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Drinks that Dancers Should Avoid

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RD, LD for Dance Informa.

Dancing is thirsty work! We all know that hydration is important, but you shouldn’t drink just anything. If you’re serious about your dancing and your health it’s important to select the right drinks to quench your thirst. Generally, most things in moderation are fine.  However, some drinks can have serious health effects and should be avoided.

Avoid Energy Drinks

Now more than a 5.7 billion dollar per year industry1, the FDA is investigating reported deaths and injuries possibly associated with these caffeine bombs. In the US, the FDA is considering action limiting energy drinks and some of their false marketing2,3.  One energy drink has about the same sugar as 30 jelly beans, but the jolt of “energy” that you get isn’t so much from the sugar as it is from the 200-350 mg of caffeine in each can. Real energy to dance only comes from when you eat and metabolize actual food.  The high sugar in some of these products does give you a short burst of quick energy, but it’s the caffeine that stimulates the central nervous system.  Certainly, a little caffeine is fine and can make you more alert.  However, excess caffeine each and every day places dancers at higher risk for injury for three main reasons.
– Caffeine is an appetite suppressant and it makes you jittery, so dancers might accidently or intentionally exercise without enough real fuel (calories) which can lead to an injury.
– Energy drinks lead to increased fluid losses from the body and the first two signs of dehydration are fatigue and poor balance.
– Energy drinks and other drinks with high caffeine are often acidic which can lead to increased calcium loss from bones, placing dancers at higher risk for stress fractures long term.

Avoid Juices, Powders and Shakes with Excessive Doses of Vitamins    

Generally the body doesn’t absorb nutrients well when they are taken in unnaturally high doses all at one time.  Our bodies absorb nutrients best when obtained from real food because food contains other co-factors in just the right amounts that help vitamins absorb into our systems the way they were meant to. Dancers should take supplements with caution, including drinks containing supplements.

B vitamins are often added to juices, bars, and energy drinks.  But very few people are actually deficient in B vitamins when they eat a normal diet.  B vitamins themselves don’t give you energy; it’s the carbs, fat, and protein that do that.

Be careful of vitamin C drink powders.  We typically need between 45-85 mg of vitamin C per day, not 1000mg!  All that vitamin C is in the form of ascorbic acid, which if taken in high doses results in calcium loss from the bones.

Some supplements are OK and can be needed. Vitamin D, for example, is hard to get from your diet and dancers aren’t always out in the sun. So dancers might need to supplement with 400-600 IU.  But don’t go overboard! Vitamin D in extremely high doses can be toxic.  Talk with a dietitian to see what you personally need and in what quantity.

Avoid Sugary Beverages

Dancers can’t afford to drink empty calories.  Many sodas, teas, and juices can have more sugar than a bag of candy.  Diet or sugar-free drinks have artificial sweeteners that can be up to 600 times sweeter than regular table sugar.  They change our perception of what sweet tastes like by tricking the taste receptors in the mouth.  So we lose the sweet joy of a summer strawberry or winter carrot.

Sugar alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol, etc) are also low-calorie but can cause stomach upset and gas if you consume too much of them.  Even many so called natural sweeteners are still processed. Don’t be fooled by the term “natural”, it is quite meaningless when it comes to drinks and most foods. This word is only legally defined when it comes to meat, chicken, or eggs.

Women who regularly drink sugary beverages might be at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, even if they don’t gain weight. Sugary drinks are a factor in a woman’s waist size getting larger, even if her weight stays the same. Just making a small change to drinking mostly water can make a big difference over time4.

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Sources:

1. Malinauskas BM et al.  A survey of energy drink consumption patterns among college students. 2007  www.nutritionj.com/content/6/1/35

2. www.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/business/scrutiny-of-energy-drinks-grows.html

3. FDA Investigation into adverse effects of energy drinks. www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/CFSAN/CFSANFOIAElectronicReadingRoom/UCM328270.pdf
www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ucm328536.htm

4. Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter 2013.

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