09 Nov Protein Bars for Dancers
The basis of any performance nutrition plan is healthy meals. For dancers, that can be a challenge with limited time between classes and rehearsals. That means snacks need to be more intentional to make sure you’re giving your body what it needs. Dancers have limited time for meals and often have limited access to refrigeration at the studio or theater. If getting enough protein during the day is a challenge for you, protein bars may help fill the gaps.
Often times I talk to my clients about the number of bites they can reasonably take during meal breaks. That means we need to look at convenient options that are easy to eat. Protein bars can be a great tool that are dance-bag-ready.
Dancers need ample protein for the recovery and repair of muscles and other tissues in addition to supporting the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Without enough protein, you’re likely to increase your risk of stress fractures and even mood disorders.
The tricky thing is that your body can only digest and absorb so much protein at any one time. As a rule of thumb, it’s anywhere between 20g and 40g per meal depending on a number of factors including size and gender. For most of my dancers, that range is closer to 20g-30g per meal. If you’re eating a protein bar between classes or rehearsals, you may want to stick to closer to 10 grams since protein is slower and more complicated to digest. By keeping the dose lower, you may minimize GI symptoms that can come from overloading your system.
What should you look for in a bar? Whole ingredients and limit artificial sweeteners.
What are whole food ingredients?
Check the label for ingredients like these:
- Whole grains like oats or rice
- Unsweetened dried fruit like dates or raisin
- Whey protein
- Lean meat
- Pea protein
- Nut butters
- Seed butters
PRO TIP: If a product is labeled “Paleo” be sure to check for artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols that may lead to bloating and GI distress. You’ll recognize sugar alcohols on the label because their names end in -ol. Examples include erythritol, mannitol, and sorbitol.
Some ingredients can lead to gut distress including bloating, cramping, pain, and gas. Here are some ingredients to avoid.
Other artificial sweeteners like
- Acesulfame K
- Synthetic of added fibers
- Chicory root
Protein bars are a convenient way for dancers to meet their protein needs between meals or at the studio when it’s difficult to get protein in any other way but they shouldn’t be used to replace eating actual meals. I typically recommend limiting protein bars to one per day. Here are some other options that you can pack in an insulated lunch bag.
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cottage cheese
- Deli meat
- Tinned tuna or sardines
- Legume-based pasta
- Bean salads
- Tasty brand lentils
- Nuts and Seeds
If you need help making sure you’re meeting your needs, get help from a dance dietitian. We understand the demands of your training schedule as well as the realities of trying to fit food and food prep into what can be a relentless schedule. You can schedule a discovery call here to talk about your nutrition needs and simple strategies to meet them.