Question Time: Pre-Class Fuel

I have tweeted many a tip on what NOT to eat before class… I’m going to be assembling a list for my own edification and amusement but for now here are just a few off the top of my head…

a bag of Lays potato chips & a diet Coke

a double espresso & a diet Coke chaser

an enormous burrito & a diet Coke

a packet of mini chocolate donuts & a diet Coke

altoids (mostly for the benefit of my teacher & classmates)

or this morning’s breakfast special –  a coffee, a diet Coke & 2 Midol

I have tried a few different things and realized that usually eating something before ballet class is better than eating nothing before ballet class, although not always the case, particularly when large Mexican dishes are involved.

I did an experiment using myself as test subject over the course of a couple of weeks with regard to hydration and discovered that low calorie Gatoraide does actually serve me better than water, 1/2 water 1/2 coconut water, or smartwater… and definitely better than coffee or diet Coke. For better or worse, low calorie G2 sort of tastes like liquid jello but definitely packs more of a punch than plain water. Particularly when I haven’t really eaten much.

I have now tried the Gatoraide G01 Prime pre-workout fuel. It isn’t a bar, they are little bite sized pieces of wafer & fruit type cookie. They really aren’t that tasty, the first one is okay, by the second one, you don’t really want to eat a third one. But they do work. And I’ve also tried Powerbar Performance Energy bars in Peanut Butter. Half a bar before class is pretty good. Not the greatest taste, dry but effective. I refuse to even taste anything that smells like crushed vitamins through the packaging. No.

I’m going to admit that I don’t actual think this is the best way to go. It’s probably much healthier to eat a good and health conscious meal a couple of hours before class but let’s be real, my people, that is usually SO NOT going to happen. I won’t toss fruit into my dance bag because it makes my bag smelly and it’s hard to eat while driving, which is a pet peeve of mine. I hate that.

Some things that have had a modicum of success: in the fridge – individual cartons of yogurt, Baby Belle cheese, hard boiled eggs, and cherry tomatoes. In the cabinet – peanut butter and almond butter and just a spoon.

In a 60 minute class, I don’t really feel the difference if I haven’t eaten. But for a regular 90 minute class, I absolutely feel it. It makes a difference if I’ve eaten and hydrated properly and since I want to be able to make the best use of my time in class, I want to go to class prepared to work.

I’m really interested to hear about what you guys do? Do you eat beforehand, if so, what do you eat? Do you hydrate a lot before class or during class? What’s the best thing you’ve found to eat/drink for class and just for giggles what’s been the worst?

10 thoughts on “Question Time: Pre-Class Fuel

  1. Very interesting.

    I always eat before class, if I dont, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 60 or 120 minute class, I feel dizzy. I tend to fait so I take much care of that.

    I eat about 2 hours before class and I always have a consisent salad and a main dish. I try to vary as much as possible: pasta, fish, meat… I know for many people this is not possible because of time, but I have to make sure I eat very well if I don’t want to fall down in the middle of class.

    I also drink LOTS of water before, during and after class. If I dehydrate in the least, I start to feel dizzy and that can lead to fainting (yeah- I’m a weakling lol)

    After class I make sure I drink much (I walk home- it’s a 15-20 min walk, so I do that on my way). At home I eat a fruit (generally a banana) and a yougurt. Water works just fine for me. I don’t drink sodas or Coke (unless I eat pizza :P), I also drink orange juice or apple juice.

    If I don’t have time to cook, I make sure that I anyways eat something on my way, but something “real”, like a big sandwich or a hmaburger or whatever fills me up properly. Sometimes during class I also eat something in between, a Mars or something like that.

    For me, drinking a lot is key, I make sure my bottle of water is always full and around me 🙂

    • I have a tendency to limit liquids before class because once I’m in the leo/tights/warmie getup, the last thing I want is the inevitable trip to the bathroom.

      I’ve never really been a fainter, I can see how that would make a HUGE difference! Yes, please eat and drink something, we don’t want to be picking you up off the dance floor! 😀

  2. Dear L, how do you survive class on potato chips and diet coke? Seriously, you’d be surprised how much of a difference much proper food-intake makes! I understand that it can be difficult with a hectic schedule, and you end up grabbing whatever is convenient..

    Today I have three classes, the first class from 4.30 – 5.30 pm, the next set from 6.30 – 9 pm. I’m usually starving before the last class ends, but any sooner and I would faint and keel over! That’s why I try to be really disciplined with my eating habits. Oatmeal in the morning, full-grain pasta with tomato-sauce for lunch, with a side-dish salad. Chicken or turkey or meat for proteins. Fruits for snacking, and I could not live without bananas! Before I head off for class, I like to have some yoghurt with walnuts or a smoothie. My own smoothie mix consists of yoghurt or quark, with frozen blueberry, banana and a spoonful of oatmeal.

    In my dance-bag I always pack some snacks. I like to eat those natural granola/dried fruit/seed/nut -bars, without any additives. I prefer natural stuff and real sugar over anything “lite” or “diet”. Artificial sweeteners don’t agree with my tummy, and you certainly don’t want to take class all bloaty.. Water is a must, and it’s a good idea to drink it consistently throughout the day.

