Am I Hydrated? Drinking Water In Dance Class

8:35 AM

We all know water is important… but how important is it for a dancer?

Answer: Extremely.

Water makes up 80% of your body weight. Yes you're trying to keep your weight low, but water is more than just something that weighs you down. Water is the unspoken fourth macro-nutrient, debatably more important than fats or proteins.

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Can't I just drink water before and after? Sure if that works for you. But keep these important facts in mind.

Why is water important?

1. Studies have shown that there is a very obvious decrease in strength, flexibility, stamina, and overall performance when dancers are as little as 2% dehydrated. For more, check out the USADA's free nutritional download for Athletes.

2. The shock absorbing pads between your spine, and between your femur and tibia (under your knee cap) are mostly water. If they're not functioning right, they won't support you in your dancing. For the sake of your knees, please! Drink plenty of water!

3. Your brain needs a lot of water to work quickly and effectively. Are you feeling sluggish and delayed in class? You might be dehydrated. If you don't drink water, your brain will shut down. (keep in mind this is the simplified version, but I don't feel like doing an entire post about your brain. This is a dance blog.)

4. Your body can't absorb and digest the nutrition from the food you ate unless you're hydrated. It will get some of it, but not all of it, and certainly not the most it can. So if you're dehydrated and you're trying to eat enough calories to dance tonight in class, keep in mind that you aren't getting as much of the energy as you could be getting if you were drinking water.

5. Water boosts your metabolism. Trying to watch your weight? The best way to lose weight is to drink cold water, because your body burns calories warming it up to absorb it. Want your energy levels to stay more consistent? Drink more water! Trying to eat fewer calories but you're still hungry after your meal? Drink a cup of water, weight thirty minutes, and if you're still hungry, drink more.

Great! So what can we do to make sure we stay hydrated?
In our society, because we drink so many other things like coffee (guilty), tea (guilty…), and sports drinks (very guilty), we tend to forget that water is pretty much our life source.

Now with that in mind, you really don't want to over-hydrate. That can be fatal, because it dilutes your blood.

Good news: There is a foolproof way to tell if you're hydrated!
Bad news: it's kind of gross.

Basically, take a peek at your urine color. If it's bright yellow or a muddy dark, you're very dehydrated. Drink about four more 6-ounce cups of water a day. If it's a light lemonade color, you're pretty much fine, but you could do for an extra cup or two when you work out. If it's almost clear (which is what a lot of athletes should shoot for, since we sweat so much), you're doing great.

How can I stay hydrated in class?

Once you establish how much water you should drink (and always check with a doctor or health specialist if you aren't sure), what is the best way to drink water in dance class? Teachers want you to be healthy, but many of them get irritated if you're constantly sipping water and using the bathroom. Where's the fine line of health and good class etiquette?

1. Be hydrated before you go into the studio. That means water drinking starts in the morning, not 10 minutes before class.

2. Bring a water bottle, but don't sip all class long. Science has established you actually stay hydrated if you take larger gulps of water at intervals rather than sip after every hard thing you do. For example, try drinking larger gulps of water before class, after rond de jambe, after stretch, and after allegro.

3. Be aware - if you "feel thirsty," you've already been dehydrated for at least 20 minutes. Just like hunger, thirst sometimes has a delayed response in letting your body know "hey! gimme some help over here!" Again, start the hydration process in the morning, not right before class!

Here are some extra resources if you want to do more research.

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  1. Wow, it takes only a little dehydration to hinder our performance as dancers. This motivates me to make sure I'm getting enough water!


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