Category Archives: Diet

Our Blog Has Moved!

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We are excited to announce that with the launch of the new balletstrength.com, our Ballet Skills blog has moved! Now you can get all of our helpful free blog tips as well as our products that offer solutions to the most common ballet problems in one place!

Don’t worry, we’ll still check back with you here periodically but our most recent and up to date blog posts and products will be posted to our new blog at http://www.balletstrength.com. Thanks again for all of your support and I look forward to hearing your feedback on the new blog!

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Hydration for Dancers

©BalletStrength

If you are dancing for long periods of time, it is important to replace the fluids lost from sweating. If you become dehydrated while dancing, especially in the heat, it can cause fatigue, dizziness, decrease in coordination, and even muscle cramping. Examples include forgetting combinations, the inability to physically complete long segments of choreography due to fatigue, and legs cramping in the middle of a piece. We’ll talk more about how you can hydrate yourself during the dancing day to prevent some of the awful consequences of dehydration.

Chances are, you’ve probably experienced one of the three symptoms I mentioned above. Dancers are sometimes at a disadvantage here, as teachers are not all educated about the importance of hydration in the classroom and do not allow water or sports drinks to be brought into the studio. You can work around this by making a conscious effort to drink water and/or a sports beverage throughout the day, at home or at school, and in the morning before ballet.

Adequate hydration is an essential part of your ballet nutrition. Water makes up almost 60% of our body weight. Water is the most important nutrient for your body. Its functions include lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, and transporting nutrients through the body. We lose water during the day through sweating, respiration, and through urinary and fecal output.

lemonwater ©BalletStrength

Electrolytes-

When you hear the word “hydration” you immediately think of water, but being hydrated sometimes means more than simply drinking more water. Dancers who spend more than 3 hours rehearsing per day can be at risk for dehydration and fluids need to be replenished in the form of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that are essential to the human body.(examples: sodium, potassium, magnesium) Electrolyte beverages utilize these minerals to restore the body’s water levels.

When I was dancing with a ballet company that required 8 hours per day of class and rehearsals, I sipped on an electrolyte beverage all day long. Many of my friends didn’t even drink as much as water during the long rehearsal days and let me just tell you – it is part of the reason why their performance in class and rehearsals suffered day to day.

Choose your “sports drink” wisely – although some may taste like kool-aid this is likely due to the fact that they contain too much sugar. My favorite brands of electrolyte hydrators such as the brand Vega, are found at natural health food stores.

I hope this blog will help you understand hydration and how it effects your ballet performance and recovery. For more information please be sure to subscribe to this blog and join us on Facebook or check out my eBook, Ballet Nutrition. Happy Dancing!

 

Nutrition for Dancers – Career Saving Advice

Ballet NutritionDid you know that proper nutrition can make or break your day to day ballet performance? With the intense physical demands that are being put on dancers these days a solid nutrition routine is a must for optimal performance, endurance and muscle recovery. Contemporary choreography is taking ballet to a new athletic level. Dancers are much like other athletes – They need to eat for energy.

When I landed my first professional job away from home as a dancer with Ballet Austin, I wasn’t used to having to prepare meals and take care of myself. Frozen food and pizza were convenient but were not what my body needed to perform at it’s best from day to day. I was always tired, got frequent migraine headaches, and my performance in class started to suffer. I also gained weight.

All of this eventually lead up to an injury. The physical and nutritional stress that I was putting on my body had finally taken it’s toll. Soon I was called into the office to talk to the directors about not only my injury but my weight gain. The last thing that I wanted to be thinking about while dealing with an injury was “dieting.” Injured, self-conscious, and desperate for answers, I left the company mid-season to recuperate back at home and pull myself together in time for company auditions that Spring.

Through healthy eating, adequate rest, and stress management I was able to catch myself before I fell into a career ending pattern in time to receive multiple job offers that Spring. Luckily I have put together a resource for you to optimize your nutrition and apply the same principles that helped me to your life and dancing!

It’s called Ballet Nutrition and it covers all of the important things that you need to know including; using food for fuel, proper hydration, adequate rest, muscle recovery, daily caloric requirements (super easy to use formula to figure out your needs), and eating for energy. This digital book empowers you to make your own healthy choices and design your own plan based on the principles explained and examples given.

