Pre-Peformance Foods!Clarke&Russell on 06.Jan.2012 18:25
How to fuel yourself before a show!
It’s still quite disparaging to hear nutritionists (not all!), telling dancers/ athletes that it's okay to eat pasta directly before a show/event! As there is a wealth of research that has come to light over
the last few years that goes against this.
(For the purpose of this article the words dancer/athlete, training/rehearsal and show/performance/event are interchangeable).
There's a time and place for everything and having pasta, well glutinous pasta directly before a show isn't the right time.
In our last article we talked about what to do after a show or hard days work, now let's address what to do after rehearsals/training but before a show.
You've finished your rehearsals/training for the day and now you have to eat and get ready for the performance.
Dancers usually have on average 2-3 hours before they have to start getting ready for a show, how long you have determines what you should eat.
What we have done is to provide you with some information on what you should eat depending on the amount of time you have before the event.
3 hours before a show:
This would be the most important and preferable time to have a good warm meal as it allows for optimal digestion. Ideally it should have complex carbohydrates, good quality proteins, fats and vegetables.
The ideal carbs to have three hours before the event are gluten free ones such as, soba noodles, gluten free pasta, quinoa, buckwheat and rice.
Lets look at the pasta problem!
Most pasta is made from wheat, and wheat contains gluten, which is possibly one of the biggest allergens on earth! Gluten is what makes flour sticky when you knead it to make bread, it is also found in barley, spelt, malt, kamut, couscous, tabbouleh and so on. It is one of the hardest proteins to digest as it is heavy and can burden the digestive system, thus preventing valuable nutrients from being absorbed. Roughly 70% of the world’s population cannot tolerate it. Here's an interesting fact for you; Did you know that the city with the highest concentration of people with coeliac (allergic to gluten), in the world is......Rome!!! Makes you think doesn't it!
Good quality protein, Fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines are good, as well as beef or venison, as they are very nutrient dense and contain a good amount of good fats (think Omega-3).
Vegetables; Anything green such as broccoli, spinach and kale are good as these contain good amounts of fibre. Red peppers, onions, garlic, green beans, etc, are also good choices.
My personal favourite at this time is, a good biological grass-fed beefsteak, brown rice and a mixed salad.
2 hours before a show:
White fish such as sea bream, cod or halibut, white meat like chicken breast or boiled/ poached/scrambled eggs, these have less fat than red meat making them easier to digest.
Quinoa, rice, buckwheat noodles, amaranth, baked sweet potato or other root vegetables such as butternut squash.
Cooked vegetables, (with the exception of potatoes), and/ or a bowl of fruit, berries of any kind, as they are low glycaemic, meaning a gradual increase of sugar in your blood as you do not want to cause a sugar spike as there would a subsequent crash after.
1 hour before a show:
Please bear in mind that these are emergency measures, and not to be used frequently, we are trying to give you the best options, there's an exception to every rule! The meal should be low sugar, and preferably gluten free, but if there's really no time then try for something that only has a small amount of both!
The meal needs to be low in fat and fibre so it's easy to digest, and be low on the Glycaemic index, low sugar, unrefined, as we said before, you want to avoid an insulin spike and crash in energy and mood before you perform. Protein should be there but easily digestible. Foods containing lactose should be avoided because it is difficult for some to digest. Low fat natural yogurt is ok, as it is a pre-digested food and has minimal lactose, the same applies for skimmed milk (organic being preferable), if the meal is too high in fat it can make you feel sleepy and sluggish!
Do not take the fat free options as they have been far to processed, there is minimal benefit in them for a dancer.
Light simple meals;
Gluten free toast with almond/nut butter and some sliced red apple or roast turkey/chicken, hummus and a couple of carrot sticks.
Some dancers/athletes may prefer a liquid pre-event meal, especially if it's good quality protein, complex carbohydrates and fruit/ vegetables. Again please remember that these do not replace real food, with which you get so much more!
Here are some examples;
Banana, berries, choice of skimmed, almond or rice milk, protein powder, 2 tablespoons of oats.
A scoop of almond butter, protein powder, again choice of milk, natural Greek yogurt with berries, almonds, 1 or 2 tablespoons of oats.
Less than 1 hour: Emergency!:
Non-sweetened granola, rice-crispies with no added sugar, or oats with skimmed, almond or rice milk and some berries, you could add a scoop of protein powder as well.
One final note on pre-performance food and drinks.
Eating foods that are refined and high in sugar especially fructose and high fructose corn syrup (this does not mean from fresh fruit it’s what you would find in store bought juices as well as many other processed products), can draw fluid into the gastrointestinal tract and contribute to dehydration, cramping, nausea and diarrhoea, especially if the dancer/ athlete suffers from nervousness before a performance.
Please do not mistake low sugar for artificial sweeteners, these should be avoided, as they are bad for you and could possibly cause hunger cravings during the performance as well as a list of many other effects on the body. It is also very important to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of water and stay away from fizzy drinks!
Although these symptoms do arise, this does not mean that you are gluten intolerant. Signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance can be anything from bloating, cramps, skin irritations, nausea, brain fog, dizziness and joint pain.
If you are not intolerant to gluten and have no problem with wheat, go for whole wheat instead of plain as there is more fibre in there.
We hope we have given you an insight into options other than pasta for pre-performance food and that you take some of these recipes into consideration.
Enjoy improved performance!