Many a times we look at the top pole dancers, see their flat tummies, their ripped abs, their beautiful hair, spotless skin… and we think: what do I need to do and eat to get there?! We think: They must just have a salad leaf a day and live off air, pole dancing and the highs of their achievements.
However, these achievements, beauty and artistic performance, may demand something much simpler and different than expected: the health of your gut!
Why you may ask? Isn’t it the muscles, nerve fibres and a restrictive diet that will plaster my road to success?
My answer to that would be: “And which organ in your body supplies your muscles and nerve fibres with the right nutrients to deliver the performance required?”. “And which organ supplies your hair and your skin with nutrients to look as delicious as possible?”
Your gut! Exactly!
If your digestive tract is not healthy and you are constantly bloated, feel wind/gas, suffer frequent changes of diarrhoea and constipation or you experience a lot of indigestion or heartburn, the chances are that your intestines are not in top shape.
What would it mean for them to be in top shape?
To answer this question, we have to go a little bit into the anatomy of your intestines: see picture
The wall of your intestines under the microscope looks something like this picture to the right. The so called “villi” are like tiny little hairs that stand up straight and move when food passes by.
Now by the point food passes through the intestines, it has been broken down small enough to be absorbed by the cells of the villi and enter the capillary network, aka blood stream.
If all is running well, then you’re smiling because you’re fit as a fiddle in the morning, jumping out of bed, feel energetic enough to pole dance all day and life is just so much joy!
However, often enough it’s not like that. We eat junk food, we are stressed and daily life is hectic. We celebrate every occasion with alcohol, we also overeat regularly and many of us use food as an emotional band-aid as well. As if that’s not enough, we may have had to take antibiotics which kill good and bad bacteria in your gut.
What does that mean for our digestive tract?
- Our hydrochloric acid in our stomach reduces with stress which means food is not broken down enough
- Our digestive enzymes may not be enough to cover the overeating part (more food not properly broken down)
- The alcohol and junk food have irritated our gut lining and our poor little villi are not upright anymore, they lie down flat like us on a Sunday morning after a massive night out
- On top of that some of our good gut bacteria are seriously struggling to stay alive
In a nutshell, our digestive tract from top to bottom (literally) is compromised, and we feel not energetic, not alert, not beautiful and heeellll no, don’t feel motivated to do much.
Now – you may have heard of many different diets that you potentially could follow: Keto-diet, Paleo-diet, FODMAP-diet, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Acid-Base Balance diet, and so on and so on… bla bla bla… confused yet? Yes, most likely!
The answer is as easy as it is frustrating: the best diet for you is the one that fits your individual needs!
This is also valid for the question around food intake prior and after meals! It is very different from person to person as each individual has different health goals, even in pole dancing! Some want to lose weight, some want to gain muscle weight, some want to maintain weight etc. So, having carbohydrates before training and a protein shake after training is not working for everyone. Furthermore, different people digest different macro-nutrients differently, so your nutrition really needs to be tailored to your individual needs.
However, there are a few guidelines that are a good start for everyone who wants to have a healthy intestine and therefore healthy organs:
- Drink 2-3L of water per day
Our bodies are made up to around 80% of water. The less you supply your body with fresh, clean water, the less optimal will your digestion function and your flexibility will suffer as well; give your gut and muscle fibres some love!
- Adequate amount of sleep
Your body repairs itself when sleeping, especially if it’s not busy with the digestion of food, so try to have your last meal 3 -4 hours before you go to bed.
- Eat a rainbow
Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit to maximise the amount of nutrients you get from your diet. We need a large array of vitamins, minerals, bioflavonoids, fibre and secondary plant compounds to fight all the free radicals circulating in our environment, deriving from e.g. car fumes, germs in air conditioning, etc.
- Portion control
Do not overeat! Overeating puts extra stress on your digestive system. Try to wait with eating until you’re hungry and then eat slowly so you feel when you’re full. Chew well to start appropriate digestion already in the mouth. Chew each bite at least 30 times.
A healthy way to give your digestive system a rest and to boost your metabolism is to do some intermittent fasting (Note: do NOT do this if you’re diabetic or pregnant). In case you haven’t heard about intermittent fasting: one way of doing this is to not eat for 16 hours in the day and eat for 8 hours in the day. So, e.g. you finish your last meal at 7pm – the next time you’d eat is 11am the following day. In the 8-hour time period where you are eating, you can literally eat whatever you want but again – don’t overeat, just until you’re happily full, then stop until you’re hungry again.
- Prior to training
Even though there is no “one-fits-all” rule on what to eat before or after training, there is some advice on when! As a rule of thumb, stop eating about 1.5 -1 hour before you start exercising, so that your last meal has started the digestion process already a fair bit and you’re not feeling heavy whilst exercising. Depending on your goals, it may be good for you to not eat another hour after training or to eat straight away… I know, confusing! But all dependent on the individual and their goals!
First of all – Don’t Panic! Stress is the worst enemy to your digestive system and decreases your nutrient absorption. If you have ever had to perform or compete in a sport or similar, you may have experienced an upset gut beforehand due to nerves. Now, imagine less severe stress but ongoing (e.g. a frustrating job, a hard time in the relationship etc.) and you know that your mindset and, connected with that, your nervous system can cause havoc with your digestion. So, try to either eliminate your stress or to cope better with it via meditation, walks along the beach barefooted, yoga… whatever works for you.
- Consult a health professional
If you’re not sure what is best for you in regards to diet, have ailments or you have particular goals, go and see a qualified health professional to help you out (Naturopath, Nutritionist, Dietician, Sports Dietician etc.). They can educate you on what’s best for you as an individual, do certain metabolic and intolerance tests, fast track your health journey and get you on the most optimized path of healing and training.
And never forget the most important thing about pole dancing – Have fun! 😊
By Claudia Koelbl
Adv.Dip. Naturopathy, Adv.Dip. Nutritional Medicine, Adv. Dip. Western Herbal Medicine
Barr Street Naturopathy