Ice baths aren’t the only way to ease sore muscles. What you put into your mouth post-dance class can speed up (or slow down) recovery and rejuvenation. Ultimately, you want to eat a mix of protein and carbohydrates within two hours of working out. Protein shakes and energy bars might seem like fast and easy go-to snacks. But nutritionists recommend whole quality foods over processed choices (i.e. almost anything packaged). Here are some of our favorite snack and meal ideas for those long rehearsal days:
Salmon: This fish is a great lean protein choice high in Omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation. For a complete meal, add some steamed vegetables and brown rice on the side.
Eggs: Whether scrambled, poached, or hard-boiled, eggs are cheap and versatile protein-rich foods. One medium-sized egg has 6 grams of protein. And don’t stress about only eating egg whites. The yolks pack more vitamins and minerals that will also speed up muscle repair.
A banana and a handful of mixed nuts: Bananas are high in potassium, an electrolyte that prevents dehydration and muscle cramping. Pair it with some unsalted mixed nuts for those anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.
Cottage cheese and Greek yogurt: Both of these dairy options are super high in protein. But instead of picking sugar-rich flavored options from the supermarket, simply add some fresh berries or dash of cinnamon for an added kick.
Chicken: Chicken is another great lean protein with 28 grams in just 3-ounces! Spice up a plain, boring chicken breast with seasoning or healthy sauces like salsa, tzatziki, or curry.
Chickpeas: These tiny beans are so versatile. Roast them in the oven with some olive oil and seasoning, mash them into falafels, or puree them into hummus to pair with baby carrots or other sliced veggies. Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber and are a great post-dance choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Don’t forget that keeping up your water intake is also extremely important for muscle recovery. Dehydration can lead to cramping and delayed healing. The normal recommendation is 8 cups per day. But for dancers and athletes, shoot for at least 12 cups to make up for water lost from sweating and to aid in muscle recovery.