Whether you are a dancer, an actor, a musician or in the vocal arts, days can be long and schedules erratic. Between classes, auditions, rehearsals, performances and the rest of life (errands, socializing, school, family, fitness, etc.) it can feel challenging to maintain a balanced energy and consume the nutrition needed to feel strong, alert and present.
Snacking can really help! Everyone’s nutrition needs are different and, depending on how physically active you are, you may need to increase snacking frequency and amount. Think ahead of your day’s schedule to predict where, when and how you will get in a snack. Do you need to pack snacks to take with you? Will there be food available that you enjoy and will work for you? Is there a store nearby where you can get a snack? Or will you be able to get something extra at breakfast/lunch that you can save for a snack later on?
There is no one way to snack right. In general, snack size and composition may vary based on when you are eating, how much your daily needs are, your schedule and your meals. In general, aim for snacks that have two to three food groups so that the snack is satisfying, fulfilling and provides some nutrition. For example, cheese and an apple, banana with peanut butter, almonds and apricots, hummus with pita or cut vegetables, or a yogurt with fruit. If you need more food, keep with the ‘bundling’ technique (yogurt, fruit, and nuts; apple, cheese, and crackers…). You can even eat half of a turkey sandwich and an apple! Anything you would eat for a meal can become a snack.
However, if you are about to enter class or rehearsal and it has been a few hours since you have eaten and missed the snack window, you may want to snack on something that is small and easy to digest. Try eating something simple like an applesauce squeeze or a handful of pretzels which are two examples of easy to digest carbohydrates. These ‘lighter’ foods can help you stay focused and energized throughout an active class without feeling too full. If the class is not too physically demanding, then a combo snack will still work.
Immediately after a long rehearsal or performance try eating a recovery snack. Something that has some protein and carbohydrates like a yogurt, trail mix, edamame and crackers, kefir, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. See how this makes you feel. For many, having a recovery snack after a long rehearsal or performance helps in several ways. It allows time for you to cool down, rehydrate, and shower, and get to your next meal without feeling ravenous. It will help you have better energy for the next class or next day’s events, diminish muscle soreness, and may even help immune function. You will feel more resilient.
Of course, every snack does not have to be nutritious. For example, sometimes you may just want a candy bar, a cookie, or chips, and that’s ok. As long as you eat a variety of foods, you will get adequate energy and nutrition. So, savor and enjoy whatever it is you choose!
Snacks do not replace meals, yet they can help supplement nutritional needs with the goal of providing long lasting energy. For example, choosing a cheese stick, yogurt, or milk as part of a snack may help performers reach their calcium needs while building or maintaining strong and healthy bones.
Try on strategic snacking to help you meet your energy and performance goals!