Nutrition & Skating: What you need to know

Dana Sivak has been involved in skating since she first stepped on the ice at 5 years old. She skated all through high school, and opted to continue to pursue her academic and skating careers and attend the University of Delaware for her college experience. After graduating with her BS in Nutrition and Dietetics (and Coaching Science Minor), she came back home to the Chicagoland area to teach figure skaters at her home rink and to attend Northern Illinois University to obtain her MS degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She additionally opted to compete one last time at Regionals in the fall after graduating from UD, where she was named the 2015 Upper Great Lakes Regional Champion. Wow, this girl has got a lot on her plate! Currently, her path continues, as she is working for US Figure Skating in Colorado Springs, as their Sports Medicine/Sports Dietitian Intern. The majority of her time will be spent holding nutrition workshops/individual athlete consultations at the various US Figure Skating S.T.A.R.S. camps, High Performance camps (singles/pairs/dance divisions), ISP monitoring competitions, and Junior Grand Prix competitions happening during the 2019-2020 season.

Dana was kind enough to share some of her knowledge and comment on the role nutrition and diet plays for athletes, especially figure skaters.

What inspired you to go from competitive skater to dietitian?

Dana: In 2006, I competed at the Junior Nationals competition in Westminster, CO and was first exposed to the idea of sports nutrition when attending one of their various workshops available to the skaters competing that weekend. This fantastic memory returned later when, well like most graduating seniors in high school, I began to think - what am I going to major in at college? I knew I wanted to stay involved in skating for as long as I could at the time, and so I turned to some of my biggest mentors during my time as a skater, as an athlete. How could I combine my personal skill sets, school subject interests, and passions for skating? One of the first things that crossed my mind was being a Dietitian - an area in my personal skating experience that I had wished I had received more knowledge about, and a specific profession/component of an athlete's training protocol that could greatly impact their athletic performance/success. When I started to think about it more at this time, I thought of all the skaters that had come and gone before me, and how many of them could have possibly prevented an injury with better nutrition, who could have worked through their personal struggles if only they had sought out the advice of a dietitian.With skating, I knew I always wanted to do it -"No mom, I'm not sick. I want to go to the rink....I know it's snowing mom, but can you still drive me to the rink? I know I fell on that jump at this competition, but Ill be back at the rink on Monday and I'll make sure I don't make that mistake again; but if I do, I'll pick myself back up and try again." With dietetics, from the day I submitted my UD college application, I knew I wanted to be a sports dietitian to specifically help skaters and other aesthetic sports athletes.

With diet and nutrition, what are skaters lacking most and why?

Dana: Well - I hope they aren't lacking anything nutritionally; however, I know this is "wishful thinking/in a perfect world mentality". Most common nutrition implications I see with skaters, and well to be honest even non-athletes - is that they aren't nourishing themselves in a balanced way; that is, they aren't appropriately consuming a balanced amount of carbs, protein, and lipids. This is especially CRUCIAL for skaters because of the demands of their aesthetic sport, as well as to provide the appropriate fuel to skate their best. Another key component that sometimes is forgotten, is appropriate recovery nutrition/hydration to prevent a plethora of issues related to the athlete's overall health. Lastly, key nutrient deficiencies that are screened for in these athletes in