I’m often asked, “What do you eat?” Well, in a nutshell, a lot! I need plenty of fuel to rehearse and perform; and as my mom says, I seem to have “the metabolism of a hummingbird!” Fortunately, I love to eat well, and I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Here’s a quick rundown of a typical day in the life of this male dancer.
A handful of peach slices
About a cup of almond milk
About half a cup of orange juice
A tablespoon of coconut oil
A chunk of ginger, chopped roughly (or grated for extra credit)
Orange blossom honey (1 tsp)
A scoop of protein powder
A half-cup of rolled oats (uncooked)
A couple handfuls of spinach
I brew my coffee in a French press with cinnamon and then pour it into a blender and add a teaspoon of maple syrup and a pat of unsalted butter. Some people call this butter-in-coffee concoction “Bullet-Proof Coffee,” but I think “Pancake Coffee” is a more appropriate name, given its ingredients. I blend it for 30 seconds to ensure it emulsifies. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, butter in coffee sounds disgusting. I too was a non-believer until I tried it. Imagine the richest and tastiest latte of your life — it’s better! Most of the coffee goes into a traveler mug to be enjoyed throughout the day.
Next in my morning routine, I prepare the food that I’ll need at work. Each day I take one peanut butter and jelly sandwich and one ham and Swiss sandwich to work, along with one granny smith apple. I’m usually hungry again by the time I get to work (about an hour after I finish the smoothie). So, while warming up before my morning ballet class, I’ll eat the apple. I have found that if I don’t eat enough before beginning my rigorous warm-up class, I lose focus and energy. A tired or unfocused dancer is more susceptible to injuries, so proper nutrition is essential.
As I go through my rehearsal day, I usually eat my two sandwiches one half at a time during my five-minute breaks. If I eat an entire sandwich during a break, I tend to feel too much like I’m in a food coma, so I need to pace myself.
After my rehearsal day is through, I will usually hit the gym. Some days I work out harder than others, but I prefer to keep the energy and momentum up so I try to go right after work. After my hour to hour-and-a-half workout, I like to have a protein shake (usually something like carrot juice and protein powder).
Once I get home, it’s usually about time to start getting dinner ready. I keep a log of what I eat; that way at dinnertime, I can look at my log and decide how to plan my meal. For instance, if I have had a day where I haven’t had enough carbohydrates, I can tailor my final meals of the day so that I take in enough carbohydrates to meet my goals. I aim for about 25% of my diet to be fats, 25% to be protein, and 50% to be carbohydrates.
In today’s example, that means for dinner I’ll have a large grilled salmon filet, a large steamed sweet potato, about 300g of butternut squash ravioli, two pats of butter, a side salad with some trail mix and a tsp of dressing or just some avocados mashed up in it. Then for a pre-bedtime snack, I’ll have a big bowl of organic cereal with 2% milk, a banana, and some peanut butter for some ‘extra credit.’
The number of calories I need in a day fluctuates depending on what my schedule is like. On days that I rehearse for hours and then lift heavy at the gym, I need about 3,500 calories (today’s example.) However, on the weekends where all I do is relax and maybe go on a hike, I will only consume around 3,000 calories.
It might seem I eat enormous quantities of food, but professional dancers are athletes who burn a huge number of calories. I have to eat a lot to maintain my weight; but, more importantly, I have to eat the right foods. The discipline I bring to the studio and the stage has to follow me to the table and the kitchen in order for my food to supply the fuel I need to dance and perform my best.
** Written by Kevin James