THON Prep Series Part 2: How to Reduce Sugar and Caffeine When Dancing at THON

Dancing for THON requires a lot of preparation, both physically and mentally. A large portion of getting ready for THON is consciously making healthy choices leading up to THON weekend. The Dancer Relations Committee works to prepare dancers for THON so that they can, “have the best THON weekend experience possible.”

It is important to cut down on caffeine and refined sugar before THON because, “their effects are only temporary and will cause dancers to crash soon after they are consumed,” says Rachael David, a Dancer Relations Committee member.

If a dancer works to wean themselves off of these beforehand, it will work in their favor THON weekend and, "eliminate any dependence they may have, allowing their bodies to be better prepared for what is ahead.”

As the Dancer Relations committee explains it, “A healthy diet is the best bet and will provide all the energy and nutrients their bodies need to survive the 46 hours.”

Here are some tips on how to eat right for THON 2015:

1. Don’t go “cold turkey.”

“Making big changes all at once can be difficult. Instead, make gradual changes,” says Kimberly Liao, the Coordinator of Educational Services, Health and Wellness at Penn State.

2. Change your diet gradually.

Maria Blesh, a registered dietician at Penn State, recommends that if you drink a cup of coffee, you can try half-caff as a replacement. Half-caff is taking half a cup of regular coffee and half a cup of decaf coffee and mixing it, so when you drink coffee you are getting less caffeine and cutting down on your intake. Tea is also a good replacement for coffee. Black teas have the most caffeine while green teas have the least caffeine.

3. Carry a water bottle around so you aren’t tempted to buy sugary drinks.

“The easiest way to avoid caffeine and lower my sugar intake was to always have a water bottle with me, “says Matt Downing, a dancer for THON 2014.

(Photo: Online Pharmacy)

4. Cut down on portion size.

For example, if you usually get a “grande” at Starbucks, try getting a “tall.” Not only does this cut down on caffeine, but it also cuts down on added sugars, says Blesh. Also, the same idea goes for sweets. If you cut down on your portion intake, you’ll gradually cut more sugars out of your diet.

5. Prioritize your sleep.

(Photo: Valley Sleep Center)

“Many students consume caffeine because they don’t feel rested, due to not getting enough sleep,” says Liao. The recommended amount of sleep is 7-9 hours each day.

6. Carry some snacks to get you through the day.

Downing recommends packing fruit or nuts to snack on throughout the day. Some other ideas for snacking include carrots and hummus, cheese and whole grain crackers, an apple with peanut butter or a of handful almonds, recommends Blesh.

7. Try to eat a balanced diet.

(Photo: Managing Stress and Living Healthy)

A good diet balanced with protein, carbs, and fat is essential. Protein helps to avoid soreness and helps muscle recovery during exercise, says Downing. Also, eating a meal full of carbs the day before THON can help you have energy throughout the weekend.

Lastly, try some of these caffeine and sugar substitutions recommended by the Penn State’s Health and Wellness program: Swap out your daily cup o’ joe for a cup of decaf coffee. If you drink tea, try herbal tea instead. If you’re trying to cut down on soda, try putting some lemon or lime slices in water or try seltzer water. To reduce sugar, try substituting fruit for junk food. “Fruit is naturally sweet, but it also contains nutrients and fiber that typically desserts do not,” says Liao. 

Also if you eat yogurt, Liao suggests buying plain yogurt and adding fresh fruit and nuts. “Yogurt contains natural sugars due to dairy, but flavored varieties contain added sugars." She recommends trying this yogurt parfait.

Cutting down on sugar and caffeine can be a difficult task, but remember these tips and to go slowly when you start to take these foods out of your diet. Eat a balanced diet and get ready for THON 2015 - for the cure, for the fight and FOR THE KIDS!

(Photo: Penn State News)