Healthy Dancer

Food Combining for Performance

By Dr. Millie Lytle
When and what to eat are tricky questions for many people – magnified if you’re a dancer. You can’t eat a large meal before performing, but you need strength and energy in order to perform, and you gain strength and energy from food! A scan on the Web prescribes carbs, carbs and more carbs, but other research on nutritional exercise metabolism points in a different direction. While carbohydrate loading may still be still the ideal the day before a performance, theories on proper food combining highlight protein as the staple for pre- and post-performance snacks. If your current nutrition routine is leaving you tuckered out halfway through the day, consider making some dietary changes to encourage performance boosts without having to consume a large meal. 
Protein is a building block for muscle and tissue, constantly involved in boosting strength and amplifying endurance. Combining proteins and fats is advised during the pre-performance period because the calories are digested and metabolized slowly, providing more sustained energy, increased circulation and blood flow, sharpened reflexes and reaction time and improved mental focus for the duration. Exercising after eating such a snack, rather than quick-release carbs that are burned more quickly, allows the body to make use of this slow release of energy. Within thirty minutes before a performance, try four ounces (1/2 cup) of smoked salmon, a couple handfuls of raw seeds and nuts, two tablespoons of organic peanut butter or half an avocado blended into a shake with whey protein. 
Within fifteen to sixty minutes post-performance, select protein and carbohydrates to rebuild glycogen stores, decrease muscle injury and re-energize you. Electrolytes derived from fruits and veggies, coconut water and miso soup are also great at this time as well, since you have perspired many minerals and need to replenish your fluids. Electrolytes, protein and carbohydrates taken together within this short amount of time enrich nutrient delivery and assimilation for better protein synthesis, muscle repair and rebuilding. Your favourite protein powder with half a banana or some berries, a handful of kale, soups and stews or bean dishes can help you recover from a gruelling workout regimen. 
Rather than blindly grabbing a banana whenever you can fit it in, strategically focus on combining foods that enhance performance and recovery.
Miso Soup
4 cups water 
2 tsp kombu seaweed, rinsed and sliced 
2 cups bonito tuna flakes 
1/3 cup unpasteurized yellow miso 
3 green onions (scallions), chopped 
3 cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced 
1/2 block firm silken or soft organic tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes dash 
Add the seaweed to water and bring to a slow simmer removing from heat just as bubbles are forming on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the bonito flakes, bring to a boil and immediately turn off the heat – allow to sit for ten minutes until the flakes sink to the bottom. Strain the broth – it can sit in the fridge for several days. 
When you’re ready for soup, bring the broth to a boil again and then turn the heat to very low, stirring in the miso until it dissolves. Add the tofu, scallions and mushrooms. Serves four.


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