To recover well from your dancing sessions, it’s essential to get enough protein. In this article, you'll discover why that’s the case. Plus, you'll find out how you can ensure you hit your daily protein needs.
Why is Protein Vital for Recovery?
When you dance you can cause small tears in your muscle fibers, something we call “muscle damage.” This ‘damage’ is the exact reason why your muscles may feel sore the day after class.
Now, while the word “damage” may sound negative, muscle damage is actually a really good thing. That’s because your body will repair that damage when you rest. Plus, it’ll strengthen your muscles to prepare them for a similar stimulus in the future.
In other words, muscle damage is what triggers your muscles to adapt to your workouts and that’s why it helps you become a better and well-conditioned dancer.
To repair that muscle damage, however, your body needs to have access to protein. That’s because protein acts as the building blocks of muscles. It’s the material your body needs to repair and enhance the tissues.
Therefore, getting enough protein helps you recover from your workouts. Or, put differently, if you don’t get enough protein, you won’t recover well, which means your dance performance will suffer.
This raises the question:
How Much Protein Do You Need?
If you search online, you’ll notice that protein recommendations are all over the place. Some people say that more is better, while others say you only need a tiny amount of the nutrient to reap all the benefits.
The reality, however, is somewhere in between. To get all the benefits of protein for dance performance, you will need between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.(1)
In other words, if you weigh 60 kilos (154 lbs.), aim for between 72 and 102 grams of protein per day.
Instead of worrying about specific numbers however, it is best that you aim to have one source of protein with each of your 3-4 meals across the day and this will ensure that you are well within the range that you need.
How to Make Sure You Get Enough Protein
By now, you know how much protein you should try to get per day. But what foods do we need to add in to reach that amount?
Well, fortunately, it's not that hard to do.
The food groups that scores very high in protein are animal-based products. Examples are meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Such foods provide your body with high-quality protein.
Meat and fish score especially high in protein. Every 100 grams of these foods supplies you with about 25 grams of protein. That means you'll already get much of your daily needs just by eating one serving of meat per day.
Add some eggs for breakfast on top of that and a bowl of Greek yogurt at dinner, and most likely, you've already taken in all the protein you need for the day.
Now, if you happen to be a vegan or vegetarian the rules do not change. You still need to get the same amount of protein in each day. But what changes are the foods that you need to get it from, and because of this things can often be more difficult for you. You will need to get all of your protein from protein-dense plant-based sources such as tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains.
Such sources are incomplete protein sources which means they generally provide more carbs and fats than they do protein. So with a vegan or vegetarian diet you will need to place a lot of focus on your foods as it is much harder to accidentally get it right.
The Bottom Line on Protein and Recovery
Protein is vital for your dance performance. That's because it helps you recover from your workouts and ensures your muscles can adapt to them. So, make sure to get enough of this nutrient by including all of the foods I have just mentioned and including one source of protein with every meal. For those who struggle with eating protein I highly recommend supplementing with a good quality protein powder especially after training. Don’t stress if you don’t know much about choosing a protein powder however as I am going to cover all of this for you in my next article!
In the meantime however I want you to track everything that you are eating across a day and find out if you really are getting enough protein. If not you may just be leaving great dance improvements behind!