

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