Nutritional Considerations for the Vegetarian and Vegan Dancer.


Brown DD

Year Published: 



J Dance Med Sci.


Study Design: 


Vegetarianism provides a catchall term for a variety of diets that exclude the consumption of some or all animal products. Contrary to popular claims, appropriately designed and managed vegetarian diets contain foods nutritionally sufficient for health, well-being, and physical performance. Vegetarian dancers can meet their protein needs from primarily or exclusively (vegan) plant-based sources when a variety of these foods are consumed daily and energy intake is adequate. However, the quality and timing of dietary intake is of key importance to meet the physical demands typical of high intensity, intermittent types of dance styles. Poorly planned, calorically restrictive, and nutrient poor diets confer a host of deficiencies that diminish health and ultimately performance. The recommendation for dietary macronutrient composition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein of 55%, 20% to 30%, and 12% to 15%, respectively, offers an acceptable baseline for all dancers across different dance styles. Vegetarians, in particular vegans, should ensure sufficient caloric and adequate intake of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, ω-3 fatty acids, calcium, and zinc. Many of these micronutrients are derived from animal products, but, with sufficient knowledge, can be obtained from plantbased sources. However, the diminished bioavailability of iron from plants and lack of plant sources of Vitamin B12 in vegan type diets can have detrimental effects on physical performance. Thus, to prevent long-term deficiencies, vegan dancers require more diligence when preparing and managing dietary intake. This article reviews literature on vegetarian diets with regard to dance, gleaning findings from epidemiologic, clinical, and sport nutrition research. It also highlights potential micronutrient deficiencies that may occur in some plant-based diets and presents potential strategies to improve nutrient and caloric intake for dancers who opt for a plant-based diet.