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When Should Dancers Hydrate with More than Water?

It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?

Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?


While You're Dancing 

Sports drinks like Gatorade contain electrolytes—mainly sodium and potassium—and carbohydrates. You need both of these to help recover after dancing, or during activity if you're dancing for several hours at a time. But that doesn't mean you need Gatorade.

"In my opinion, sports drinks are really not indicated for dancers," says registered dietitian nutritionist Tiffany Mendell. High levels of added sugar are quickly absorbed, leading to a crash later. Instead, she recommends having water and a snack, like a banana and some salted nuts.

The more you sweat, the more you need to prioritize replacing lost electrolytes, says sports dietitian and exercise physiologist Angie Asche. Even a short rehearsal in a hot, humid room could leave you depleted.

"I like tablets such as Nuun because they contain simple ingredients, minimal added sugar and have more electrolytes in one tablet than you'd get from drinking nearly three cups of Gatorade. You can add one to your water and sip throughout your training," she says. "Just remember that you will still need to replenish your carbohydrates."

After You Dance

You may have heard that chocolate milk is the ideal recovery drink. "Chocolate milk has been studied because it's a source of carbohydrates and protein, which is what you need to replenish muscle tissue after exercise," says Mendell.

However, there are plenty of similar food sources. "I typically recommend something higher in protein and lower in added sugar," says Asche. That could be a fruit and vegetable smoothie with a scoop of protein powder or a snack like yogurt and berries.

Before You Dance

Caffeine can improve athletic performance—it reduces feelings of fatigue, and some studies have found it improves muscular endurance and strength. Dancers who aren't overly sensitive to caffeine can embrace it strategically.

"Your blood levels of caffeine peak 45 to 60 minutes post-consumption, so for best results have a cup of coffee or green tea 45 to 60 minutes before your workout," says Asche. However, she warns against drinking caffeine in concentrated forms, like energy drinks.

When You're Simply Bored of Water

If your taste buds are craving a little more flavor, try these natural additives:

  • lemon
  • mint leaves
  • cucumber slices
  • cut strawberries

Sparkling water can help hydrate you too, but Mendell suggests dancers drink no more than one bottle per day to avoid bloating.

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Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

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