Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Ballet Dancers Need to Understand About Weight Loss and Calories

To gain weight is still the nightmare of serious dance students, even as they work out hard a few days a week. It doesn't make sense, except in the light of what has become the staple industrialized-nation diet. Too many fats, nutrition-free carbohydrates, and factory made cheeses dominate the fast food landscape. Sugar (if you're lucky) or high fructose corn syrup in every mayonnaise, tomato sauce or BBQ sauce on those sandwiches or hamburgers. Even in salad dressings.

Your body doesn't count calories the way you do. It sorts them out in order to provide you with the energy you need, and to manage your blood sugar levels efficiently. This can seem a little complicated, but just know that when you eat carbohydrates, proteins and fats, your body has a sorting system, not a counting system. Regardless of the number of calories you eat in any given meal, your body behaves in a certain way.

Whether you get a 300 calorie burger or a 1200 calorie burger, the sorting, energy burning and fat storing process is the same.

For example, if you grab a sandwich or burger for lunch, or after school on your way to ballet or some other dance class:

** insulin messages your body (liver, muscles and fat cells) to absorb those carbohydrate calories (a bun, crackers, or slice of bread),as glucose.

** and also messages your body to store any excess as fat.

** and worst of all if you do not want to gain weight, to then stop using fat as an energy source. And to store it instead.

Insulin is like a computerized track switch in a train yard. It routes the carbohydrates, and fats to specific places. You train it to do what it does, by repeatedly eating in a certain way.

The fats consumed in the same meal, healthy or otherwise, will get stored, not used as energy.

Calories from protein foods (meats, fish, eggs, dairy) send a different message to your body. Those calories tell your body "everything is okay". Why? Because your body, which cannot manufacture proteins, can manufacture many things it needs from proteins. Now your body will SWITCH TRACKS.

The BURN FAT button gets pushed! Your body starts running on the protein stores you are giving it and to be more efficient, your body starts getting rid of fat.

Growing children and young adults usually do not need to worry about any of this. But, if they are dancers, I know that they do.

If you're grabbing fast food any day, grab a burger wrapped in lettuce. It's a little messy to eat, and it's way high in sodium. But the proteins and vitamins and minerals and fats will get the front seat for energy burning. Even though the sauces will probably have some high fructose corn syrup in them.... not so much as a bun, and carbs from the fries.

You will digest the proteins, fats, and tiny amount of salad/vegetable better without any carbs. Because it is two different sets of digestion processes anyway.

Thinking outside the bun does not mean add a flour or corn based wrap. Just lose it!

Bringing chopped vegetables and a couple of cubes of real cheese or a handful of walnuts with you from the house.....okay, dream on. But you could.

Building muscle mass will also help you learn how to lose weight for ballet.


  1. Wow, this is terrific information, thank you so much!

  2. You're so welcome. I always hope to help dancers avoid frustration when dieting.