Energy Intake vs Energy Expenditure of Dancers

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by Meghan A. Brown, Glyn Howatson, Edel Quin, Emma Redding, Emma J. Stevenson

The data in this study suggest that the dancers are unable to effectively regulate their energy and macronutrient intakes to accommodate for their energy expenditure; essential for maintaining the demands of training, performance, recovery and physiological adaptation.


  1. Determine the energy and macronu- trient intake and energy expenditure of pre-professional female contemporary dancers during a 7-day period of full time training at a conservatoire.
  2. Compare exercise and dietary behaviours during week days (Monday-Friday; where there was scheduled dance training), and during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday; where there was no scheduled dance training).


Twenty-five pre-professional female undergraduate contemporary dance students attending a conservatoire were asked to complete a 7-day weighted food diary to provide a detailed description of their food and fluid intake as well as supplement use if applicable. A tri-axial accelerometer was secured under clothing on the right hip. These were worn continuously (except during activities which would submerge the accelerometer in water) throughout the same 7-day period that was analysed for dietary intake.


  • Average energy intake was lower than energy expenditure during the 7-day period.
  • Energy expenditure did not differ when comparing week and weekend days, however daily energy intake, energy availability and energy balance were lower during the week (during scheduled dance training) compared to the weekend, where energy balance in fact became positive.
  • Carbohydrate intake was lower but alcohol and fat intake was highest at the weekend.
  • Lower intake derived from protein at the weekend.


  • Chronic energy deficiency in athletes can lead to detriments in performance and subsequent recovery, and could compromise growth, maturation and health.
  • Inadequate nutrition can raise potential issues like insufficient peak bone mass and menstrual dysfunction.
  • Female dancers (as with other athletic females) are recommended to maintain an energy availability above 30 kcal kg FFM-1 day-1.
  • Carbohydrates play an essential role in exercise metabolism and the delay of fatigue, as well as contributing to the replenishment of glycogen stores during recovery.
  • Adequate protein intake and amino acid availability are necessary for the repair and remodelling of skeletal muscle and connective tissue after exercise, which is critical given that dance has been shown to induce muscle damage.
  • As with many athletes in aesthetic or weight dependent sports, female contemporary dancers are at risk of energy deficiency, particularly during periods of scheduled dance training.
  • There is a lack of knowledge regarding appropriate nutrition for sport and exercise performance.
  • Dance populations would benefit from further research in order to develop current understanding of dance specific nutrition.


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