When the weather outside is frightful, it's only natural to reach for a steaming cup of something delicious. The right hot drinks can hydrate you and provide bonus nutrients to support your hardworking dancer body—all while keeping you warm and toasty.
Green tea—and, to a lesser extent, black tea—is rich in compounds that may reduce muscle soreness and limit oxidative stress on your cells. Try it brewed traditionally, or whip up a matcha latte. "Just don't go crazy on added sweeteners," adds Emily Cook Harrison, registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition for Great Performances.
"Herbal tea is hands-down my top choice for dancers to be drinking in the winter," says Harrison. A flavorful, caffeine-free blended brew will hydrate you while also providing whatever health benefits happen to come with your chosen ingredients. For example, studies have suggested hibiscus tea can support management of a healthy weight. There's also peppermint tea, which anecdotal evidence says improves focus, and chamomile or lemon balm, which may help relax your mind.
The athletic performance enhancing benefits of coffee are well established by research, Harrison says. Caffeine helps you work harder by reducing how difficult an activity feels. "One to two cups of coffee a day is considered safe and appropriate as long as you're not using coffee as a substitute for food," says Val Schonberg, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in sports nutrition and eating disorders.
Hot Lemon Water
First, the bad news: Drinking boiled water with lemon juice first thing in the morning will probably not deliver most of the "detoxifying" benefits that "Wellness" Instagram claims. But there's also nothing wrong with scoring some immune-boosting vitamin C while you hydrate, says Harrison.
Turmeric Golden Milk
While Schonberg notes that the research is far from conclusive, some studies suggest that the curcumin in the turmeric spice in "golden lattes" has anti-inflammatory properties. That would mean less muscle soreness and faster recovery time. To enjoy a cup, whisk together milk or a nondairy substitute, turmeric, and other spices of choice (cinnamon, black pepper, ground ginger) in a saucepan over medium heat until it's almost boiling.
In moderation, some more decadent hot beverages can also be part of a healthy diet.
Hot apple cider: "For relatively few calories, a hot cider can really nourish your mind and spirit," says Emily Cook Harrison. "Plus, it contains vitamin C to support your immune system's defenses."
Holiday lattes: The smart way to approach a peppermint mocha or gingerbread latte, says Val Schonberg, is "not as coffee, but as dessert in a cup."
Hot chocolate: Hot cocoa can be simply a sweet treat or a helpful recovery beverage—it depends how you make it. Schonberg notes that the calcium, protein and vitamin D in cow's milk or fortified soy milk are key for dancer health. Harrison suggests skipping the whipped cream and added sugar, and substituting raw cacao powder for maximum antioxidants.