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Dancer's diet-Protein
- Vishwa Kiran, Bangalore

July 27, 2011

Protein is derived from both animal and plant sources. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein contains nitrogen, which enables it to form amino acids, the building blocks of living tissue. There are 22 specific amino acids, but nine of them must be supplied to the body through food in order to survive. These are known as essential amino acids. Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are known as complete proteins.

Key functions of protein include:
Structural - Protein is the major component of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone matrix.
Fluid balance - without protein, blood pressure forces fluid into the cells and the body becomes bloated.
Protein is needed to synthesize many hormones.
Protein is needed to form all enzymes. Enzymes are catalysts in chemical reactions.
Acid/ base (pH) balance. Without protein the body becomes acidic.
Formation of antibodies.
Body stores of protein can be converted to glucose in starvation.
Protein supplies 4 kcal of energy per gram.

The average adult only needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kg body weight to stay healthy. To estimate your protein needs, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36. For example, a 115 lb (52 kilos) dancer would require about 41 grams of protein a day (115 lb x 0.36 + 41.4 grams of protein).

Dancers tend to consume more protein than they need. Because many dancers also eat too few carbohydrates, some of this protein must then be converted to glucose. Too much protein is hard on the kidneys and can lead to a diet high in saturated fat if too much is from animal sources.

For most people, protein should represent about 10 - 20 percent of the total dietary intake. Of the protein one does consume, about 20 percent needs to be "complete," that is, contain all nine essential amino acids. Complete proteins include meat, fish and poultry; however, all nine essential amino acids can also be derived by specific combinations of nonanimal proteins. For our 52 kilo dancer, 20 percent of her 41 grams of protein, or 8.2 grams, should be complete protein.

There continues to be controversy over how much protein a person engaged in athletic activity needs for optimal performance. It is observed that protein may be lost through strenuous work and sweating, It is found that many female dancers have difficulty trying to lose weight with protein intakes of 10 - 15% and fat intakes below 25%, especially on diets under 1200 kcal.

It is necessary that dancers maintain a standard intake of proteins on a daily basis. Recommended intake for dancers: protein - 15-20 % of total intake, 20% of protein intake should be essential amino acids (Chicken, fish, beef, pork or nonanimal complimentary proteins).

Vishwa Kiran is the Youth Wing Director of Nritarutya, Bangalore

Nice analysis. But what about vegetarians? You said meat, fish and beef! What about milk,cereals and how do they work as an alternative for non-veg? Can u plz explain?
- Lalitha Sindhuri
(Dec 22, 2011)

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