The Importance of Nutrition for Dancers

The Importance of Nutrition for Dancers

How many families out there have little dancer in their household? Some girls spend an average of 3-4 hours each day dancing. They may even go to dance at school if they are involved with school dance programs. Most girls are arriving a dance sometime after school is out then getting home too late for proper meals with their family. All they are concerned with is getting homework done and going to bed.

Guidelines for fueling your body as a dancer isn’t an easy task. 

Calorie Needs

To perform your best, dancers need to be well fueled for classes, rehearsals and performance. A huge challenge for dancers is not ingesting sufficient quantities of food to meet the energy demand of dance. An easy estimate of caloric needs during heavy training for a female is 45-50 calories/kg of body weight (kg= lbs weight / 2.2 example: 100 lbs / 2.2 = 45.45 kg). The caloric needs for a male are higher at 50-55 calories/kg body weight. 

Consuming too few calories will compromise your energy availability and of course with low calories comes low intake of micronutrients that will alter performance, growth, and overall health. 


To begin with, the basics of energy carbohydrates are a dancer’s best friend. A dancer should have a diet rich in whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Fifty-five to 60 percent of their diet should be carbohydrates.

Carbs are the main source of energy for any athlete because they breakdown into glucose and fuel your muscles. Without glucose, a dancer’s skills and strength would be compromised and the feeling of muscle fatigue would take over. In addition to meals, a dancer should also ingest carbohydrates before, during and after class or performance.

At least 1 hour before any activity begins a dancer should consume a quick energy carbohydrate to start glucose fueling. Sources of carbohydrates include whole grain pasta, rice, beans, whole grain breads, and fresh fruit.


Fats are also very important. Fat provides structure for all cell membranes, they are the insulating layer around nerves and form the base of many of our hormones. Healthy fats are needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and used to fuel our muscles for energy. It is estimated that we need 1.2 grams of fat/kg of body weight. Muscles and adipose (fat) tissue store fats called triglycerides. During exercise these triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids and produce energy for muscles to contract. These fatty acids are very important during endurance activity such as dancing where you are continuously exercising for over 20 minutes at a time. Healthy fats to include in your diet are nuts, canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.


Protein is extremely important for young dancers and all athletes whether your goal is to build muscle or not.

With constant use of muscles during competition and practices, protein is needed for building and repairing used muscles tissue. Protein is also used as an auxiliary fuel when you don’t have enough of the glycogen on board. The estimated need for protein is 1.4 to 1.6 grams of protein/kg of body weight.

Healthy sources of protein include animal meats like chicken, fish, turkey, lean pork or beef. Vegetarian sources of protein are beans, quinoa, rice, and tofu. If you follow the recommendations above you are getting enough in your diet protein powders are not necessary.


Dancers can also forget about obtaining key micronutrients called vitamins and minerals. B vitamins and vitamin C which are water soluble vitamins and vitamin A, D, K and E which are fat soluble vitamins. Our B vitamins are a part of energy production. They don’t give you energy but are used in the body to make energy from our carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These vitamins are also part of making red blood cells.

If you compromise your intake of these vitamins, you will compromise your performance over time.  Vitamins A, C, and E play a role in cleaning up damaged muscles that are over stressed and overused.

Calcium is a mineral that is used for bone growth. The most important years of bone development is in your first 30 years of life which just happens to be the prime years for dancing. Low bone density will result in increased chances of bone stress fractures. Iron is also a highly important nutrient for dancers since it is what our bodies use to carry oxygen to the blood. And of course, oxygen is what we use to help our bodies produce energy.

Vitamins and minerals are found in a variety of foods and if you are eating balanced meals, you will get adequate nutrition and perform at your highest. 

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