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Nutrition plays a key role in athletic performance. Failure to provide the calories and carbohydrates that you need to fuel your body, the fluid to maintain hydration, and the vitamins and minerals to support metabolism and tissue growth and repair will result in poor performance and an increased risk for injury and/or illness.
The following nutritional guidelines will ensure that you get the best results from your training sessions and performances.
Water is your body's most important nutrient, it is involved in every bodily function. Consuming ample amounts is absolutely essential for fuelling your health and energy. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses a day (about 2 litres).
Dancers need to drink more to replenish water lost through exercising. When athletes sweat they lose salt from their body. If you lose too much you can get cramps and feel tired and drained.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source for exercise as they are the primary fuel for hard working muscles. It is essential that dancers consume lots of complex carbs (i.e. whole grains, fruits and vegetables) on a daily basis and particularly before, during and after performance days.
Top carbohydrate food sources include pasta, rice, breads, milk, yogurt, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
After a long night sleeping your energy fuel tank is empty. Breakfast is the fuel that gets you going so you can concentrate and perform at your best. Eating a healthy breakfast will mean you are less likely to want to reach for the unhealthy snacks. Break the Fast! Even if you are in a rush there are still quick breakfast choices so you can fuel up on the go e.g. healthy milkshakes.
Dancers and young athletes need to prevent hunger and supply energy to their working muscles. The night before a day's training or competition focus on carbs, moderate, protein and low-fat foods and fluids.
Replacing carbs that were used during exercise within 2 hours of completing the exercise session for speeding recovery and preparing for your next training period.
Protein is an essential part of a young athlete's diet. The role of protein is to build, maintain and repair muscle and other body tissues. However it is not recommended for athletes to replace carbohydrates with protein as this can actually impair athletic performance. Inadequate calorie intake will prohibit the protein balance. Without adequate carbohydrates you will tire quickly and won't have the energy to train or compete.
Top protein food sources include poultry, meat, fish, cheese, yogurt, milk and beans or legumes.
As a major energy source, fat is essential for light to moderate intensity exercise and for endurance exercise.
A high-fat diet is not healthy - but neither is a zero fat diet. You should aim to significantly lower the amount of saturated and trans fats. The focus should be on an intake of healthy fat from plant oils and limit the amount of fried and processed foods.
Keep your fuel tank full. In addition to healthy meals eat healthy snacks throughout the day before and after exercise.
Good examples are protein bars, pretzels, trail mix, fruit, vegetables and fluids.
Proper intake of calcium is needed to support bone growth, increase bone mass and aid in nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
Poor calcium intake can lead to decreased bone mass and consequently an increased risk for stress fractures and other bone-related injuries.
Optimum bone health is critical to a young athlete's growing bones.