You’ve been rehearsing for months: combinations, sequences, and (of course) musicality. Your body needs to perform at its best. With so much focus on your routine, make some mental space for the instrument that has to physically execute the moves: your body.
We’ve discussed the importance of the macronutrient mix, but let’s breakdown one of its components: carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a dancer’s most important fuel source. Adding carbs to your meals replenishes muscle glycogen, which supplies energy when performing intense activities (like dancing!). However, we often hear a lot of chatter about this macronutrient in diet culture. From “good” carbs to “bad” carbs, it’s hard to determine which (if any) are truly worth avoiding.
But for those who follow me know that avoiding foods for the sole reason of nutrition is not usually the best route. Instead of deciding whether a carb should be avoided or not, understand the differences between some carbs from others.
Complex carbs, such as those found in plant-based foods (think: whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes) help to supply energy for the hours leading up to the performance. Complex carbs are specifically high in naturally occurring intact fibers, which help to slow the rise and fall of your blood sugar. To boost the power of your daily meals, try these recipe swaps high in complex carbs:
- Add bean-based pastas to your dinner.
- Create a DIY grain bowl using a high fiber grain like barley, faro, or quinoa
- Use sprouted grain bread for your next sandwich
- Choose fruits with edible peels, like apples and berries
Now that your energy is ready for the curtain to rise, let’s discuss that last push sometimes needed to get us through to curtain call. Remember, adding carbs to your meals replenishes muscle glycogen. Since your glycogen stores can deplete quickly (within an hour!), we may need to access an additional burst of energy mid-to-late show. This is where simple carbs come into the picture. Simple carbs, or sugars, lack fiber and therefore, are digested quicker. This supplies a quicker dose of energy to your working muscles. Simple carbs are found in fruit (those without an edible fibrous peel), sweets, and baked goods.
Now that you know the differences between “simple” and “complex” carbs, understand that both have a place in our daily meal plans. If you’re craving a cookie, enjoy it mindfully! If you’re looking for a dose of energy to get you through those last 32 fouettés however, try fresh fruit. You’ll get an added dose of vitamin C!