I love food. And I don’t discriminate; I love my healthy spinach smoothies and indulgent chocolate ice-cream equally. But before I started pole dancing, I never really paid attention to how certain foods made me feel. The day of my first solo performance I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat all day, then crashed and wolfed down a McDonalds cheeseburger half an hour before going on stage. Bad idea. Two years and many shows later, I have my performance-day diet down to a tee, and today I want to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned with you.
Drink tons of water
This should be a no-brainer, even on days when you’re not performing, but it still needs to be said. Carry a water bottle everywhere you go, and set a reminder on your phone to go off every hour so that you don’t forget to drink. If you’re dehydrated by as little as 2.5%, your ability to perform high-intensity exercise like pole is reduced by up to 45%. If you are 130lbs, that means that a 3.25lbs drop in body weight from not drinking enough water can make or break that deadlift!
Take your time
While performance days can be stressful, between getting hair and makeup done, making sure that your costume is ready to go, and quietly freaking out about dancing in front of an audience, it is important to slow down when eating. Allow yourself 30 minutes for each meal, and avoid eating on the go. Taking the time to enjoy each meal not only reduces bloating, it also forces you to stop stressing about remembering your choreography!
No carbonated drinks or caffeine
I’m sure there are coffee-lovers who are shaking their head right about now, but hear me out. Carbonated drinks, including diet soda and sparkling water, can cause gas, which means you end up looking and feeling bloated. In addition, soda, coffee, tea, and even most energy drinks, work as diuretics in the body. A diuretic is basically any substance that promotes the production of urine, which means you will have a higher risk of dehydration, so stay away from these on performance days! If you can’t make yourself drink plain water, add slices of lemon, strawberries, or cucumber to your water for a bit of flavor.
Avoid sodium and starches
The worst foods I can eat before a performance is anything high in carbs and sodium, which is why that cheeseburger was such a bad idea. Sodium retains body fluids, leading to a bloated stomach, while starches like bread, potatoes, and pasta are hard to digest. Still your body needs carbohydrates as it’s the biggest energy source for your muscles, so try to include complex carbs in the form of whole wheat toast, bagel, or cereal with your breakfast.
My go-to performance day meals:
I like starting with the biggest meal of my day, and usually eat a homemade breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach, chorizo, onions and peppers. It’s a simple recipe where I throw frozen spinach in a pan with some coconut oil and fry over medium high heat, add chorizo, onions, and peppers, and when everything is almost done, crack two eggs in the pan and stir it all together. If you don’t mind the extra fat, throw some shredded cheddar on top! Eat it with a slice of whole wheat toast, and the combination of carbs and protein will keep your energy levels high without giving you a spike in blood sugar.
For lunch I love a giant smoothie, where I throw in a handful of spinach, a whole banana, pineapple, cucumber, frozen raspberries, a cup of water, and shred some ginger on top. If you want something even more filling, make the smoothie with milk or greek yoghurt instead of the water, or add a scoop of protein powder.
Throughout the day I like snacking on fruits, especially melon and bananas, unsalted nuts, or my go-to snack of single packets of almond butter. Make sure you keep that water bottle close by as well! I only eat a dinner before performing if I am going on stage after 10pm, so most of the time I will just skip it. If you do need dinner, eat something light and filling like baked salmon with a salad; again avoiding prepackaged meals or fast food.
The best part of my performance day diet is my post-performance indulgence. The venue I usually perform at serves a 4-cheese pasta dish with bacon and chicken that completely blows my mind. The high carb to protein ratio (you’re going for 4:1!) is optimal for recovery, especially when eaten within 40 minutes of getting off stage. And after seeing months of training and choreographing culminate in your performance, you deserve a big meal!