Should You Be Taking Vitamins?

Dancers expect their bodies to give 100 percent, year-round—and with no time to feel tired, sick or sore, vitamins can seem like a magical way to prevent all ailments. When carefully incorporated into a healthy diet, vitamins can help boost your body's health and performance. But blindly consuming an alphabet soup of daily supplements can do more harm than good. The key is to be thoughtful about which vitamins you choose, how much you take and when you take them. Don't know where to start? Get the scoop on smart supplementing from our four specialists.

The Experts

Roberta Anding, director of sports nutrition at Texas Children's Hospital and former registered dietitian for Houston Ballet

Dr. Andrea Stracciolini, director of dance medicine at Boston Children's Hospital

Laura Moretti, registered dietitian of sports medicine at Boston Children's Hospital and for Boston Ballet

Dr. Joey Fernandez, dance medicine physician with Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Medical Center

Should I Be Taking Vitamins?

Roberta Anding recommends dancers begin with the question “Do I restrict any major food groups?" If the answer is yes, then you probably need to supplement your diet with vitamins. “Maybe you're a vegetarian, or you avoid dairy," she says, which can lead to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D. “Whether by choice or by medical necessity, dietary restrictions lead to deficiencies."

Have you suffered a recent injury? This can also be an indication of vitamin deficiency. “We often discover that dancers with muscular or skeletal injuries have low levels of calcium and vitamin D," Andrea Stracciolini says.

When in doubt, a blood test can confirm deficiencies in several key vitamins. “I always encourage dancers to get tested because deficiencies can be hard to detect from the surface," Anding says.

Which Vitamins (and Minerals) Are Most Important for My Dancer Body?


Key for: getting oxygen to your muscle tissues. “If you're anemic (iron deficient), you may experience fatigue, shortness of breath or trouble staying focused and alert in class," Anding says.

Dancers who should be especially conscious of iron intake? Female adolescents, because levels tend to dip with menstruation. Vegetarians, vegans and those who avoid red meat can also be at risk.


Key for: skeletal health. “You only get one chance to build a skeleton, and that happens between the ages of 11 and 25," Anding says. While calcium deficiency probably won't show any negative signs right now, it takes a toll on your bones over time.

Calcium-fortified foods, like soy milk and orange juice, are a great way to boost calcium intake for lactose-intolerant (or dairy-free) dancers. “Calcium is a heavy mineral, so it tends to settle at the bottom of the carton in fortified beverages," Anding says, “so make sure you shake them."

Vitamin D

Key for: skeletal health. “Vitamin D plus calcium is the gold standard for a dancer's skeletal health," say Laura Moretti. Without vitamin D, your body can't absorb the calcium it needs.

It's common for calcium-fortified foods to contain vitamin D, as well, but Stracciolini finds that many dancers still have trouble getting enough from their daily diets. “Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D," she says. “Dancers are indoor athletes, so they really don't benefit from that natural source."

Vitamin B-12

Key for: neurological health and energy. “Dancers who are low in B-12 may suffer from nerve problems or fatigue," Joey Fernandez says. Because B-12 is primarily found in animal products, vegans tend to be at risk of deficiency.

When Should I Take Them?

“Dancers' schedules can be so hectic and inconsistent," Anding says. She suggests choosing a time of day when you tend to be home, since you'll be more likely to remember.

Moretti recommends taking vitamins with a meal. “Fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E and K—are stored via dietary fat," she says, which is the fat you eat. “And iron can be tough on an empty stomach."

All the specialists agree that if you're taking both iron and calcium supplements, you'll need to take them separately, because they compete with each other to be absorbed into your body.

Can Vitamins Harm My Body?

“Too much of a good thing is a bad thing," Anding says. For example, when vitamin C is taken in excess (over 2,000 milligrams) chronically, it can cause kidney stones or gastrointestinal distress.

Fernandez adds that overdoing it on any vitamin can cause organ damage, and that fat-soluble vitamins can be especially dangerous because they're stored in your tissues and can accumulate. “Plus, we can never truly know about the purity of products because the vitamin market is loosely regulated," he says. Fernandez recommends looking for brands that are USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention) verified, such as Kirkland Signature and Nature Made.

Can Vitamins

Replace Foods?

In a word: No! “Vitamins don't give you any of the fiber, protein, carbs and fat your body needs," Moretti says.

Fernandez adds, “Dancers get their best performance results when they rely on whole foods and good nutrition."

Salad tip: Skipping out on salad dressing? You may want to reconsider. Moretti recommends adding a touch of olive oil to help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your nutrient-rich greens.

Vitamin or Mineral?

Why do we often lump vitamins and minerals together? Because there's not much difference between them. In fact, most multivitamins actually contain a combination of vitamins and minerals.

“Vitamins are organic compounds, while minerals, like calcium and iron, are inorganic," says Roberta Anding, director of sports nutrition at Texas Children's Hospital. In this case, “organic" doesn't mean “pesticide-free" as it does with foods. It simply means that vitamins contain the element carbon, whereas minerals don't. “Both are equally essential for making sure your metabolic machinery [the parts that turn your food into fuel] is working effectively."

Don't Just Google It

If you're curious about vitamins, seek out a qualified sports dietitian. “You're an athlete, and you need someone who's going to look at your intake from an athletic perspective," Anding says. “You aren't a mere mortal!"

Latest Posts

Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
The cast of Center Stage in a promotional poster (courtesy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Making of "Center Stage," as Remembered by Its Dance Stars

Whether you first watched it in a theater two decades ago or on Netflix last week, odds are you feel a deep connection to Center Stage. The cult classic, which premiered May 12, 2000, is arguably the greatest dance film ever made. (Dance obsessives might take issue with the "cult" before "classic," not to mention the "dance" before "film.") Jody Sawyer's ballet journey—which combines oh-wow-I've-had-those-blisters realism with wait-does-she-have-magic-color-changing-pointe-shoes fantasy—stands the test of time, early-aughts fashion be darned. We've memorized its highly quotable lines, laughed with (and, gently, at) its heroes, and been inspired by its sincere love of dance and dancers.

To celebrate Center Stage's 20th anniversary, we asked five of its dance stars to talk through their memories of the filming process. Here are their stories of on-set bonding, post-puke kissing scenes, and life imitating art imitating life.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search