How Male Dancers Should Eat for Increased Energy and Strength
Regardless of who you are, it takes a lot of energy to keep jetés soaring and kicks high-flying, but it takes even more fuel if you’re a teenage male. Between the ages of 13 and 17, boys gain roughly 37 pounds, mostly in muscle. (Teenage girls experience growth spurts, too, but most of their weight gain is in essential body fat, with some muscle.) In order to sustain the high metabolism required for this growth, not to mention long days in the studio, what should an adolescent male dancer eat to stay healthy and strong?
The Food Guide Pyramid, found on most food labels, is a great way to shape eating habits, but is based on a 2,200-calorie diet. The average teenage boy needs upwards of 2,700-3,000 calories, so male dancers should eat much more than the recommended daily servings.
If a dancer’s protein intake is too low, growth rate will slow, energy will drop and the immune system will weaken. (Low levels of iron, found abundantly in protein, make the body less able to deliver oxygen to cells.) Male dancers don’t need to add powders and supplements to their diets if they eat protein with every meal and snack. The best iron sources are meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and soy, but iron can also be found in dried fruit,
fortified cereals and spinach.
During adolescence, 45 percent of the body’s skeletal mass is developed, requiring 1,200-1,500 milligrams of calcium per day. The best source is non- or low-fat dairy, such as milk or yogurt, which both have 300 milligrams in a single cup. Other calcium sources: broccoli, almonds, tofu and calcium-fortified orange juice. Note: Soda and salt interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Essential for growth and sexual maturation, zinc is found in fortified cereals, wheat germ, nuts, beans and lean meats such as roast beef or turkey. While low levels of zinc can worsen acne, too much zinc can depress the immune system and lead to copper deficiency, which raises cholesterol and affects heart function. Note: No one should consume more than 30 milligrams of zinc per day.
Teenagers need significant amounts of thiamin, riboflavin and niacin to accommodate higher energy levels. Other B vitamins, such as B6, B12 and folate, aid in tissue building; vitamin D helps skeletal growth; and vitamins A, C and E promote new cell growth. All of these will be consumed in adequate quantities simply by eating a well-balanced diet.
Fat should not be eliminated from a teen diet, though high-fat meats and cheeses should be consumed sparingly and fried foods avoided altogether because they are too high in saturated fat. The best fat sources are avocados, nuts, fish and olive oil; they won’t raise cholesterol and are good for reducing inflammation. (For more on fat, see “The Skinny On Fats” in DS January 2005.)
Adolescents are at a high risk for dehydration because they heat up quickly. Active male dancers should drink between 10 and 12 eight-ounce glasses per day, regardless of thirst.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.