Hey there dance team world – it’s been a long time since we’ve had an update! Hopefully your spring term and studio classes are wrapping up for the year and you’re dreaming about more lazy summer days to come. I know I’m so excited to see some 80s on the forecast.
It’s been tryout and spring clinic season around the state, and I’ve personally been spending quite a bit of time choosing teams, working on basics, and talking about next year with various teams. This time of year I always tell my students its time to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. Sometimes you have to rebuild those injuries, undo “crutch” techniques you’ve been using, and “back off” in order to do it right and build up technique properly. We’re heading into summer practices and camps here before you know it – so I want to issue you a challenge today so you’re all ready to do your very best work.
This year, more than ever, students tend to wander in to spring and summer events unprepared. As in, you didn’t eat and drink properly during your “day off” to come in to do any meaningful work. Dehydration headaches and growling tummies do not make your best day. Many dancers I work with are quite thin, but lack muscle and fitness. Being “small” or “thin” or “light” does not make you a healthy, fit athlete. Usually the dancers I see who lack power and strength also have high body fat despite their small size/weight. 99% of the time that’s because of their diet, not their workouts or genes. Eating right is the key to the next step in your performance on and off the floor. The challenge I’m asking you to take on starts with your breakfast. I can’t tell you how many times have I held a Saturday practice where the dancers tell me how much cereal, juice, breads, and even pop they’ve had already today. All I hear is, sugar, sugar, sugar. No meaningful protein or energy, and some of you didn’t eat a thing! Some of you will have summer morning practices where a healthy, nutritious breakfast will be making a huge difference. Now is the time to learn how to do that.
WHAT should you be eating?
Protein, fats, and carbs. 3 magic building blocks all foods are made of. Yes, I said fat! I personally eat a mix of 40% protein (not all of it is meat), 40% slow burning carbs (from veggies as well as grains), and 20% healthy, natural fat sources. Growing bodies may need more carbs, especially if energy is low, but it’s a good place to start. Most of you grab something quick and easy, from your childhood, like cereal in the morning – but did you know that if you eat just one bowl of cereal every day for a year – you’ve likely consumed 10 pounds of extra sugar?! Its time to ditch the cereal bowl and feed your athletes body. A healthy meal for athletes includes some fat, protein, and carbs at every sitting. Most girls start with carbs and build around that – I’m challenging you to flip it around and start by choosing a protein and fat, then add carbs as a secondary item. Check out this list of great breakfast ideas and build your morning.
- Eggs. Whole or egg whites are very convenient in cartons (no cracking, lower cholesterol)
- Lean meats like Turkey Bacon or Turkey Sausage. Small amounts of lean ham are also a good choice
- Lean milk/cheeses like Cottage Cheese, Plain (unsweetened) Greek Yogurt
- protein powder (make into shakes or add to your oatmeal) I like Whey protein in the mornings.
- added fat from cooking oils like coconut oil or olive oil
- meats with some fat on them
- natural peanut butter, or better yet – almond butter
- a handful of nuts like almonds or walnuts mixed in your yogurt
- natural butter
- real cheeses like crumbled feta or unprocessed slices (no Kraft here!)
Healthy Carbs: (whole grain, slow digesting are best!)
- Oatmeal (not the pre-sweetened kind, add your own mix-ins!)
- Bananas, peaches, pears, berries of any kind (these are low sugar), or favorite fruits in moderation
- added veggies into your egg scrambles – I like onions, spinach, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, or broccoli.
- WHOLE GRAIN, low sugar bread items like a waffle or English muffin. Sprouted grain breads make a hearty toast
What should you AVOID?
I stay away from over-processed, sugar added anything in the morning. Start with items that are one ingredient – like banana, egg, strawberries and you’ll know you’re not adding any chemicals, preservatives, food dyes, sugar, or salt into your body. Avoid pre-sweetened yogurt, pre packaged granola and oats, eggo anything, frozen full meals, regular syrup, jelly, many breads with sugar and chemicals, and traditional pancakes. I also really discourage ANY cereal, even Kashi. It just isn’t that great/beneficial to even try to incorporate. Some great hacks include no sugar added jam, almond butter, egg whites, dried fruits, protein powder, salsa, unsweetened almond milk (low calorie latte anyone?), and lots of water (no juice). I sprinkle some chocolate protein powder and add a teaspoon of almond butter in my oats and I have a rich, chocolate/peanut butter treat without using a fake, sugar packed Quaker instant oatmeal maple-something packet. Gross. Using real ingredients and cooking your food makes life quite sweet – without the extra processed junk.
How can anyone have time for that?! This isn’t Pintrest?!
Yup, I get up every morning and cook – dance season, snowfall, 14 hour days, you name it. I do it. Why? For one it’s the only way I can manage my weight as an adult, and because anything that is a priority you will have time for. I only spend 10 minutes tops cooking food in the morning – and sometimes no longer than it takes to re-heat an egg bake for 30 seconds. I had cereal every morning of my natural life until I was 27. My mom was ready to bury me with a cereal bowl – but I changed. I have never gone back, and so can you. Here are some tips to making a healthy breakfast fit into your life:
- Practice together. Teens who are cooking for the first time may want to do a run-through of skills by doing a “breakfast for dinner” night with a parent. Just being comfortable will give you a head start. My dance moms reading this – you can be a big catalyst to making a healthy relationship with food for your daughter’s entire life. Don’t wait until its move-out time to talk about cooking!
- Throw out the cereal. Just get rid of it. Not an option. And it’s so expensive, you won’t miss it on your bills
- Setup the night before. I always lay out all my tools, plates, measuring cups, pre-chop anything the night before. In the morning, I’m not looking for anything and I can be half asleep while I add water to my pre-measured oats. Mornings are a mess. Do this at night.
- Use frozen, cheap veggies to make life easy.
- Eggs bake into wonderful, freezable dishes! Get creative and make your eggs microwave friendly. No stove required
- Sunday nights are cooking and planning nights. My family cooks and pre-plans the weeks’ food as much as we can on Sunday nights. Everyone has to help (all two of us). If you chop all your veggies that night, you do it once and it’s over. Have healthy choices available, and you’ll be likely to grab them.
So the challenge is on! Summer is a GREAT time to learn how to cook for yourself. Start with 2 days a week and see how you feel. Can you sense your body responding? Do you feel a sugar rush or crash? How long are you full? How was your workout that day? Experiment with different plans – not everyone is the same and your needs may change with time, growth, schedule, and intensity of workouts. Of course, seek professional medical advice if there is any question about what is right for you.
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