Finding the right beverage for your dancing needs
Dec 2005/Jan 2006
When thirst strikes, think twice before ordering that soda. It may taste delicious - and even provide an energy jolt - but better options exist for staying hydrated.
Water and sports drinks are the best ways to replace fluids, says Heidi Skolnik, nutrition consultant to the School of American Ballet and the New York Giants. Drinking enough may mean the difference between breezing through a performance and leaving the stage feeling utterly exhausted.
Keeping eight ounces of liquid handy during exercise is a good rule of thumb, says Skolnik. The goal is to replace what you lose in sweat, which for many high school and college-age dancers means drinking between 17 and 20 ounces of liquid every two or three hours before rehearsing or performing and 20 ounces two hours after. Take sips of liquid during exercise.
Hydration needs to go hand in hand with caloric intake, which depends on individual body weight and exercise intensity. Eating a balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and paying attention to vitamins, electrolytes and carbohydrates are necessary for staying hydrated and healthy.
"When your fluid intake is not matching your fluid loss, that’s dehydration, says Skolnik. "By the time you’re thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated." According to Skolnik, dancers taking two or three classes daily and performing may face an even greater risk of fluid loss. Poor hydration can result in concentration loss, fatigue, cramps and irritability, so drinking enough of the right kinds of liquids can make a difference in mood, performance and even help prevent injuries
Paying attention to your moods and energy levels is a great way to test your hydration levels, Skolnik adds, but another way to self-check is to monitor the fluids that leave your body. “If your urine looks like lemonade, you’re doing a good job, but if it looks more like apple juice, kind of concentrated, and there’s not a lot of it, then you’re dehydrated,? she explains.
Getting back in balance depends on consuming small amounts of liquids throughout the day. Avoid guzzling all at once, and start by drinking water.
“You can’t diss water, but we know that people don’t do a very good job at rehydrating themselves,” Skolnik says. “Water kind of gets boring sometimes.” She says there is virtually no difference between drinking tap water and bottled water, explaining the important thing is to keep drinking. In addition to regular water she recommends drinking fitness waters - flavored waters with low calorie content (such as Propel, which has 30 calories per serving). The flavors can even encourage you to drink more.
Sports Drinks vs. Energy Drinks
While water provides a clear answer to maintaining a healthy fluid level, sports drinks are helpful because they provide electrolytes, which aid your metabolism and other basic bodily functions, and carbohydrates, which the body uses as an energy source to fuel daily activities. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are a smart rehydration choice. Energy drinks such as Red Bull are less ideal, Skolnik points out, because they contain more caffeine and less fluid than sports drinks. “If you drank the amount of energy drinks you need to meet your hydration needs, you’d be jittery, you’d have an upset stomach, and you’d be bouncing off the walls,” she says.
Caffeine isn’t all bad, as long as it is consumed in moderation, Skolnik says. It used to be seen as a dieuretic, which is not the case anymore, according to recent studies. Still, only drinking caffeine-laden drinks will do little to help you stay hydrated. A café latte, however, may actually help meet hydration needs, primarily because it includes milk. Green tea with honey is another smart choice, because the caffeine and sugar contents are relatively low. Watch out though, because designer iced teas that are high in sugar may have as many calories as a turkey sandwich or yogurt, and do little to help with hydration. “For some of the male dancers, that might be a great way to get extra calories in, but when you’re really watching the food you’re putting in, you want to be thoughtful - not rigid, but mindful,” Skolnik says.
Juice is another healthy choice. “You wouldn”t keep it in your water bottle during class because it’s too dense, but it can be nutritious, at other times throughout the day,” Skolnik explains. Jambalaya and other blended juices that are specially ordered at juice bars may be high in calories because they contain fresh fruit, juice, yogurt and other ingredients. Be aware of exactly what is in them, she cautions, and bypass those vitamin supplements, opting to get vitamins from food instead. When drinking juice, do so in moderation. For example, choose an 8-ounce glass instead of 24 ounces. Because juices contain natural sugars, look out for those with as few additives as possible. Balance joice consumption with water throughout the day, because your body needs fluid to digest sugar.
Soda is the least helpful option when trying to stay hydrated - even low-calorie drinks, which may contain ingredients that stimulate hunger. “If dancers are so concerned with what they put in their bodies, it just doesn’t make sense to get calories from soda,” Skolnik says. “But if you love it, just have 12 ounces a day.” If you have to drink diet soda, keep it to one or two a day, but consider opting for sparkling mineral water instead. For example, San Faustino, a sparkling mineral water, is naturally high in calcium. “It’s a wonderful option in terms of making your beverages count more.”
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