Protein or carbs – what’s best for dancers?
Many people are confused about how best to manage their weight these days and dancers are particularly confused because they are constantly fed conflicting messages. I’ve seen it time and time again starting in small private ballet schools to major national ballet schools and small and large scale companies the world over.
First of all we are told we are athletes and need to eat lots of carbs for energy. So, many of us consume energy drinks and bananas (and chocolate) to get through days of classes, rehearsals and performances.
But then, after an interview with the director (not a qualified dietitian) on the size of our thighs, we are told to cut out the carbs and eat only protein and salad to achieve that desirable ‘waif-like look,’ be sinewy and yet still be extremely powerful.
Firstly, one should never listen to anyone who tells you to cut out a whole group of foods. We need both the protein and carbohydrates. The protein builds and maintains our tissues such as tired or torn muscles. It is also ideal for keeping hunger pangs at bay between meals during long rehearsal afternoons because it’s a very satiating food. We also need to eat some protein every day as our bodies can’t stockpile it.
Carbs on the other hand are a universal fuel for all our bodies’ cells, they are the only fuel source for our brains and the main source of energy for our muscles during strenuous exercise. We really can’t do without them.
What’s the solution? Eating sensible amounts of both. That’s why what we really need to understand portion control and putting together a healthy balanced diet.
For those interested in understanding further the matter of weight loss and weight management in relation to carbohydrates, accredited practicing dietition Glenn Cardwell has written a very good blog on the subject http://glenn-glenncardwell.blogspot.com/2010/01/for-weight-loss-carbs-in-or-out.html.
We need to be realistic and sensible with relation to what we eat. There is no point in trying to maintain a diet or way of life that is unrealistic, unsustainable and not enjoyable.
And as for dancers, we must be energized, strong and healthy. Our muscles must be rested and repaired and our energy supplies replenished–and the way to do that is to eat well-balanced meals.