This month we meet with Rachel Fine, who is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, as well as the founder of To The Pointe Nutrition and creator of The Healthy Dancer™ and resource site DanceNutrition.com, a program for building a healthy lifestyle for dancers.
Rachel’s mission is to provide certified nutrition education to dancers of all ages and levels, combining her expertise in Performance Nutrition with a non-diet approach to eating. We chat with her today to discuss what is ‘the pointe’ of nutrition in her field, and how she applies chia to optimize dancers’ diets.
With your niche background in working with dancers, how important of a role does nutrition play to optimize their performance?
A dancer’s body relies on good nutrition to fuel movement. A well-planned diet helps to prevent muscle loss, weak bones, chronic fatigue, and stress-related injuries. Dance nutrition maximizes a dancer’s capabilities both in the studio and on the stage!
Do these needs differ pre- and post- workout?
Pre-dance class meals should include easily digestible carbs that provide accessible energy for your working muscles. Fruit is an example of a great (and convenient) choice. A dancer’s post-class recovery meal should include a nutrient mix that incorporates a source of muscle-building protein, energy-boosting carbs, and healing Omega-3 fats. Yoghurt parfaits topped with nuts and chia seeds are a delicious option that provide an array of nutrients for muscle recovery.
You talk a lot about ‘balancing a positive relationship between food and your body’ – can you tell us how you would go about achieving this balance through your non-diet approach?
To those unfamiliar, the process of Intuitive Eating can sound a bit counterproductive to the years or decades of work that so many abide to when striving for health- or weight- related goals. This is because a large aspect of learning how to eat intuitively involves breaking the very food rules that we rely on. Food rules encompass any definitive, authoritarian ban that you or someone else (maybe even a health professional) has placed upon a specific type of food, food group, or eating behaviour. Contrary to this, food freedom allows for the unconditional permission to eat all foods that we enjoy and all foods that make us feel good!
The focus is not on body weight goals, health rules, or caloric goals. Instead of making food choices based on what’s “good” or “healthy”, you will learn what foods satisfy you and make you feel good both mentally and physically. You learn how to build trust with yourself around “tempting” foods that either you or society has built fear against.
Do you include chia seeds in your daily meals, and how and why do you include them?
Chia is a nutrient powerhouse! I personally include a serving of chia in my meal plan daily. When compared to other seeds, chia provides the highest fibre content. Chia seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, and specifically the soluble fibre of chia that has been shown to improve cholesterol. Fibre also helps to keep us full between meals, maintains blood sugar control for sustainable energy, and promotes digestive regularity. Chia seeds are also a great source of calcium, which is essential for a dancer to build strong bones!
Since we’re all spending more time indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, do you think this has changed the eating habits of yourself and the dancers/athletes you work with?
Try sticking to a somewhat normal (yet flexible) eating schedule. Make time for yourself to have your meals- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make these meals an event in your day: sit down, close the screens, set the table, use a plate, and serve with utensils. Last, start tuning into the hunger scale/fullness scale. Ask yourself: are you physically hungry or are you bored and looking for a way to pass time? Remember: food might be a quick distraction for boredom or stress, but it will never be a long-term solution. Eating just to pass time can lead to overeating and eventual discomfort. Instead, ask yourself: what WILL help you fix this emotion? Maybe it’s watching a new TV series or starting a new book!