Your dancing deserves the best nutrition! Read more about Ballet Nutrition here >> http://balletstrength.com/Ballet_Strength/balletnutrition.html

 

 

Ballet Performance Nutrition Advantage

Is your ballet nutrition giving you an advantage during performances and rehearsal? A common topic that comes up between my Ballet Strength clients and I is performance nutrition. Let’s face it, if there was a magical healthy potion created for dancers to eliminate muscle fatigue, soreness and boost energy we would all have it by now. But wait- there are some things that you can do to help your body repair, recover, and revitalize! Follow these steps to get your ballet body at it’s best come performance time.

Stay Hydrated- Let’s admit it…as dancers we sweat a lot. Water is one of the most important things that we can drink as it regulates body temperature, transports nutrients, and helps lubricate our joints, but If you are exercising excessively like we do as dancers, just plain water sometimes is not enough. I suggest an electrolyte sports drink beverage to my Ballet Strength clients who have schedules where they are rehearsing and/or performing more than 2 hours per day. Diluted Gatorade or G2 is a great start as you will get the effect of the electrolyte beverage without taking in too many additional calories. It is key to remember that hydration isn’t only important while you are dancing – you want to maintain your levels of hydration even on your days off!

Protein- I get many emails from dancers wanting to know about protein supplements and when they should be taken. Protein is an essential part of any athletes nutrition as it helps aid in muscle recovery and helps repair muscle that is broken down during exercise. It also helps optimize the storage of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen (enough of the technical stuff…I know). So when should you drink your Protein shake? Your protein shake should be consumed after your day of dancing. Drinking a shake or bar before rehearsal will make you lethargic- trust me on this, I’ve learned the hard way. Once I realized the importance of protein, as a professional dancer I always drank a high quality protein shake (in water) before bed. Quality of protein is also important, but that is a lengthy topic for another post.

Carbohydrates- If you are looking for sustained energy, carbohydrates are arguably the most important source. Carbohydrates are what provide the energy to fuel muscle contractions (getting technical again, sorry). This is why I do not recommend a low-carb diet for dancers. Carbs provide great between rehearsal snacks. A couple from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre have even formulated the perfect balanced pre-performance snack for sustained energy called Barre. (they’re not paying me to endorse them- I’ve tried Barre and it’s really good! You can get them here: www.realfoodbarre.com) General rule- if you are extremely active like most of us dancers are, don’t skimp on carbs!

Rest- The body needs adequate time to recover after a long day of dancing or performing. This is why I suggest at least eight hours of sleep each night. This might mean heading to bed earlier than you would like but trust me, your dancing will benefit from a few extra hours of zzz’s!

So there you have it, four major components to your ballet performance nutrition advantage. With adequate hydration, nutrition and rest you will be able to perform at your best! Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions below.

Ballet Strength Goes Beyond the Barre

Are you looking to advance in your current ballet company? If you are like most dancers, your goal is to rise through the ranks of a ballet company and eventually get the opportunity to dance principal roles. Smart dancers know that the tools necessary to excel in the dance world are not all found in your daily ballet technique class. The following are some areas to explore when it comes to having the advantage over your competition.

1.) Use your resources. Does your ballet company offer massage and chiropractic services? If so, these are resources that you should be utilizing on a weekly basis. Keeping your body fine tuned will keep it performing to it’s full potential.

2.) Eat for fuel. It you are dancing professionally you should be on a performance nutrition plan. Dancers must eat to fuel their bodies to get through intense days of rehearsals, performances and most importantly recovery. If your body is not adequately recovered from the previous day of training, it will not magically reset the next day.

3.) Look beyond the barre. Ballet cross training is a huge part of a dancers performance plan today. It will help you stay injury free, strengthen weaknesses, and improve overall physical conditioning. The old thinking that dancers can’t lift weights is no longer a valid statement as dancers in the top ballet companies like New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet are doing it. Oh, and to answer the question “Will I get bulky?” No, you may actually lean out!

4.) Rehab injuries- Be smart about your injuries. If a prescribed physical therapy plan is not working, look elsewhere. Different rehabilitation techniques work for different injuries and with the many options available these days, there is no excuse to live in pain. Find a treatment plan that works best for you.

5.) Hire a coach. Sometimes you need an outside perspective. You can’t always lean on your friends in the company for help and advice since in essence they are your competition. Professional dancers hire me, for example, to keep them motivated and on track with their goals and to create a performance plan. Without a long-term plan, you will be lost in the corp de ballet.

6.) Rest. Probably the most important part of a dancer’s recovery is rest. This means respecting your body by getting to bed early each night and keeping outside drama to a minimum. It may sound like a good idea to go out with friends on weeknights, but you are only further fatiguing your body.

By exploring these six areas you will put yourself ahead of the game as a dancer. These are just a few of the things that I currently work on with my professional dancer clients. If you are interested in learning more about my coaching services for dancers email me at nikol@balletaudition.com.

