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Nutrition and Supplements for Dancers


Michelle_Richer
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The reason I have raised this topic, firstly I know so little about it and secondly my diet for weight loss seem to have got somewhat stuck. But in saying that, a friend came over last weekend for a Salsa party and stayed overnight, so the following day we had Sunday lunch at a local pub, this weekend was a wedding, but I didn’t over eat but I know my weight will have gained a pound or so. Although my diet consists mainly of fish and chicken, I do tend to eat a lot of fruit particularly bananas and drink quite a lot of Orange Juice (not from concentrate) . Banana and orange juice I guess have high sugar content.

 

As for supplements I take multi-vitamins, Fish oil, Co-enzyme Q10, glucosamine sulphate and occasionally calcium, as many ladies at my time of life do and this predated my starting ballet. However each time I go to the gym, I see at reception they have large jars of supplements on sale under the brand name GoPro, amongst these supplement compounds is WHEY and Creatine. There are several others too. I have also noticed that supermarkets like Sainsbury’s also stock these under a different brand name. The obvious question is, are these supplements beneficial to adult ballet dancers, as the last thing I want to develop is large unsightly muscles.

 

I’m not looking for quick fixes, but to those things which are genuinely beneficial and will preserve my ability to dance for years to come.

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There was quite a lot of publicity recently about a report that said that fruit juice is not nutritional because all the fibre has been taken out by the juicing process.  This has been confirmed to me by a dietician too.

 

The dieticican recommended the GI plan as a good way of healthy eating and providing energy during the day.  Bananas are very nutricious (as well as being delicious) but I believe they are not low GI.  There's lots on the internet about low GI eating.

 

I'm sorry but I can't comment on supplements as I don't take any!

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Observing the Glycaemic Index (GI) of foods can work wonders for steadier release of energy. My dd and dh have such fast metabolism that unless they eat mid-low GI food their blood sugar can suddenly plummet. It's really nothing to do with calories or fat content, but does mean the difference between slow steady release of energy or - with a high GI diet - a sugar rush followed by a slump.

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I know nothing really about supplements, but my impression of those huge jars in gyms that you mention is that they're aimed at bodybuilders and the like.  I certainly wouldn't assume they're safe/good for dancers just because they're sold in a gym.

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In the absence of any nutritionists making themselves known on here so far, I did some research and I would suggest you go to the GoPro site and read what they claim to be the benefits of each of the products, then make a decision for yourself about whether you may find them beneficial. My first impression is that they may be helpful to those undertaking intense training - but as with any supplements, it's debatable and people should probably seek medical advice.

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My younger brother has a serious amount of gym experience (he is currently doing officer training at Sandhurst and is second fittest in the cohort) and he only uses the protein supplements when he is seriously working out (by this I mean several hours of weights plus a 20k run per day) and having to build muscle at a high rate. I know the older lads at DSs vocational school use the protein shakes but again this is at 4 hours class/rehearsal per day plus additional weight training in the gym. I don't get the impression they are of much benefit to anyone doing only a moderate amount of exercise....(and I cycle about 80-100 miles a week and would include myself in that 'moderate' band)

However I recently read a really eye opening article about added sugars

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/aug/04/demon-drink-war-on-sugar

If you actually look at ll the products you eat it is amazing how fast you hit the recommended maximum of 20g- I consider myself a pretty healthy eater but I am way over (for example I had some french onion soup for lunch yesterday and realised I had  eaten 3/4 of my daily sugar allowance in one go!).

I did low GI after my 3rd child when I was about 2 stone over my ideal weight and it worked a treat- 10 years later (and 6 yrs after number 4) I am struggling to get the same effect (am just stuck at a stone overweight) and am sure it is a combination of age plus too much sugar...

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If we are talking about a generally healthy adult with no allergies who is physically active and would like to lose a few ponds:

 

The diet full of all vegetables, fruits, fish and meat is really good. I'll add nuts - high in protein and fibre and good fats etc.

The ready protein shakes and bars etc have got carbs in it and vitamins so it's easy to overdose it if you are already taking some supplements. These products are for the people who have no time ( or will) to prepare a well balanced, low GI, high in protein meals. My advise is not to buy it. As to bulky muscles - it's not what you eat but what you do - what exercise, how heavy resistance, how many repetitions etc.

Bananas are starchy and quite high in sugar so try not to eat too many. But it's a fruit so now and again it's a healthy choice.

