Updated: Feb 16
I often get questions from young athletes about a variety of supplements, herbs or special diets restricted or increased in certain macro-nutrients or additives and their potential benefits or claims on product labels. The marketplace is saturated with supplements and products that promise a variety of tempting claims – “instant endurance”, “increased energy”, “fastest muscle building formula”, “enhanced performance”.
As you get down to the final weeks before a competition or performance (Oireachtas, anyone?), you are honing your technique, form and stamina. It feels that any little boost to get an edge on your competition might help you/your dancer reach your/their goals. You want that one thing that will push your performance to the top of the podium.
I encourage the athletes in the clinic, and you, to view those products with skepticism. FIRST, you need to focus on assuring that you are meeting the basic needs for your body to function at it’s best and reach peak performance. I realize this is NOT what dancers want to be hearing at this point in the season. But before fine tuning, you have to lay a solid foundation.
Let’s start with these three must haves for all competitive Irish dancers.
Meet your basic nutritional needs
Make sure you eat the appropriate servings from the five major food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Visit the www.choosemyplate.gov for general information about the appropriate number of servings of these foods you need each day.
If you want your body to perform at it’s best, don’t fuel it with “junk”.
It is true that dancers, especially with the increased training leading up to performances/competitions are burning considerably more calories. Ensure that you are fueling athletes with healthy fuel, not just calories. It’s ok to eat a piece or two of your Halloween stash but not half the bag in place of dinner.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…with water (if possible)
Performance drinks often contain considerable caffeine (and other additives) which defeat the purpose of hydrating and can lead to disturbances in sleep (and we all read Ellen’s blog about sleep last week).
I’ll be back to talk more about sports and performance drinks soon – a sports drink when training in anticipation for a big competition is ok but not as beneficial as H2O.
“To perform at their best, dancers need to be adequately fueled for the activities in which they participate regularly: classes, rehearsals, and performances/competitions.”2 Young athletes also need to meet their age appropriate nutrition needs to maximize their growth and developmental potential.
As with training, each dancer is different – they each have different metabolic needs, a specific balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, micronutrients, fluids requirements, different goals and should have individualized approaches to their dietary (fuel) intake.
If you are a Target Training athlete, you know that improvement in performance, strength building and enhanced stamina do not happen in one class, but with time and commitment. I'm here to help you fuel your body with the right nutrients to maximize your performance!
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Challis, J., Stevens, A. Nutrition Resource Paper 2016. International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. Retrieved from www.iadms.org