Recipes for a healthy dance life

Karin Lambrechtse was a dancer with Introdans until 2013. She is now Performance Chef, Foodcoach coordinator and sports dietitian at the most successful cycling team of the moment: Team Jumbo-Visma. She now knows what the effect of eating well on your condition and performance is. That is why Karin is happy to give us advice on good nutrition for a healthy dance life.

Text Jan Willem Papo | Photos Bram Berkien


Start the day with a few sips of water after waking up. In the morning you are a bit dehydrated. Breakfast (before exercise) is important. Make sure you get some carbohydrates like fruit or oatmeal, for the first few hours of the day. Supplementing this with protein, for example cottage cheese, and healthy fats – nuts, seeds – ensures that you can handle the day. Toasted bread is easier to digest, take a cup of tea with it… Eat on time, so if you have to be in class at ten o’clock, don’t have breakfast later than eight thirty. Coffee at breakfast is allowed. That it dehydrates you is a myth, you just shouldn’t drink liters of it. After the ballet class you take a piece of fruit, which replenishes the carbohydrates you have just consumed, and if you want, you can combine it with a cracker.


Next is a training block until half past one. Drink water during this block, or an isotonic sports drink with minerals, sugars and salts, if it is an intensive training. Are we ready for lunch? Athletes eat more and efficiently. At Introdans the break is short and you have to digest what you eat. It is important to eat light and food that’s easy to digest, so food that’s low in fat and fiber. Salads and vegetables are a bit inconvenient, rice with some tomato sauce, lean meat, fine wholemeal bread or white bread with some sweet and lean bread toppings are fine, a pancake is also a good lunch. Sweet or savory with some soft vegetables such as zucchini or bell pepper. So make smart choices that benefit your muscles and brain. A cup of coffee for some extra focus and alertness, great!

Then there is a second rehearsal block of about three hours in which you drink water or an isotonic drink again. In the short fifteen-minute break that follows, you take a small energy-rich snack: an energy bar, wrap with some rice and chicken breast, a pancake or piece of quiche – choose and vary according to your own wishes.

After the last rehearsal block, it’s time for a protein-rich recovery snack such as low-fat (soy) quark with muesli or honey or a protein shake if you find that easier. Something savory in the form of an omelette with some tuna or green peas is also fine! Did you know that your muscles are completely renewed every two or three months? Therefore, proteins and their correct timing are essential. A few amino acids that make up a protein stimulate muscle production. In this way you create dance specific muscles and you grow in your technique.


Of course, a diet plan for a training day is different than for a rest day. Just like you eat differently when you have a show in the evening. Then the last rehearsal will be shorter, because you have to move to the theatre and also make sure you eat two to three hours before an evening performance. Your dinner is a good meal consisting of, for example, white pasta and not too much fiber (vegetables and raw vegetables, which can stay in your gastrointestinal system for five to eight hours and that can feel unpleasant) with a small carbohydrate-rich snack about an hour before the show. Then you know for sure that you can get through those ninety minutes on stage energetic, focused and with pleasure. So make sure you have received and stored enough energy for optimal dance performance. The carbohydrates you eat beforehand are broken down into glucose and stored as glycogen in your muscles. During intense exercise, your body will lay claim to your glycogen stock, but that stock is limited. After sixty to ninety minutes you will be out of this stock. That is why it is smart to ensure a full stock before the performance/training starts and to replenish this on time. After the performance, preferably within thirty minutes and before you take a shower, you eat those essential proteins for optimal recovery, together with a little carbohydrate. This way, with the right nutrition at the right time, you will not only get through a dance day, but also a dance year well and you will prevent injuries.

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