The hot days are coming up, say goodbye to your leg warmers and dust off your open back leotard. Unless you live in a city where air conditioning is a requirement for survival (hello to my friends in Dubai and the Philippines!), this means the heat in the dance studio will crank up a little bit.
There are many benefits to a warmer studio: your body does not use energy to keep you warm, muscles and connective tissue seem more “relaxed”, these are the days of enhanced flexibility. Time to take a photo of your best splits and développé devant.
The downside of heat is that there is a higher risk of dehydration which negatively impacts your stamina and overall performance and can lead to severe muscle injuries.
Why hydration levels are so important for dancers?
A. Hydration is the primary mean to maintain your body temperature adequate
Your body maintains its temperature at around 37° C. (98° F.). During an activity, your muscles’ activity generates heat. The body transfers the heat from the muscles to water and the heated water is expelled through sweat. As a result, the level of water in your muscles depletes and needs to be refilled. If you do not sufficiently refill your water levels, the heat removal system will slow down, your muscles overheat and to protect themselves, they tell your brain to just stop all form of activity.
Example: You might have seen long distance runners who start running slower and suddenly stop and just cannot go on any further. Or you have experienced it if you were breathing heavily, your legs were very heavy and it felt like they were refusing to move.
B. Water is key to the transport of nutrients and removal of waste
Water is an essential component of our digestive system. It contributes to the production of saliva and gastric fluids. Water also makes up most of the fluid circulating between the cells and carries minerals and nutrients into cells, as well as removes waste products such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen wastes.
Low levels of water, or dehydration, impedes the absorption of nutrients and the removal of wastes which are necessary to your body functions and energy.
C. Lubrication and fascia health
Last element is that water is an important component of the lubrication of joints and the health of your fascia (connective tissue). Maintaining hydration levels high is a requirement to preserve your joints and increase flexibility over time.
For anyone who practice an intense activity, maintaining high level of hydration is essential to your performance. For an average person, it is recommended to ingest 2l. of water a day from a variety of sources: natural and mineral water, food, tea, sugar free flavoured water. But this recommendation is for the average person with little activity during the day. As a dancer, you need even more water than this to make up for all the water you lose during class, rehearsal and performance.
How to stay hydrated when the weather is warmer?
In the studio, in a mild temperate climate, a general rule of thumb is to drink 1 liter of water for a 1h class. It may not be convenient to drink throughout the class so get into the habit of drinking around 33cl (1/3 of it) before, another 33cl between barre and center practice, and again 33cl as you finish. Find the amount and rhythm that works for you to keep your hydration levels high.
When the weather gets warmer, you’ll sweat more than usual and with your sweat you’ll lose more minerals. And that is the key component to replenish in the warmer climates. Some people like to use hydration (ex. Pocari sweat) and energy drinks (ex. Gatorade) available in the market but we prefer to recommend some more natural and less expensive solutions. If you have to go with what’s available in the market, bear in mind that something like Pocari sweat is less sugary than Gatorade type of drinks. This does not mean that Gatorade type are not good for your health – they were developed for athletes, it means that you have to take it into account with regards to your day nutrition. Every case is different, remember!
Two home-made energy and hydration drinks:
a) Dehydration salts.
You can buy them at any pharmacy over the counter. They are prescribed for cases of mild dehydration and can be added to your water bottle before, during and after your class or rehearsal. Follow the dosage instructions on the box carefully. It is our favorite option because these have the perfect mix of all nutrients and minerals necessary to stay well hydrated.
b) Home made mix.
You can create your own energy drink by mixing in a bottle of water 1/3 of fresh (not from concentrate) orange juice and 2/3 of water with salt. How much salt? Make a small well with the palm of your hand and fill the bottom of it with salt. That much salt!
Why salt? It will bring you some sodium and help with the transport of nutrients. Why the orange juice? For the vitamin C that is necessary to fix Vitamin D on your bones and for the extra carbs for immediate energy.
Two healthy, low-sugar hydration drinks:
a) Coconut water
Coconut water is by far our favorite drink. Coconut water is quite bitter and a lot of providers add sugar to make it more tasty. As an active dancer, the amount of sugar might not have much of an impact on you, but if you are monitoring sugar intake for a reason then be sure to select a no-sugar added 100% coconut water. The benefits of coconut water is to provide potassium that helps preventing muscle cramps (together with magnesium). Another good source of potassium are bananas and pistachios.
b) Aloe Vera water
Aloe Vera water comes second in our list because most drink have only 12-20% of aloe vera mixed with water. That’s an expensive water. But Aloe Vera has some benefits and is one of the only plant sources of vitamin B-12 (for you vegans!).
These are just a few very easily made or found drinks focusing on keeping your hydration levels high. Feel free to share with us your favorite version in the comments.