Fueling Up for Your Dance

February 15, 2014 3 Comments
PBJ - the surprising pre-show meal on the run.

PBJ – the surprising pre-show meal on the run.

Some days are just crazy. The universe sends you multiple gigs, and maybe you have to do them after you’ve spent hours at your day job. Or maybe you’ve signed up for a full day of workshops. Whatever the reason, you’ll do your best job performing or learning if you are properly prepared for the experience. There are several ways you can prep for the best. For starters, keep yourself in good physical condition to handle this kind of workload. A regular cardio and strength exercise schedule to supplement your belly dance is your best long-term preparedness plan, and is, of course, a benefit to your overall health. Additionally, be sure to get plenty of rest in the day or two before your marathon dance day.

When your engine is primed and ready from exercise and rest, the next part of the puzzle is to know how to fuel it up to go the distance. 2 hours before your activity, plan to eat a meal that has a combination of protein, carbohydrates and a little fat to keep you from getting hungry again too quickly. If lots of fibrous veggies makes you feel bloated, you may want to avoid overdoing the salad or other vegetables. For me, eggs really do the trick – they keep me full for hours. How about a scrambled egg burrito or a frittata? In case you think you can’t do this – you can.  Cheese, whole grain crackers and a piece of fruit. Some hummus with pita and veggies. I always have hummus in my fridge! Are you really in a time crunch?   A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread takes one minute to make and  is portable!

If you are going to be doing back to back shows or workshops, refueling is key. Your muscles run on  by the glucose in your blood, and also glycogen stores in the muscles themselves. These get depleted as we dance. They do restock when we eat again, but they do a much more efficient job of it in the 30 minutes after we stop activity. In other words, if you have a little snack that includes some easy to absorb natural sugars during this time frame, you will be better prepared for the next round. Adding a little protein here can help too. My favorite pick for this job is nuts and dried fruit. It’s easy to pack, not messy to eat in a costume and doesn’t feel bulky in my stomach. A half of an energy bar could be a good choice too – but be choosy about your bar. The Nutrition Diva has an excellent post on how to pick a good bar here. and while I’m at it, I highly recommend her podcast and blog for well-researched and very practical nutrition advice.

What I do not recommend, however, is the use of energy drinks and elixirs such as Red Bull, 5-hour energy and the like. These can make you spike and crash. Stick to real food, people. You’ll be sweating so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  There’s also no harm in a good old fashioned cup of coffee or tea. In fact, there is scientific evidence showing that caffeine 45-60 minutes prior to activity can help the body tap fat stores for endurance exercise. It was once thought that caffeine had a diuretic effect on the body, but we now know this is not true. Yay for coffee!

So keep up the exercise, get some sleep and plan to fuel up with good food and plenty of water and you’ll be ready for your next belly dance bonanza!

What’s your favorite pre-show meal or mid-gig snack? Share it in the comments below…



Mahin (121 Posts)

Professional instructor and performer of Middle Eastern belly dance, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and author or the “Daily Bellydance Quickies”. Belly Dance Artrepreneur, Workshop instructor, performer, event producer, and bellydance writer.

  1. Rasha Nour Bellydance
    February 17, 2014 at 3:10 am

    I’m totally with you on the fruit & nut mix. I usually try to get a cup of green tea at gigs, too, if it’s a restaurant.
    I also like to have a full English breakfast before a long day at a dance festival or intensive, if I can get hold of one – fried eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, hash browns… And maybe also a croissant whilst I’m at it. I love hotels with all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets 😀

  2. Maria Sol
    February 22, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Fruit and nuts all the way. 😀
    My performance food starts in the morning with a bigger breakfast than usual, basically whatever I eat, I double the size of it. And I make sure I get more healthy snacks during the day between the other meals. For energy levels none works better for me than yogurt, boiled eggs and nuts. Obviously, not at the same time or the same meal. Also lemonade made with real lemon and ginger is an immune booster and way better than so-called “energy drinks”.
    What Rasha Nour says about a full English breakfast sounds really good, I should try it next time around.

    1. Mahin
      February 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Lemonade with ginger sounds very good – and invigorating! I’ll try that!


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