In a perfect world, we would get all the nutrients we need from hearty, healthy (and delicious!) meals. "Food is where vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are in their most natural form and can be best used by the body," says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at the Dubin Breast Center of the Mount Sinai Hospital.
But for dancers—who are asking so much of their bodies but might be watching calories—even a relatively healthy diet doesn't necessarily mean you're fueling your body for optimal performance. Adding a supplement or vitamin to your regimen could give you the boost you've been missing.
Which should you consider?
Best Supplements for Active Women
Calcium: Young female dancers especially need adequate calcium to support bone growth.
Vitamin D: Because vitamin D requires fat for absorption, dancers who may be limiting fat intake will be less likely to use the vitamin D they're getting from food, says Kim Hoban, RD, nutrition coach.
Iron: This mineral helps transport oxygen to muscles, organs and tissues. "Vegetarians may want to talk to their doctor or dietitian about being tested for anemia and the need for iron supplementation, especially if they're feeling frequent fatigue or weakness," says Hogan.
Magnesium and potassium: Both are involved in energy metabolism as well as muscle and nerve function.
Turmeric: You can use this anti-inflammatory superhero as a spice when cooking, or get it as a supplement.
Supplements Worth Considering
Vitamin C: Since vitamin C is crucial for muscle repair and absorption of iron, consider a supplement if you're not getting enough from citrusy superfoods, says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of Foodtrainers.
Omega-3s: These fatty acids may protect the heart, combat inflammation and even play a role in mental health. But Hoban says omega-3s work best when you get them from sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish or oils.
Probiotics: Building healthy gut bacteria can help boost immune function and improve digestive health. (Side effects when you're new to probiotics may include mild gas or bloating, Hoban warns.)
Collagen peptides: A pure source of protein, collagen is great for bone, joint and skin health, and promotes healthy digestion. These come in protein powder or dissolving gelatin form.
Don't Waste Your Money On These
Energy enhancers: Most of these boost energy through an excessive amount of caffeine, says Hogan. Doses this high could have harmful health effects, like jitteriness, nervousness, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbance.
Anything that claims to act as medication: Supplements that boast a claim that sounds too good to be true usually are.