Last week I gave my first top tip on being a strong, healthy and happy dancer which was all about body massage. This week it is all about how to restore your body with wholesome nutrition. It may be tempting to grab a Mars bar or a high cafeine sports drink inbetween rehearsals and when you only have the local cafe to hand, options are limited. The problem with grabbing a sugary or cafeiene based drink/food, is that the boost only lasts a very short time i.e. 30 minutes average if that. It also gives you alot of other E numbers (which are nasty chemicals) and excess sugar which you probably do not need. The sugar you do not use is stored and eventually converted into Fat if your body does not need it. So excess weight can be put on just down to what you snack on in those 5 minutes.
What should you snack on then?
Answer: Lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein is essential for restoring, maintaining your working muscles and the production of hormones and enzymes which regulate your metabolism. Because the body does not store protein, if you do not eat enough, the carbohydrates you eat will not be able to do their job as well. For a dancer, it is so important that complex carbohydrates (good carbs) do their job really really well which is to give you energy. Without enough protein, the good carbs you eat will not give you optimal energy.
The other benefit of protein is if you are watching your weight, protein will make you feel fuller for longer. It takes the body between around 2 – 3 hours to digest protein depending on what kind of protein it is and how much you take. Along with foods which contain lean protein you tend to get other goodness to which is much more beneficial than E numbers and sugar.
The next question you are probably asking is what high protein convenient foods can I eat for snacking on then?
Preparing snacks and meals at home is the best option. Meals/snacks including lean white meat, beans, lentils, low fat diary products, raw nuts, fish and eggs are all foods which are high in protein. Just be sure that the protein is lean, meaning no or little fat alongwith it. Some protein rich foods like alot of red meat, or diary is also fatty. This includes MacDonalds! (I say this as there always seems to be a McDonalds down the road from dance colleges or theatres!).
The great thing at the moment is there are a lot of good quality protein rich snacks which are available from many convenience shops. These taste great and require no preparation. My favourites are Upbeat, Trek bars, Bounce Balls, Total 0% fat Greek yoghurt and Wheyhey protein ice-cream. Although you may think these are a little exspensive, if you order in bulk the cost drops dramaticaly. It is worth ordering online and then you can just pop one in your bag in the morning.
Try it out and let me know how you get on.
Next week I will be explaining why if you are a dancer, meditation could be your life saver when it comes to keeping focused and being happy.