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The Importance of water to the Dancer

By Nicolette Braybrook LISTD (Dip) BSc (Chem) Mast. Nut. & Diet.

Water is one of the most important nutrients required by the human body. In fact, 50-70% of our bodies are made up of water.

Water plays a number of important roles within our bodies. Some of these include:-

  • Transportation of nutrients
  • Removal of waste products
  • Maintenance of regular body temperature throughout different environmental conditions
  • Maintenance of a healthy bowel, in conjunction with fibre and exercise
  • Dancers understand that they have a requirement of carbohydrate for energy and a low fat diet for weight control, but tend to forget about one of the most vital dietary requirements.....water!

Perhaps this is because we tend to forget to drink regularly unless we are thirsty, and unfortunately by this time, we are actually starting to dehydrate. It is quite common for dancers to have a poor level of water intake and instead, rely on caffeine containing diet drinks and coffee. Drinks containing caffeine actually deplete our bodies of fluids as the caffeine acts as a diuretic, as also does alcohol. In light of this, dancers should minimise their intake of both caffeine and alcohol containing products.

We lose water from our bodies in several ways. We excrete it in urine, faeces, sweat and in the air we exhale from our lungs. With exercise, the amount of sweat excreted increases dramatically as can the amount of small water droplets in the air we exhale.

In most cases, drinking sufficient fluids prevents the body from dehydrating. The symptoms from dehydration can include:-

  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Decreased performance
  • Cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

Every dancer's fluid needs, as with energy requirements, is specific to the individual. To avoid dehydration, experts recommend that an average person should consume around 2 litres or 8 glasses of fluid every day, with at least half of this to be in the form of water. Specifically to dancers, they will require more fluids per day due to the loss through dance classes and performances. It is worth understanding that highly concentrated drinks, such as soft drinks, cordials and flavoured mineral waters, take longer to leave the stomach and are also higher in kilojoules.

To monitor and estimate what fluids have been lost, you can weigh yourself prior to a class or performance and then immediately after (prior to rehydrating). The difference in weight should indicate the amount of fluid lost in that given time. For example, if you lose 1kg of weight during a performance, then you should replace this loss with 1 litre of fluids.

To maintain hydration, it is advisable to 'sip' small amounts of fluid often. The reason for this is that large volumes of fluid can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

In summary fluids, and in particular water, play an extremely important role in the maintenance of our bodies. We should start to try and understand the ramifications of our energy output in relation to our fluid intake. Specifically, as dancers and dance teachers, we should encourage and be encouraged to rehydrate before, during and after classes or performances, to keep our bodies operating at their peak!

Nicolette Aisen (nee Braybrook) is a privately consulting dietitian focussing on the dance field. She is also the owner and director of a dance school in Melbourne, Australia. She is available for group or individual consultation and can be contacted on + 61 3 97469823 or nicobret@mail.austasia.net