For endurance athletes, hamburgers, Skittles and chili cheese fries are the wrong fuel for peak performance.

But for many young dancers, often influenced more by the eating habits of their peers rather than what their bodies need for optimal energy, sugary snacks and fast food are regular parts of their diet.

UNCG senior Allyson West hopes to change that. A trained dancer and Greensboro native, West is studying to become a registered dietitian and has created the online newsletter “Nourish” full of nutritional wisdom on how dancers can fuel themselves for the rigors of performance.

West knows the need for proper nutrition. A graduate of UNC School of the Arts, West has spent years in the dance world, working for Dance Magazine, as a dance instructor, a freelance professional dancer and as an assistant artistic director of a ballet company. “I started dancing when I was very young,” said West, 30. “It’s all I’ve ever done.”

But in all her years of dance instruction, no one ever explained to her the correlation between her performance on stage and her diet.

At one point in her career, a busy schedule meant lots of meals from drive-thrus. “I was traveling all the time and I realized I wasn’t eating well,” West explained. “One day, I wasn’t feeling so great nor was I performing well. I said to myself, ‘You’ve been eating burgers and fries and you’re not feeling well. There has to be a connection.’ I did some research. It opened my eyes.”

West became passionate about nutrition, researching the foods that would best nourish her body for long days of teaching and performing. Now working on a second undergraduate degree in UNCG’s Human Nutrition and Dietetics program, she’s learning the science to back it up. Her excellence in the classroom has been rewarded with a prestigious Excellence Award from the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions.

On track to graduate this spring and then begin the required dietetic internship, West is preparing to make a positive impact on the lives and careers of young dancers.

“Dancers are endurance athletes,” she said. In the middle of a production, it’s not uncommon for a dancer to perform one or two shows on top of rehearsals and other obligations.

Once licensed, she envisions herself giving presentations at dance conferences and festivals on the importance of proper nutrition. “The fuel you put in your body does reflect how much energy you’ll have to perform,” she said. “If you’re training to be a professional, you have to understand why that’s important.

“There’s such a big need for this education. And because I have a dance background, I feel I have the instrument to truly provide it.”