As a professional ballroom dancer and a Registered Dietitian I have explored personally and professionally the importance of nutrition in performing your best as a competitive ballroom dancer, whether you are a student, a teacher, a professional or an amateur competitor. Last week we discussed important nutrition tips and facts for competitive ballroom dancers at a competition. Just as nutrition is important when you are competing or preparing for an event, nutrition is also important once you get back from a competition, get back in to training/teaching, are taking a break from your dancing while on a vacation, are out for an injury, or are going back to taking lessons with no planned competition in the books. Many of you who have experienced post competition or one of these special circumstances either as a student, teacher, amateur, or a professional competitor know that it can take some time to recover and get back into your normal training routine, adjust to a change in your goals, or a temporary break all together from your dancing. In this week’s blog post we will provide you with nutrition tips and facts to help you feel your best day to day whether it is on the dance floor, recovering from an injury, or on a vacation.
- Post Competition Recovery: Many times after a competition, our body’s our sore, our adrenaline has faded and we are tired, we have been traveling, and we have lost some sleep and tend to have a slightly weaker immune system. While it is tempting to let our eating habits go out the window after training and focusing so hard on being healthy, it is important to keep your healthy habits on track as best as you can.
- Getting back to home cooked (or less processed meals out), balanced meals, ensuring you are getting your carbs, protein, healthy fats and making sure you are getting your veggies in are important in helping your body heal and recover as quickly as possible.
- Getting back on your eating schedule of meals and snacks and drinking enough water with a healthy balance will provide your muscles and immune system the fuel they need to stay health and heal.
- Additionally, consider getting a massage can be helpful to allow your body to recover further.
- Getting back to your sleeping schedule is also helpful as this can decrease the cortisol build up in your body, rebalance your hunger and decrease sugar and junk food cravings, and continue to help promote healing.
- Take a recovery day!While it is tempting to jump right back into training, taking a day off can allow you to get back in the mindset and health state to get back to your training routine at optimal performance. Without a day off, many times we will get caught up in “trying to catch up” which can lead to perpetuating poor or quick grab eating habits, training at 50%, and low energy levels. Taking a day off when possible is highly recommended.
- Back To Work/Practice/Training:
- Once you are back to practice, teaching, and training, the tips in blog post part 1 come back into effect. Returning to your normal routine of food, hydration, cross training, and sleep is ideal to allow for continued optimal performance, weight management and maintenance, maintaining mood during practice, and continuing to focus and perform at your best.
- Back to Practice or Lessons but Taking a Break from Competing
- Many times when you return from a competition and have decided it is either time to revamp your routines, work on the next level, or have just decided to take a break from competing all together, it can be difficult to stay motivated when it comes to healthy eating and staying in “optimal performance mode.” This being said, if you want to decrease the intensity of your training, but still stay healthy, there are a couple options you can choose. You can decrease the frequency of your cross training while still ensuring at least one day of training a week in addition to your lessons as this will allow you to help with maintenance and minimize feeling like you are going backwards. The other consideration is food. If you are training less, you tend to need less calories. This being said, balanced meals and snacks are still crucial, but your portion sizes may decrease. I still recommend keeping the less healthy choices to a lower frequency just to minimize negative health effects and unwanted weight gain. In general, the recommendation are vastly the same as if you are training, but at smaller portion sizes and possibly less frequency for cross training or lessons. If you are still practicing consistently and working hard just without an immediate goal in mind, I would highly recommend maintaining your training and nutrition routine to help you get back on the floor sooner.
- When you are traveling and on vacation not for a competition, it can be very tempting to splurge on delicious foods, avoid your normal exercise routine, and indulge in yummy beverages especially if you are traveling to a state or country with food cultures different to what you have at home. As a Dietitian, many people assume I would say that you still have to choose the healthiest available option and find a way to maintain your workout routine. While this would be ideal, it is not completely necessary and I encourage you to explore new food cultures when you have the opportunity, but I do have some tips to make that vacation splurging not get out of hand, managing to maintain weight or minimize weight gain, and maintaining some degree of physical fitness.
