Food for the Active – Part 1

Over the next couple of days, I will target this post to those at a healthy weight who have high activity levels. The following diet tips will be provided according to activity – Gym Training, Dancers, Football players. Keep in mind that needs are tailored individually and these are just general guidelines. Should you wish to know more about nutrition specific to your needs, please send an email to
Part 1 – Dancers
Carbs – Carbohydrates should compromise about 50% of a dancers diet. Once carbs are ingested, they are broken down into glucose in the bloodstream then stored as glycogen in your muscles (Glycogen is the primary fuel for energy production). The amount of carbohydrates needed depend on your total daily energy expenditure, duration of dance, gender and environmental conditions. The types of carbs to include are your complex carbs (see post on Carbs) & they include: wholegrain breads & cereals, fruits, rice, pasta, low fat dairy products. Having carbs before and after dance is important so:
*1-2 hours before dance – have a small carbohydrate snack such as 200g of low fat yoghurt & a piece of fruit or wholegrain crackers and cheese, ½ plain bagel or 1 slice of toast with low fat spread.

* After a period of dancing, you will need to replenish your muscle glycogen stores within the 2 hours after dance. Ensure to have a source of carbohydrate.

*If you are involved in long rehearsals – it is important to keep glycogen levels circulating to prevent fatigue. A good way to have carbs is in the form of sports drinks that contain about 6 -8% glucose.

Protein – It is important to have an adequate intake of protein in the forms of lean meats (skinless chicken, lean red meat, grilled fish) and for vegetarians – beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu. Aim to have a serve at lunch and a serve at dinner. Protein is important for muscle repair and to prevent muscle wasting.

Fat – is needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and is an important fuel for muscles. You should not completely restrict fat as a diet too low in fat can impair your performance and lead to serious health consequences. Fat intake should not exceed 30% of your total energy intake. (i.e. fat should compromise no more than 25- 30% of your diet). Limit your intake of saturated fats- full fat dairy products, meat fat, butter, fried foods & include more “healthy fats”such as fish, nuts, seeds, avocado & oils.

Fluid – Keeping hydrated is ESSENTIAL. General guidelines suggest to drink early and on regular intervals throughout the activity. 2 -3 hours pre-exercise, aim to have 400 ml of water. During activity, have about 250 ml (about 1 glass) of water every 15 minutes. After activity – aim to have 400ml – 600 ml of water within 2 hours post activity. A simple way to monitor hydration is to check urine colour: clear to light yellow is hydrated; yellow to dark yellow means dehydrated.

Vitamins and minerals –You need to ensure an adequate intake of B vitamins, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium & Zinc. To have a sufficient intake of these micronutrients, dancers should increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and lean red meat

Aiming for the right balance of nutrients is always important if you are a dancer in order to maximise your performance. Dancers are also under pressure to have the “right body type” and issues with body image are very common. Just like any diet, a dancer’s diet should compromise of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and adequate fluid.

Leave a Reply