Ask a Dance Dietitian: Should Dancers Be Using Supplements?

February 27, 2024

Should dancers be including supplements as part of their meal plans? —Sienna

It’s common for dancers to wonder whether or not to add supplements to their meal plans. Dancers, as athletes, require more energy and nutrients to support the physical demands of their art. Generally, supplements are not a necessity so long you’re eating a diet that is adequate and balanced. But that isn’t the reality for some dancers.

An adequate diet involves eating enough each day, and eating a variety of foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fats—the macronutrients crucial for energy and strong performance. It’s also important to eat colorful fruits and vegetables, which are key contributors of essential vitamins and minerals that support your immunity and metabolism.

While that might sound simple, many dancers face challenges in meeting these mealtime goals. Busy schedules can make it difficult to eat enough food each day, limiting your ability to hit recommended nutrient targets. This, coupled with the prevalence of restrictive eating patterns, puts dancers at risk of nutrient deficiencies related to under-fueling. In my work as a dietitian, I often see a few key nutrients (particularly carbs, fat, calcium, vitamin D, and iron) lacking in a dancer’s diet.

In these instances, supplements may be supportive in a dancer’s meal plan. But we should let supplements do just that: supplement, not replace, opportunities for meals and snacks. Multivitamins can be particularly helpful in offering a broad spectrum of nutrients. Protein supplements may also help during times when a recovery meal or snack is difficult to eat with a tight schedule.

Asian woman choosing between supplements.
Getty Images.

It’s important to identify reputable brands that support third-party testing standards for safety. Look for those that have undergone third-party testing, often depicted with a qualified label. This is because the supplement industry is largely unregulated, with subjective safety and efficacy standards that, oftentimes, lack evidence to support their claims. Supplements can also be expensive—an added challenge for dancers who feel financially drained from the costs of shoes and program tuition, as well as from the low-income realities of many dancer salaries.

The bottom line: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to supplements, and specific recommendations will depend on your needs. If you’re considering a supplement, consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist who can first help to identify the potential for nutrient gaps in your meal plan.

Have a question? Send it to registered dietitian nutritionist Rachel Fine at [email protected]. She’ll be answering questions on Pointe+ each month. Ask a Dance Dietitian responses are for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice.