Is the Ketogenic Diet Safe for Dancers?
Although the ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s as an epilepsy treatment for children, it's experiencing a new wave of popularity. Thanks in part to social media, where "healthy" keto-friendly recipe videos are going viral, the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is gaining ground. But is it safe for dancers?
We checked in with Rachel Fine, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, to see what eating keto means for dancers.
"Carbohydrates Are Like Gas Is to a Car."
Carbs are the most efficient fuel source. Photo by Eaters Collective/Unsplash
"If dancers are not supplying their body with carbs," says, Fine, "they're not giving it the most efficient fuel source in terms of a performance standpoint and getting through the technical and physical aspects of dance." The body also needs energy for basic functions like sleeping, walking and talking.
Fine says there's a misconception that someone's metabolism would drastically flip like a light switch as soon as they reduce their carbohydrate intake. Not so. "Our body is physiologically designed to burn carbohydrates." The body has to work harder to burn fat and protein and convert it into energy.
Disrupting the Balance
Your body breaks down healthy fats, like nuts, for essential functions. Photo by Remi Yuan/Unsplash.
When fat, which breaks down into ketones, and protein, which breaks down into amino acids, are recruited for energy, their ability to do their regular jobs suffer. Fat serves many functions, like insulating the body, helping to transport vitamins, and working as an anti-inflammatory, while protein helps build and repair muscles.
Negative Effects for Dancers
Unless you've been advised to eat a ketogenic diet for medical reasons and are under the close supervision of a doctor and dietitian, keto is not recommended for dancers. Fine mentions a host of effects that can negatively impact your dancing:
Photo by Caju Gomes/Unsplash
Without enough carbohydrates, dancers may feel fatigued because the body won't be as efficient at producing energy.
Your Instagram Feed Is Not a Dietitian
Though you may be tempted by beautifully curated food photos promoted by celebrities or friends who want to get into shape, think twice before blindly following their advice. "I can't tell you how many dancers I see that are going through their Instagram feeds and just learning the wrong information," says Fine. Remember: Anyone can post a recipe and say it's healthy, but that doesn't mean they're a nutrition expert. Fine warns that many keto-friendly recipes online may have high levels of saturated fats due to large amounts of butter, sour cream, whole milk and animal products. While these are okay in moderation, you should aim to incorporate heart-healthy fats, like nuts, seeds and avocado, into your diet.
Photo via The Lean Clean Eating Machine
It's okay to use recipes sourced from social media as inspiration, but you may need to tweak them. Instead of filling half an avocado with an egg (as a keto-friendly dish might call for), Fine recommends stuffing the avocado with quinoa or a grain. "The bottom line is that recipes need to be balanced."
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
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When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
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Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
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