5 Healthy Tips for Dancers

You may not realize this, but Ballet Dancers have some of the most unhealthy dietary and lifestyle habits. These bad habits effect dancers from daily class all the way to auditions. We’ve all read the famous Ballerina’s books like Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on my Grave and hopefully have learned a lot from their mistakes.

What can you do to improve your health so that you can reach peak performance? Follow a few of these simple guidelines to boost your energy in everyday class all the way to performance time.

1.) Don’t skip out on Breakfast– After 8 or more hours of fasting overnight, your body desperately needs food fuel in the morning. Make sure you are eating a balanced breakfast before heading out to class in the morning.

2.) Stay Hydrated– I cannot stress this enough. If you are not drinking water or an electrolyte enriched beverage before and during class, your strength will suffer.

3.) Eat– The skinny, emaciated look is so 1970. Artistic Directors are looking for strong bodies these days.

4.) Soak and Stroke– A hot bath at the end of a long day of rehearsing is just what your body needs to relax and prepare for tomorrow.

5.) Take a day off– Sometimes you need a mental day of rest. On your days off, participate in functions or activites that do not involve dancing. You will feel a lot fresher when the work week begins again.

I hope you have enjoyed these 5 healthy tips for Ballet Dancers! If you’re feeling a little low on energy, chances are you are missing one of the above components.

Happy Dancing!

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer, Author of The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide

Diet for Dancers

I have received a lot of inquiries lately about Diet particularly for Ballet Dancers. The trend these days is not to look super thin, rather to be muscularly lean. Here are a few tips to get you in tip top shape before the 2009/2010 season begins!

  1. Don’t use the word Diet. A better term that I use with my clients is “Meal Plan.” When we hear the word diet we automatically think of deprivation. Really, you shouldn’t have to deprive yourself of anything you like. You should, however, plan your meals out thoroughly so that you can have that favorite snack you crave once or twice per week. In moderation, of course.
  2. Do not cut out Carbohydrates. The worst thing that a dancer can do is get on a low-carb/hi-protein diet. If you are eating primarily protein to lose weight as a dancer, you will have absolutely no energy. Stick with a nice carb to protein ratio.
  3. Stay Hydrated. You should be drinking an electrolyte enhanced beverage during and after Ballet class or rehearsal. This will ensure you have enough glucose in the system and the energy supply to keep pushing in rehearsal.
  4. Low on Iron? For female dancers, during that time of the month, we sometimes get low on Iron. This is from the blood loss during menstruation. Feeling lethargic, numb, and a bit queezy? Low Iron levels may be the case.
  5. Don’t skip out on lunch. I know a lot of dancers who skip lunch in between rehearsals. This is the wrong thing to do! You need to refuel your body on your lunch break to get ready for the afternoon’s vigorous rehearsal schedule!

I hope these tips will you out during the 2009/2010 Season. Of course always consult with a physician or nutritionist before starting any type of diet plan.

Still trying to get a job in the professional dance world? Check out my Audition preparation website!

Dancer Rehabilitation and Maintenance

NYCB Dancer getting rehab on an injured foot.

NYCB Dancer getting rehab on an injured foot.

What are you doing to ensure that your body is in top form every morning when you step into the studio?

There are many factors that contribute to injuries in dancers that could have easily been prevented. Muscle fatigue, lack of proper rest and recovery are essential to keep your body in top form. Here are a few simple maintenance routines to get you on the right track.

Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Without proper rest your body will not have proper time to recover from the day before. Plus you won’t be alert in class and rehearsal making it hard not only on yourself, but also your co-workers!

Don’t forget to stretch. It seems like something so simple, but it is also something that is easily forgotten. Tight muscles are more suseptible to injury.

Supplement. No, don’t take Advil. Try a natural approach. Did you know that Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory? Also, try a Calcium/Magnesium complex to relax the muscles while supporting healthy bones.

Drink Water. Enough said.

Soak in the tub. Soaking sore muscles in a few cups of Epsom Salt and hot water can make a world of a difference. Try stretching after the hot bath too!

Seek massage and chiropractic work. Let’s face it, we’d like to have all the answers ourselves, but sometimes we must rely on the help of others. A weekly visit to the chiroprator or masseuse will fine tune you…at least until you have to rehearse some overhead lifts in a pas de deux.

 Practice these simple techniques to help promote an injury free career. Your body will thank you for it!

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

-Nikol Klein, Certified Personal Trainer/ Professional Ballet Dancer