The topics of health and wellness are quite foreign in the arts sector, especially in the performing arts community. Previously working in the live music but also in the studio production environment, I experienced it first-hand. The daily combination of pizza, burgers and other heavy, fatty meals, along with sugary soft or energy drinks was asked to keep our human engines running in the exhausting working environment. I quickly experienced that this lifestyle can be utterly damaging on a long-term basis and that my energy was steadily decreasing with that nutrition habits. Therefore, I realised that a fundamental change of the nutrition and a general lifestyle needed to be implemented as soon as possible. Soon, I switched to healthy food and beverage and a rigorous and regular gym training that immediately resulted in a lot more energy during the day, a better personal feeling and a way healthier everyday life with significantly fewer days of illness and total fatigue.
Most of the musicians going on tour would probably need to change their lifestyle entirely to achieve that forward-looking and healthy daily life in an environment that usually consists of too much (unhealthy) restaurant food on the run, hurried eating and alcohol consumption. Apparently, being on the road without the regular access to a kitchen or fridge makes the situation even more challenging. Both of us, Pablo and I, want to give you a better understanding of the importance of healthy nutrition in combination with regular sportive activities to stay fit and pretend future health issues as touring musician or engineer. In this article, we provide you with some general tips about nutrition and exercise.
“We are what we eat”. A balanced and healthy diet will bolster your chances of a healthy tour. But what does “eating healthy” mean? Going on tour probably implies not having regular access to a kitchen or a supermarket. Therefore, options are ready-to-eat meals as well as the quick and easy charm of restaurants or fast food. Sometimes the meal that is offered by the live venues on the day of the gig is the only meal during the entire day, and usually the type of food that you should avoid.
One first step is planning properly what you are going to eat in the next week to cut down on unhealthy foods. Whether you can bring your food with you or you end up eating in a food service, it is essential to follow some dietetic recommendations and choose the menu wisely. A healthy diet should be based on a daily and weekly intake of:
Next step is buying a small cooler (as well as a cold pack). Filling a zipper bag with ice can work too. Take in mind that you can prepare all the dishes in advance (is not that hard!) and freeze them in small containers. To thaw them, put the containers in the fridge. For one day out, you can keep and bring them with you in glass tupperware (plastic can work too, but choose the ones with the symbols ♴ or ♶, more suitable for food).
We are going to present you an example of a one-day diet planning, with ideas of lunch and dinner. Fill the cooler with two to three pieces of fruit; one should be acidic such as a kiwi, orange, six to ten strawberries or one slice of pineapple (120g). For starters: 70g of hummus or one plate of pasta (around 120g, cooked), and for dinner a plate of salad (150g), where you can add 100g of cherry tomatoes, 100g of red/green peppers and 30g of feta cheese. For the main course: fish at lunch (such as 120g of tuna or hake), and for dinner one hard-boiled egg or 100g of chicken/turkey. Use preferably olive oil for cooking and seasoning. Choose culinary techniques that don’t involve excessive use of fat (iron, grill or wok, sautéed, steamed, cooked or boiled, poached, and the oven). You can check more ideas of healthy recipes here.
It is recommended to divide the daily food intake into five meals: breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, snack and dinner. Try to take a regular schedule concerning meals. If possible, make your lunch a bigger meal than your dinner. That is not only healthier but also better for evening performances. As they said, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar”. Regarding the in-between hours, there are multiple examples of healthy snacks to stay full of energy, such as two yoghurts with 75 g of oats, or 20 g of raw nuts (natural!) and 20 g of dried fruit.
Concerning water, it is important to drink regularly, spread over the entire day. Dehydration is the primary cause many musicians feel awful, and as a result, they get headaches. Risky situations could be self-induced dehydration (as a result of excessive alcohol consumption), combined with a lot of sweating on stage due to activity in a warm environment (stage lighting, crowded rooms, bad airflow, sun exposure and pyro, all contribute to water loss). If travelling, keep a stock of two to three litres of bottled water in your trunk. Regarding alcohol, ZERO intake is the best. If you are going to do it anyways, we recommend that you don’t overtake the quantity of one beer or a glass of wine (100 ml). Other ways that could help you to get energy is drinking green tea. It is rich in antioxidants and has diuretic effects that support kidney function. Remind to don’t drink it before going to sleep, as tea has caffeine.
What about supplements? Unless there is a medical order (e.g. because of diagnosed anaemia or vitamin B12 deficiency), there is no need to take supplements. A healthy and balanced diet will cover the daily requirements for micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. If you know for sure you won’t have access to certain types of foods, vitamins complex commercialised in pharmacies could be an option. But never with the aim to substitute the main meal.
Be Fit & Do Sports!
Studies have shown that performing artists have a lot in common with sports athletes. The almost daily practice or performance, the little "off-season" time and the high risk of career-threatening injuries can be mentioned as central similarities. You may reach the point where the high number of practise hours may turn into pain (rather than useful development). We all need mental and physical rest to recover our energy and deliver outstanding performances and artistic quality. As a consequence, it is advisable to make mental and physical activities that differ from the one you need to do over and over again in your professional context.
Staying fit with tailored exercises on your instrument is highly recommended. