Life as a dancer is a whirlwind of activity, from early morning rehearsals to late-night performances, leaving little time for those all-important meals and snacks. I've been there, juggling a hectic schedule that seemed never-ending. But amidst the chaos, one thing remains constant: the need for balanced nutrition.
Performance nutrition is a critical aspect of a dancer's life. It fuels our bodies, sustains stamina, prevents injuries, and so much more. Yet, with our tightly packed schedules, finding time to nourish ourselves can be a challenge.
As an example, here’s what my schedule looked like a few years ago (before I headed to grad school and am now balancing my professional dance career with dance nutrition coaching).
5:45am - Wake Up
6:30am - 60-min Hot Yoga Class
7:30am - finish class, shower, and head to the office
9:00am-5:30/6pm - Work my desk job as administrative support staff at a dance organization
6:00pm - Head to the studio
7:30pm - 90-minute Ballet Class (+ a few minutes of running/working on something afterwards)
9:15pm - Change clothes and head home - sometimes this commute was 45-minutes on the train
Believe it or not, after getting home at 10pm, sometimes I’d GO OUT with friends either for dinner or drinks. Fall asleep around 12midnight or 1am and get up and do the whole thing over again! Then my weekends were filled with running to classes and rehearsals and warm ups for more rehearsals for my various freelance dancing jobs only to do the whole thing over the following week.
Today, I’m tired just recalling what my schedule looked like. And, honestly, I was still struggling with my body image and relationship to food at this time... so I'm certain my own performance could have been fueled more appropriately than it was.
For today, let’s focus on how we can balance performance nutrition during our incredibly busy and full days - in the studio, on the job, at home, and more.
Nutrition is crucial for dancers for so many reasons, right? Food is literally fuel that keeps our body going; helps us retain and improve stamina, both cardio and strength; works to prevent or reduce our risk of injury; and so much more. Despite understanding the benefits of adequate performance nutrition, we have limited time during our day to, let alone be proactive, but just to simply make, buy, or eat meals and snacks.
With limited available time, dancers have to be creative - that’s something we’re INCREDIBLY good at!
Here are two actions you can add into your week that should help!
1. Set an alarm on your phone to refill your dance bag with shelf-stable (or bag-stable) snacks during the week. Maybe opt for a Sunday night reminder, pack a few snacks to last at least through the end of day Tuesday, OR set a nightly reminder to pack new snacks for the next day! This ensures you never have a moment of extreme hunger and have to push through - increasing your risk for injury.
Snacks that I love:
Nature Valley bars (+ nut butter)
Fruit - just be wary of your bananas, I’ve smooshed many in my bags over the years 🤢
Protein bars can be great with a side of fruit for that boost of carbs
Trail mix that has nuts + dried fruit
Canned fish + crackers or pretzels
Or any other yummy snacks that you love!
2. Figure out your schedule and if you have space to meal plan + prep and when ordering take out will serve you best during your week. Some days it’s simply not possible nor do you have the energy to put a meal together at home. Overall you’ll probably spend a little more money on a meal out but saving time and sanity is also worth something!
3. For more, check out my guest blog over at The Dance Scientist and/or access any of my Online Meal Planning + Prepping Guides. You’ll receive immediate access to my Meal Planning Guide, Recipes, Grocery Lists, and more!
To maintain peak performance, dancers must be creative with their nutrition, even when time is limited. It's an essential aspect of your career; fuel your passion without compromise.
I'd love to hear from you! Share the habit(s) that helps you maintain a balanced diet during your busy days. Whether it's a go-to snack, a meal planning strategy, or a unique approach to staying energized, your insights can inspire and help fellow dancers on their journey to better nutrition.
👇 Leave your thoughts in the comments below!