By Leigh Schanfein of Dance Informa
We often think of using food as fuel: ingest it, burn it, use it for energy. However, food and beverages are what our bodies use for every function, from muscle contraction to nerve impulse to new cell formation! Many foods, especially natural and minimally processed foods, provide us with many nutrients that our bodies use in a myriad of ways. For example, the mineral calcium is well known for being a hugely important part of bone health by helping us build and maintain bone density. But, did you know that calcium is also critical for creating an electric impulse that travels down a nerve, or for allowing a muscle to relax after contracting? Our bodies host a complex orchestration that allows us to function under conditions ranging from maximal exertion to complete rest.
There are six nutrient groups: Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals and Water. Most foods contain more than one nutrient but it is important to eat a wide variety of food to make sure we get them all! ALL are important, so do not cut any out of your diet.
Carbohydrates are primarily used for short-term energy while fats are primarily used for long-term energy, insulation and cell formation. Proteins make muscles and many other cells, and we need to consume enough carbohydrates and fats so that we aren’t using up our proteins for energy. The only complete food source for protein is meat, so vegetarians must make sure they eat a good variety of plant-sources to get all the essential amino acids.
Vitamins and minerals are used in many different bodily functions. Fat-soluble vitamins are easily stored in the body but water-soluble vitamins are easily flushed out so we need to consume them on a daily basis. Did you know water is a nutrient? It is so vital to your health that losing only 1% of your body weight in water can result in the ill effects of dehydration. Plenty of research has shown that losing even 2% can result in huge deficits in physical and mental performance!
This sounds like a term more suitable to carrying boxes! Basically, we do not want to overwork our bodies by doing too much too soon. We should make physical changes gradually. Research has found that dancers tend to get injured when they have a dramatic change in their workload, either a rapid increase in the amount of dancing or a quick transition to a new style of dance for which the body is unprepared.
How can we prepare our bodies for such changes? Rather than jumping right into a new schedule or new repertory, we should do what we can to introduce our bodies to the change by taking time to increase the volume and/or intensity of physical load. This could mean gradually increasing the number of classes we take as we transition from time off back into our full dance schedules. Or it could be increasing the number of repetitions we do of class combinations to improve strength or endurance in preparation for starting a new rehearsal period.
Another example might be as specific as introducing our bodies to a new dance style or choreography. A little research will go a long way; if you find out you will be doing modern rep and you are not used to working in parallel, start doing some exercises at home that strengthen your adductors and internal rotators. If you know you’re going to be doing a high intensity dance that has you sweating and panting, add some cardio exercises and increase your reps in class until your endurance is spot on. When you know the demands, you can make smart adjustments and prevent overuse and fatigue.
Read the full article here for more injury prevention information.
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