You might think that only athletes, runners, and cyclists train strenuously enough to refuel on protein-, carb-, and electrolyte-rich snacks before, during, and after a workout, but dancers need nutritious ammunition as well. Most dance halls that teach genres like salsa, lindy hop, or ballroom will have a social dance after the lessons so you can practice your newly obtained moves in a safe and friendly dance setting. Lessons and the social dance can add up to three to four hours and work up a serious sweat.
If you aren't eating the right things throughout such an intense round of dancing, you run the risk of experiencing DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. Besides sore muscles, DOMS makes you feel exhausted, nauseated, and practically hung over the next day. An average 130-pound woman will burn 324 calories per hour of dancing, and if you plan to stick around for the social dance, you could burn up to 972 calories in a three-hour dance period. To keep your body adequately fueled for the exercise itself and to quickly recover for your next dancing round, here's a breakdown of what you should be eating and drinking.
Keep reading for the breakdown.
- Pre-dance lesson: Drink plenty of water and a cup of green tea for a quick energy boost. An hour before you start dancing, eat a high-carb, low-fat snack with some protein. Crackers and turkey slices, veggie sticks with hummus, or a fruit smoothie with protein powder are a few good examples. Avoid nut butters, red meat, or cheese — you'll notice how sluggish and heavy you will feel while dancing if you load up on high-fat foods that take more time to digest.
- Every hour of dancing: Bring gel packs, apple slices, dried fruit, or something high in sugar, carbs, and electrolytes that you can quickly eat. When you have readily available insulin (from the carbs) in your bloodstream, your body can quickly transport it to the muscles for sustained energy. Little snacks every hour will improve your endurance, so you can hit fast beats and avoid exhausting slumps after each dance. Hydration is key too! After every few songs (every 15 minutes or so), stop for water breaks.
- Post-dancing: Eat something with a ratio of 4:1 carbs to protein immediately after you stop dancing. Keep protein bars, instant smoothies, crackers, cheese, and beef jerky or another electrolyte-rich snack packed in your bag. Providing your body with adequate carbs and protein will help repair torn muscle tissue and speed up the recovery