Orange juice- it's much better to just eat an orange. Juices are high in sugar ( think how many oragnes are needed in one glass of juice), low in fibre and it's a hard work for your kidneys. Drink lots of water.

Whatever you eat always make sure that proteins are included - that will make a low GI snack (example - apple + a handful of nuts).

Hope it helps. Feel free to PM me if you'd like more information.

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Hi happymum

 

I’m not quite sure how you would describe me, yes I am healthy and very active, but for the weight loss it’s a bit more than a few pounds. It’s a positive target of one stone and a stretch target of two, however when I have lost significant weight in the past it has always made me look gaunt and older, that I really want to avoid.

 

As for preparing meals full stop, other than week ends I either eat on the hoof or grab a meal at a café. Admittedly I’m eating far more salads now in Café when in London at ENB etc as I do travel around a lot.

 

It funny you should mention “it's not what you eat but what you do - what exercise, how heavy resistance, how many repetitions etc”, I was using my resistance band in the Northern Ballet Cafeteria this morning, after nearly 100 reps it gave up and snapped, two hundred reps a day each foot is usual, I have to get them in any where I have a spare moment. Apart from four fitness classes I do, I do a workout at home most days unless it’s a very early start. After a warm up on the tread mill, 50 demi plies are done in first with a pelvic floor exerciser and 30 full plies in second are done on releve carrying a spinnaker bar with 20kg of weight as I have my own home gym. Needless to say there is a whole lot more to my workout but that’s just to give you a flavour. To add to that 12 ballet classes a week plus the odd rep workshop.

 

I spoke to one of my teachers on the topic of the thread on Monday night, apparently she did some post grad research some years ago on this and has a friend that has done some recent research too. She has offered to provide me with a copy of that research, so at least I should have something that is tangible to work with.

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Gosh Michelle with all that exercise I'm surprised that you have to lose any weight at all. Where do you get all your energy from and can you bottle it? I know my daughter buys a lot of the ready cooked fish in Marks and Spencer's with lots of fruit and salads and vegetables. Sorry I can't advise regards to this topic but you sound soooo healthy and well already.

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I'm just hoping it can stand up to my new run of six classes in one day and a 500mile round trip, I will trial it the first week ENB goes back, I'm not sure I can do it, but I'm going to find out. I think I can pace myself, as it will become a weekly occurrence. I tried the new leg of the journey out today at Northern Ballet.

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There is an excellent book by Zerlina Mastin called Nutrition for the Dancer ISBN 1 85273 135 9. As well as chapters on carbohydrate, protein, fat and vitamins and minerals, it has lots of facts and useful tips about a healthy diet for dancers and shows how to calculate your individual calorific intake. I think there are reviews on Amazon.

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Personally I would only take nutritional advice from an expert, in the same way that I would take advice about injuries, prevention, rehabilitation and/or treatment from an expert. I think that the field of nutrition is so complex and so influenced by psychological factors that many people misinterpret information, mis-hear or mis-read things, pass them on, believe fads, rumours etc. Dancers are NOTORIOUS for this! Being people who tend to verge towards the obsessive personality types anyway, I feel this is an area that dancers get very faddy about and start to follow all sorts of weird and strange advice!

 

Supplements are just that - they are to supplement the diet however there's nothing better than the real thing. Doctors and nutritionists largely all agree on the idea of a 'healthy diet' because it is just that! It is the best for everyone - a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg. Low GI foods/complex carbohydrates are vital for keeping up energy and avoiding fatigue (which we all know leads to poor performance and injury). Lean protein in the form of meat and fish are necessary to maintain strength, and allow repair of microtrauma caused every day and every class and fibre is essential for keeping everything moving along...

 

Every meal should contain a carbohydrate element - I get sick of hearing of people and their 'grilled meat/fish and leafy green vegetables' meals. This is a quick route to fatigue. Dancers tend to obsess about protein - I imagine it's come from something to do with strength and repair. But if the body doesn't get enough energy, it can't do anything with all that protein - in fact if you're not eating enough energy it will break protein down into an energy source, but one that is much less efficient, and leads to a build up of ketones (also known as keto acids). This can be deadly in serious cases. In less serious cases, it causes bad breath that smells like pear drops!

 

Creatine supplementation has limited scientific evidence supporting it. I did a study on it during my university years, which I admit were a few ago now, so it may have changed.

 

IADMS has a good nutrition fact sheet, and I'm fairly sure Dance UK have similar. 