- Plan Ahead- While on vacation, bring some non-perishable snacks with you (eg trail mix or protein bars) or stop at a store on vacation and buy some snacks. Our schedules tend to be all over the place while traveling so ensuring you have snacks available to keep going throughout the day and not have to find a restaurant on the go can be super helpful to keep your energy levels up, keep your mood positive, and to make sure you can wait for that delicious meal at the restaurant of your choosing at the time you have planned.
- At Restaurants- Enjoy experimenting with tasty meals when you go out to eat just watch your portion sizes! Do your best to eyeball what your normal healthy portion sizes are and get the rest in a box to go and keep in your refrigerator in the hotel room if possible (or split the meal with someone you are traveling with). Do your best to order something with a carb and protein (fat is usually included in the cooking process) and try and get some veggies if you can. If there is a tasty dessert you want to try, share with your travel mates/family! *Note, many other countries tend to serve smaller than portions than American portions, therefore if the meals are smaller, you may be able to eat the whole thing!*
- Alcohol- Do your best to minimize alcohol consumption to once a day- one drink for women and two for men. If you have more do your best to ensure you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated and minimize the hangover
- Hydration- Depending on where you are traveling to, I recommend purchasing bottled water. From state to state or country to country, tap water can vary in minerals, microbe exposure, or pH and can sometimes cause an upset stomach or illness if you are not used to it, therefore bottled water while traveling tends to be the safer choice. In addition, if you are walking around a lot ensuring you drink water to accommodate getting your minimum of 64 oz a day and at least a couple extra glasses if possible- bring water with you when you explore!
- Exercise- When we travel, many times walking becomes a large source of transportation (depending on where you go of course). This can be a great way to stay active while you travel. If there is not a lot of walking on your trip or you are stuck in a hotel, I recommend finding at least one day a week (depending on how long your trip is) to make is down to the hotel gym or do a body weight workout in your room- no equipment necessary. I also recommend, if possible to incorporate some stretching into your morning or evening to get you ready for the day and maintain your mobility for your dancing (make sure you do something quickly to get your muscles warm before stretching eg jumping jacks, running in place, etc).
- Injury- This tends to be one of the toughest situations as we aren’t stopping our dancing because we want to, but because we have to. Believe it or not, nutrition is a crucial part of healing and helping you get back to it as soon as possible.
- Balanced meals with injury healing focus. Maintaining your balanced meals is still crucial while injured, although overall portion size may be slightly smaller. The portion sizes won’t be much smaller though because your body is using a significant amount of energy toward healing your injury. In the case of an injury, increase your lean protein intake is important. Increasing your protein slightly at each meal and snack (maybe by half a serving each meal/snack) can provide your body the right nutrition to help put toward your healing. Additionally, minimizing super sugary, deep fried, or processed treats and increasing vegetable intake can help with decreasing unnecessary inflammation in the body and further lead to healing. Maintaining proper hydration is also crucial!
- Rest!- Ensure that you actually take the time your body needs to heal. It is easy to get anxious and go against doctor’s orders, but this can worsen your injury and prolong recovery.
- Take your Physical Therapy Seriously! Don’t discredit the power of PT. While these exercises may seem simple and mundane, they help with healing and can provide a great foundation to minimize risk of re-injury or additional injuries later on.
- If allowed, do some basic, light movement and drills- If the doctor approves it, you can do some basics, drills, and stretches that don’t affect the injured part of your body. This can allow you to feel like you can still work on your dancing without the detriment of pushing it!
These tips can apply at varying degrees depending on whether you are a student, teacher, professional competitor, or amateur dancer, but the tips do apply to most dancers. Keep in mind as well that everyone is different and the exact needs and requirements from person to person can vary. Therefore, if you are struggling to maintain your energy levels, weight or mood in any of these circumstances, are not feeling motivated to continue in your healthy habits in any of these special circumstances, are not feeling confident in your body image, or just feel like you need more guidance on your health or nutrition please contact me or another registered dietitian to help develop recommendations personalized to you as an individual. This will help you perform at your optimal potential in your dancing, in any of these special circumstances, or in life in general!
I hope you enjoyed this three part blog series on nutrition for the competitive ballroom dancer and would love to hear your questions, feedback, or any other nutrition tips that you have found useful!
Please let me know if you have any specific circumstances or topics that you would be interested in hearing more about and I would love to write a post on it!
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Wishing you a week filled with dance, passion, health, and wellness,
-Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”