    And eating after class is just as important! Skimmed (organic) milk is great, as are nuts. A tuna-salad with a cooked egg and a bit of vinagrette-dressing tastes good too.

    Thank you for an interesting post!

    P.S. I also like to eat chocolate, way too much! 😀

    • Oh, Johanna, I’ve lived my entire life surviving on a couple of potato chips and a diet Coke! Sadly, that’s almost not a joke. I’ve always had these insane life-sucking jobs and between that and whatever extracurricular activities I’ve been playing at along with them leave me little extra time for things like food shopping, food making, and food eating. Although I actually enjoy doing all of those things.

      Since I’m usually at work around 5am, I don’t eat much. My tummy doesn’t like anything that early. I can usually start to handle coffee around 6am and by that time, I’m already crazy busy. Since I start my day so early, I usually have lunch around 11 and I usually go out to eat where ever I am (I’m in the field a lot). I also work out of three different offices, so I never know where I’ll be and that makes taking food with me difficult, especially anything that needs to be kept cold. Depending on traffic, I might get an hour at home after work, two on really luxurious days, during which time, I work on my dissertation. Often my stomach can’t handle food because I’m still dealing with the stress of the day but I’ll try to have toast with peanut butter or something really gentle. Then I throw on dance clothes and get back into traffic to go to class. By this time it’s 6 or 7pm. My classes start at either 7pm or 8pm, depending on the day. And then I’m not home again until after 9pm. I actually do usually eat that late because I don’t go to bed until late, get about 3 1/2 hrs of sleep and start over!

      I know it’s not the optimal way to live but I actually do love what I do for a living, it’s a calling more than a job. The tough part is that I’ve been able to live my whole life this way – a pretty lousy diet, very little sleep, high levels of stress – and not suffered too much damage and had quite a lot of fun. But I do think I’m at an age now where it might be catching up with me just a bit. So cross your fingers and your fifths, maybe I’ll be able to do better soon 😀

      • I *try* to eat more like Johanna, but I end up eating a lot like you Bead109, for many of the same reasons. One thing that saves my butt (literally and figuratively) is protein bars. I keep them in my backpack, my purse, my desk drawer, my dance bag, everywhere, so that I have something substantial to fall back on when I need some fuel. I also have a bit of the family tendency towards hypoglycemia, so I know I need to eat often and eat protein along with my carbs or my blood sugar levels go all wonky. I get my protein bars from the supplement shop (I call it the meathead store because it’s always full of bodybuilders and MMA types) and read the labels for high protein/low carb and try to taste one before I buy a whole box because some of them taste awful but others are quite good. 🙂 I

      • I hear you with the bars. I’ve starting trying out different brands and flavors and chucking a couple here and there and everywhere. I run to being anemic so I require an amount of protein with regularity as well. Although I’ve found I can run around being anemic and it doesn’t slow me down too much… which in reality isn’t a good thing. I have this ridiculous notion that as long as I’m still standing, I might as well be running rather than listening to my body when it isn’t feeling well. I definitely need to pick up more of Johanna’s good eating habits 🙂

  3. I usually eat something light (peanut butter toast, soup, a protein bar, etc) about 1 to 2 hours before class so it has time to settle before I start doing cambres and side bends 🙂

    I buy Gatorade in bulk in powder form (regular or G2, though G2 powder is harder to find) and mix my own at about 1/2 strength, which is how I like it (AND it’s much cheaper that way as you’re not paying for water and packaging). That way I get some glucose and electrolytes and flavour with my water but it’s not overwhelming in terms of too much flavour or calories 🙂

    Another thing NOT to eat before class is a big bowl of popcorn and a Diet Coke…I think the popcorn swells in the stomach…ugh!

    • I buy the G2 powder as well. It tastes much better at 1/2 strength but works better for me a full strength, even though the liquid jello taste is a bit much at times. I just make sure to get the low calorie when I can find it. That’s even harder to find in powder!

      I tend to feel sloshy in my tummy with too much liquid in there, especially in center. But it’s become a matter of weighing the cost of feeling sloshy with liquid or feeling sluggish without energy. Sloshy is looking better and better.

      oooohhh, popcorn and diet Coke, yummy… but yeah, maybe not right before ballet class 😉

  4. Great topic! My Monday/Wednesday evening class is at 6:15 p.m., which is not great dinner-wise. I usually just have a cereal bar and/or some fruit beforehand (and then a late dinner afterwards when I get home). I drink water, but maybe I’ll look into trying Gatorade as well. (On a total tangent, I’m on a muscle-building kick now, doing resistance-band exercises on non-class days… not to get huge or anything but just to tone and build a bit here and there. My man-dancer legs are coming in nicely via class, but I can give them some help. 🙂 So I’m thinking of doing a protein shake now and then.)

    Oh, and another great fuel for the body is sleep! At least with me, I definitely feel it if I haven’t had a decent rest the night before. (Or several days of sleep debt catch up with me and I get completely zonked out!)

    • Go, Jeff! Muscle man, hee hee hee 😀

      Thankfully, I don’t require a lot of sleep. I get an average of 3 1/2 to 4 hours a night and usually get one day a month to really crash out and get 9 to 10 hours.

      I’m really starting to realize that my lifestyle is not very healthy and I need to do something about that!

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