For years I had a very bad habit of not eating at all before performances. This worked well for the morning performances, but as they are rare, I ended up being very low on energy and not performing my best, simply because I didn’t allow my body any fuel.
Proper nutrition is as essential as proper warm-out before the dance. There are many articles on the Internet about well balanced, healthy meals. Dancer’s diet, however, needs to be rich in proteins as our bodies need extra energy to do all those leaps and clicks and high jumps. Also, it can help your body heal faster from all sorts of injuries, strains and tissue repair. It will also help your focus and concentration during a performance, so a good, healthy breakfast is a must before any competition.
Here are some tips on how to prepare yourself a simple and healthy breakfast that will keep you pumped up for the long day at the competition.
I myself rarely feel hungry when I wake up in the morning. You should know that not all parts of your body wake up at the same time. Even though your mind may be up and fully functional, your tummy might not be. It will eventually wake up, though, and you don’t want that to happen on your way to the competition, or worse, during the performance. The idea is to ‘wake’ your tummy while you’re still at home and where you can satisfy your need for food, without having to eat junk food or pastry on the go that has almost no nutritional value. Tackling your taste buds with some fruit or simply by drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning is a very simple way to invigorate a sleepy body. In a matter of minutes, you will see, you will start to feel peckish. It really is just a force of habit.
Bad news, dancers, I know. If you are addicted to coffee like I am, you probably know that fabulous smell of the first morning coffee while checking your mail. I’m not saying you should skip it – God forbid! – but just try to change your morning habit in these two simple details:
a) Don’t let it be the first thing you put in your stomach. Caffeine is very stimulating for the brain, but for a very short period of time. It works as an energy bomb and even though you might not feel that way, the effect it has on your body is like somebody woke you up by pouring a bucket of cold water on your head. It works, but it could give you a heart attack. You want to wake your body up, you don’t want to put it in a state of shock. Do you think it’s healthy to bombard your own body every single morning? I don’t think so. That’s why you should try the advice from above – drink a glass of water, make your body juices flow, and then sit down and enjoy your morning cup. But…
b) …while you’re drinking it, grab a muffin or a bagel, something rich on carbohydrates as they are our main source of energy. Foods such as bread products, pasta, fruit, potato, rice are very high in sugars but you can also treat yourself with a less healthy option of muffins, honey, pancakes with syrup and even some chocolate without feeling guilty. It tastes great with coffee (or tea!) and it will keep your body fueled.
Carbohydrates give you instant injection of energy as our bodies have no difficulties in breaking them down, but in order to maintain that high level of energy in your bloodstream and not to suffer from an energy crash, you need to balance with some proteins.
Milk products – yoghurt, cheese, sour cream; eggs; meat products – sausages, bacon, ham; meat leftovers, sandwiches, all sorts of nuts (with almond and cashew being on top of the list), beans and even tofu if you’re vegetarian or vegan, these are all great breakfast options for a dancer who wants to perform his or her best.
Some bacon and eggs with bagel and cheese is my favorite choice of breakfast, but you can combine your own breakfast and make it both tasty and nutritious. Just remember that you don’t want to have that ‘full feeling’ as you would find dancing with a full stomach to be a rather challenging endeavor. So no rife English or Irish breakfasts, sorry.
Eat well, hydrate a lot, and you will fly on that stage!
Photo credit: Flickr user Amy Selleck
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