Ballerinas may make dancing look easy, but the most graceful performances take hours and hours to get just right. So what do you do when your job involves five days a week of rehearsals that can last six hours or more? You make sure that your diet includes foods that give you sustained energy throughout the day without making you feel weighed down. We asked Lauren Fadeley, a principal dancer at the Pennsylvania Ballet, to share her secrets for staying light on her feet and energized all day.
Snack healthy: Grazing throughout the day rather than having full meals helps keep Lauren from feeling fatigued. She starts her day with fruit, nuts, and coffee, then keeps a bag full of freshly cut veggies or Larabars for her to snack on every hour when the ballerinas get a break. Once practice is over, Lauren sits down to a big meal of lean proteins and veggies (spaghetti squash with a ground turkey tomato sauce is her favorite) that refuels her body and preps her for the next day's grueling schedule.
Beat bloat: Feeling bloat-free is important for many dancers. As Lauren says, "We have to wear a leotard all day long and stare at ourselves in a mirror — that can get a little hard!" That's why she sticks to a mostly Paleo and gluten-free diet during the week so she doesn't feel weighed down. "[Paleo] satisfies me so I don't feel hungry, but my stomach is good and I don't have digestive problems," she explains.
Know when to indulge: Lauren may stick to a Paleo diet during the week, but it's on weekends where she gets to eat all her favorites, like tacos with a side of chips and guacamole. Even so, she makes sure to sneak in treats every day, from dark chocolate during practice breaks or Paleo-friendly desserts like coconut milk ice cream after dinner. Her best advice? Listen to your body. "I eat what my body tells me to," she says. "There'll be times when I just need to eat a bagel to get me through a show." Contrary to what many believe, being a professional ballerina requires a lot of sweat and strength — and no one gets through a day of dancing without fueling up the right way. "Dancers do eat! You can't not eat to do this," Lauren says.