3 Reasons Why Nutrition Education Should Be Part of Every Ballet Dancer’s Training (and How to Get It)

June 21, 2023

An understanding of nutrition science is fundamental to a ballet dancer’s performance and, arguably, just as important as building technique and crafting artistry. But when it comes to learning about nutrition, most dancers don’t know where to start. To support your training, let’s uncover the reasons why dancers should prioritize nutrition education and how best to access it.

Reason 1: Food enhances performance.

Food offers the nutrients you need to support your dancing. As a dietitian who works exclusively with dancers, I emphasize the following key components in a dancer’s diet:

  1. Balance of the three major macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This combination of nutrients supports the body’s ability to repair itself and become stronger.
  2. Abundance and consistency: Eat enough food regularly throughout the day. This is also essential for energy replenishment.
  3. Eat a variety of different foods to get a variety of micronutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients to support immunity.
  4. Food flexibility: This allows you to access foods that are satisfying and that you enjoy.

Reason 2: Meeting your nutritional needs reduces injury risk.

Knowing your body’s unique nutritional needs provides the tools to support a rigorous schedule of training and rehearsals. Adding foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, like dairy products, leafy greens, and mushrooms, supports strong bones. Sources of unsaturated fats—fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and plant oils—are known to alleviate the inflammation that can build from intense dancing. Eating enough complex carbohydrates will also help sharpen your focus and concentration in the studio. Simply put, adequate fueling provides the tools your body needs to stay strong, energized, and free from injury.

Cropped shot of a young woman preparing a meal at home
Getty Images.

Reason 3: Your relationship with food can support a healthy career.

Since ballet dancers are generally at a higher risk of suffering from eating disorders, proper nutrition education not only helps with career longevity but is also necessary for overall health. Ballet requires a high degree of focus that, when coupled with a dancer’s passion for the art, can lay the groundwork for perfectionistic tendencies which can ultimately lead to burnout. A healthy relationship with food will help you have a longer ballet career.

Remember: Credible advice matters.

Ballet dancers will often pursue whatever it takes to master their technique. Naturally, learning how food enhances performance can be appealing. But left unchecked, this mindset can shift into using food to strive for harmful weight ideals. Regarding food and nutrition information, credibility matters.

Fortunately, dance programs are starting to recognize the need for appropriate nutrition education by adding classes and providing appropriate referrals. If you’re in a training environment that offers this, soak it up! But if you’re relying on online resources like social media, then do some digging. When it comes to food, be wary of dressing-room chatter and casual food advice. Seek advice from a dietitian, particularly one who works with dancers. Registered dietitian nutritionists are trained to build nutrition solutions that work for a dancer’s unique needs. You can even check in with a local company to see if a dance dietitian is available in your area.

Simply put, adding the fundamentals of dance nutrition to your tool kit will support your performance goals and lifelong health.