When you are an athlete, you constantly need to refuel and replenish your body. As a professional ballet dancer, I spend hours a day exercising, I am either dancing, rehearsing , teaching , or cross training. Even if you aren’t quite THAT busy working out, if fitness is a part of your life, going more than 4 hours without eating can have damaging effects. Additionally, working out on an empty stomach can lead to injury, depleted muscle tissue, and a higher body fat percentage overtime. Thus snacks are a NECESSITY! While earning my Nutrition & Healthy Living Certificate from Cornell, I was so fascinated to learn about how eating certain macronutrients at specific times was key to maximizing my performance & recovery. Here of some ways to snack pre and post workout like a pro, as well as links to all my favorites!
Carbohydrates are your body’s number one fuel source. In order to feel energized for ballet class I load up on carbs (yes ballerinas eat carbs!). Additionally, post workout you should aim to consume at least one serving of carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores. Try to do this within an hour after exercise, that’s when those glycogen stores are most readily available for replenishing. With all that being said, carbohydrates are important before and after any physical activity. So I usually have my snack bag stocked up with slices of whole grain toast (such as Dave’s Killer Bread) , baggies of multi grain crackers (my favorite is Good Thins, Better Oats packets, and even air popped popcorn (like Smart Pop). If you love snack bars Bobo’s Oat Bars or Clif Bars are really fantastic options for eating before an intense workout.
Protein is definitely important but I do find that so many people think that it’s the only macronutrient you can eat in order to “stay in shape”. This is so far from the truth! Balance is what is most important and I’ve learned at diet focused that’s mostly protein is not what’s best for athletes . Converting protein to ATP (energy) is NOT your body’s favorite thing to do and people who load up with only protein preworkout tend to feel sluggish because their body is having to work overtime to convert their food into fuel. However, I highly recommend getting in plenty of protein after a workout, to repair muscle tissue and ensure recovery. This is why I will usually snack on a protein bar after I’m done dancing , some of my favorites stem RX bars, Quest Bars, One Bars, No Cow Bars . If you prefer shakes I’ve also really enjoyed VEGA shakes and Plt plant protein powder . If you want something savory, there are some really good jerky options available. Also consider getting protein from dairy/calcium rich foods. Yogurt, milk, and even cheese sticks are super portable ways to provide your body with Vitamin D and amino acids.
Heart Healthy Fats
Do not fear fats! They not only help help with flexibility but also cognitive function. Back when I used to restrict fat based foods my brain would feel super foggy and I wondered why I felt slower understanding & remembering choreography. The moment I started adding fats back in I truly noticed my brain power improve drastically. I’m not saying that fats need to the majority of your diet, because they don’t provide energy as well as carbs, but they need to be included in your meals. I recommend eating fats mostly post workout (again to aid in recovery) but also a small amount preworkout to aid in that mental clarity. Some incredible snacks are avocados & hummus in single serve cups, nut & seed butters, or just having the nuts & seeds themselves.
Fruits & Veggies
Fruits are fantastic sources of energy and carbohydrates. I love adding fruit to my Better Oat Packets for a snack or dried fruit like Trader Joe’s Mango Slices are great for a preworkout snack. You can also add fruit to a protein shake to enjoy when you’re leaving the gym or dance studio to replenish your muscle tissues & glycogen stores. Of course, you can NEVER, get enough vegetables, they are nutrient powerhouses! You can basically have them at every meal. A really good post workout idea is to have some starchier veggies, like carrots, with hummus. That way you will the have the carbs for glycogen replenishing and the hummus provides healthy fats with some protein for recovery.
If you are living out of your dance bag, like me I definitely recommend getting a Stasher or a set of JustB Bags to keep your snacks safe in an eco-friendly way! If you have access to a fridge, do what I do and leave some of your favorite go-to’s in there with these adorable lunch bags: Kate Spade Lunch Bag or Lokass Lunch Tote.
Know Your Body & Fuel Your Body
All of this being said, it’s also so important to listen to your body! Learning about the needs of your body is a great way to enhance your snack choices but NEVER feel that your food choices need to be limited strictly to certain macronutrients at certain times. It’s just as important to have a balanced mindset when it comes to food. So if you want to have a donut post workout, go for it! Or if you really enjoy your protein bar, do that! Or maybe have a donut with a protein shake to get the best of both worlds. The healthiest body’s come for people’s who are in touch with their hunger cues & cravings. So while I hope that you definitely learned some helpful health tips with reading this, I hope that you use this knowledge to enhance your life & wellbeing, not restrict it.
So Get Snacking!
If you want to get even more ideas or easy recipes, consider get a copy of my Eating Guide and/or Recipe Book. You can grab some of these delicious snacks on my storefront (found of my Get to Know + Shop page) or shop them by clicking on any of the pictures or italicized words above. Let me know which one you want to try, which ones you already love, and which of your favs that I need to try!
Every Ballerina Needs to Take a Bow