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I have to aDmit that I've been considering done sort of protein shake type supplement for. 9 year old ds. He's tiny for his age and a completely faddy water possibly linked to potential ads

 

He eats bread, wraps, bagels, carrots, peas, sweetcorn, baked beans, rice, pasta, yoghurt, milk, qourn sausages, fish fingers & popcorn chicken. And lots & lots of Philadelphia.

 

That's it, literally. He will eat pizza but pulls the cheese off.

 

Not resorted to it yet but am currently allowing a diet of birds eye fish fingers, crispy chicken & qourn sausage in an attempt to get some protein in him.

 

Dd on the other hand is a real carnivore!

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Hi happymum

I’m not quite
sure how you would describe me, yes I am
healthy and very active, but for the weight loss
it’s a bit more than a few pounds. It’s a positive
target of one stone and a stretch target of two,
however when I have lost significant weight in
the past it has always made me look gaunt and
older, that I really want to avoid.



Hi Michelle,
I have sent you a PM
Edited by Janet McNulty
Edited to increase size of font so old fogies can read it!
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Pictures, - don't worry about your boy's diet, (speaking as a mum who's been there with this issue), it looks to me as though he's getting at least some of all the food groups.

 

My dd was referred to something called a Feeding Improvement Clinic when she was about 6, and they reassured us, and told us that although her diet was very restricted and boring, she was getting just about enough of all the vital nutrients, and that the last thing to do was to put any pressure on her whatsoever as all it would do was make matters worse.

 

Please do PM me if you like, and we can talk more if you want to. :)

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Pictures - CAMHS is a great resource for extreme behavioural or emotional issues but this doesnt sound like a CAMHS type issue. Funding shortages really cause problems don't they? I feel for you, it must be quite worrying but its good to know people are helping, and you've got others to talk to. I'm sure you've heard this but try not to worry as he will pick up on this anxiety and associate it with food etc. It sounds like he's eating quite well - milkshakes are great anyway so try those but if he knows he's being given 'protein shakes' or 'build up' or anything like that he might get worked up about it too. Good luck with it all. I teach a lot of kids with various ranges of ASD in school (science) and while it can be a challenge, if it's managed effectively these kids can do so well and really fly. 

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Thanks & also for the pm from another poster.

 

The school nurse did say she thought CAMHS couldn't help me but she referred me there as she was hoping they would refer to ASD unit faster than it would take otherwise. There are other issues too, st school to do with his learning & concentration, obsessions & meltdowns.

 

I handle him very well with strict routines but he has problems with school. At least the dinner ladies have stopped hassling him ( they went through a stage of refusing to serve him pasta unless he had a sauce in it etc)

 

Sorry for the thread hi-jack

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Weight loss is always harder once you've hit the menopause!! (Going back to a previous comment) Most people put on weight in their fifties whether a little or a lot (mine happened to be a lot eg 3 stone) but although its taken three plus years I'm nearly back at where I should be for height and build about half a stone to go!! And :) :) :) guess what just before I went on holiday I had to buy size 14 again for the first time for about 20 years!! Mind you ate SO well and had just TOO many cocktails so probably have put a bit back on no doubt.. But I'd be happy with size 14 for the rest of my life!!! (Am 5ft 8ins tall)

 

There's always a point for your build and height at which you will start to look gaunt.....when I went down once to eight and a half stone after getting glandular fever I did not look good it's getting a HEALTHY weight for YOU that's important I think....not aiming T some abstract figure!!

Yes I do take supplements mostly for joints...glucosamine and omega 3 etc and I have to eat calcium enriched....doctors orders!! So have been sourcing calcium other than form cheese and milk...both of which I love but not good for weight issues...eg chick peas and lots of cabbage....luckily also love!

 

I also take a good quality multivitamin every day....just in case(there's a really funny book called Justin Case with neurotics like me in mind I think) which is probably part of some obsessive worry about nutrition and don't know whether does any good but like to think it does!!

I became obsessive about bananas last year and couldn't do a class without eating a banana first...again .....just in case I ran out of energy.....but the sort of thing I would like to know is the pacing of food when you are doing physical activity ....what to eat when...

 

Incidentally one of the reasons apart from the menopause and inactivity physically grief over finality of no children and so on that I put on so much weight in fifties is we got into a habit of eating very late at night....it's been hard to break but we now eat main meal lunch time or much earlier evening when possible.

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