Cheerleading and dancing requires tons of energy- but how do you keep it up for hours during a competition? Many athletes in our industry look to sugar- as much as they can get- in the form of candy, soda, energy drinks, and other not-so healthy treats to keep their spirits up. These may give you a boost for a little while, but can leave you feeling even worse shortly afterwards, since sucrose (table sugar found in most candy/energy drinks) burns off so quickly and there are no fulfilling nutrients in these foods.
The truth is, cheerleaders are true athletes and should be treating their bodies as such. There are tons of healthy, nutrient-packed alternatives to sugary candy that can provide energy and keep you feeling full for an extended period of time, which not only keep you energized, but also keep you looking and feeling great in your uniforms!
Way before getting on the floor
Eat a meal packed with carbohydrates. Whole grain breads and oats, vegetables, and fruits are perfect for a pre- competition meal. The carbohydrates break down to glucose in the body, which your muscles use for energy over an extended period of time. Carbohydrates also help you feel fuller for longer, so you will not get the urge to eat another sugary snack an hour later. Looking for something that kids will love? Try a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread. It’s packed with protein and fiber from the peanut butter, potassium and carbs from the banana, more carbs from the bread, and it’s sweet- but it’s not candy, and it’ll keep you full!
Some other healthy options:
-Not-so-sugary cereal (Opt for Kix instead of Reese’s Puffs for now!!)
-Whole wheat toast, English muffin, or bagel with peanut butter
-Baked Potatoes; or even better, baked sweet potatoes
Slightly before getting on the floor
DRINK WATER, AND THEN DRINK SOME MORE WATER! Water is the best thing to rehydrate and replenish your body throughout the day, and it also keeps your muscles hydrated and strong. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half a cup of water for every 20 minutes you’re exercising. Water also keeps you feeling full. If you’re in need of a mid- competition snack, go for something pretty small that will re-charge your energy.
Some healthy options:
-Granola bars (Just make sure to check the labels- some granola bars have almost as much sugar as candy bars!)
-Celery with peanut butter
-Nuts (Cocoa and cinnamon roast almonds now come in convenient 100-calorie packs- sweet AND nutritious, with only 1 gram of sugar per pack!)
-Dried fruit- raisins, dried apricots, etc.
After you rocked it out
DRINK MORE WATER! If you want to, now is also your time to drink something that can replenish the salt and fluids you lost while sweating on the mat. Opt for a sports drink that replaces electrolytes and has 120 mg of sodium or more. You can also replace the salt by eating foods such as pretzels and peanuts, and this is the time you’ll want to eat protein such as meat, dairy, or fish. Go out to eat with your family and treat yourself for a job well done, but don’t go overboard- get your nutrients first!
So, drop the pixy stix and red bull, and get into the habit of eating fuel-boosting foods at competitions. You’ll thank yourself when you perform at and look your best!