by Danny Shapiro
I’ve had the pleasure of working with many high caliber athletes and dancers over the years. One thing I’ve found is that no matter how hard you train during practice, nothing is quite as important as proper nutrition. The food you eat is the most important weapon in your arsenal. It is what makes the difference between a dancer and a champion.
Food could either be a source of fuel, powering you through your practice, rounds, and competitions, or it can weigh you down. If you’re not eating foods dense with nutrients, it’s like putting regular gas in your Ferrari instead of premium gas. Will it run? Sure. But can it run better? Absolutely!
Healthy food is much more than your typical breakdown of protein, carbs, and fat. While it is important to fulfill your macronutrient requirements, it is an absolute must to include foods rich in fiber, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals into your diet. A common misconception amongst dancers is that proper comp day foods include a bowl of pasta or some eggs. While those foods could compose a portion of your meal, I recommend trying something more nutritionally potent, and something that will provide a bit more bang for your efforts.
Recipe #1: Pre-Practice Meal
Berry Smoothie “Ice Cream” Bowl
- A package of açai (can be purchased at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and most supermarkets
- 1 banana
- ½ cup of frozen blueberries
- 2 dates
- ½ cup of frozen berries or fruit of your choice
- A splash of almond, cashew, rice, or oat milk
- Toppings of your choosing (chia seeds, hemp seeds, fresh fruit, granola are some ideas)
Throw everything in the food processor, and blend. Start with a little bit of milk, and add more until you reach the desired consistency. Should be soft-serve ice cream thickness. Top with chia seeds, hemp seeds, fresh fruit, granola, and nut butter of choice.
A smoothie bowl has the carbs necessary for energy, as well as plenty of fiber-bonded fructose (very different than fructose from something like orange juice), as well as tons of vitamins and minerals. This is much more preferred by your body as a means of energy than empty carbs from pasta.
Recipe #2: Post-Practice Meal
Green Power Smoothie
- 3 cups of spinach or mixed greens
- 2 frozen bananas
- Frozen pineapple
- Frozen mango
- 1 – 1.5 cups of almond, coconut, or oat milk
- 1 cup of water
- 1 choice of protein (I recommend a plant-based protein powder such as Orgain to reduce inflammation, added with vanilla flavoring)
Instructions: Simply blend, and enjoy!
Our goal after we take our dance shoes off is to refuel and recover. This means that it’s time to top off our nutrient needs. This means: carbs, protein (especially), and our vitamins and minerals.
Recipe #3: Supplementary Snack
Avocado Sweet Potato Toast
- 1 avocado
- 1 sweet potato
- ½ lime
- A pinch of salt (I recommend himalayan pink salt)
Cut up the entire avocado and place in bowl. Squeeze lime juice and add salt. Slice the sweet potato into 4 length-wise “toasts” and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until easily pierced. Apply avocado mixture and enjoy!
These are meals I personally eat with my own workouts and recommend to my dancers and athletes. The difference in energy levels are crazy! I also strongly recommend that you limit or completely eliminate dairy. Dairy produces a lot of inflammation within the body, which slows down your recovery and hinders your performance (which I know we can’t afford!).
I hope you give these recipes a go and fuel your body right!
Danny Shapiro is a sports physical therapist and personal trainer. A former ballroom dancer himself for nearly 16 years, Danny claimed many national titles and competed all over the world. After stepping away from dancing, Shapiro pursued physical therapy as a way to discover more about the body, as well as a way to give back to the dancing and sports community. Fast forward to today, and Danny is now working with some of the most talented dancers in world.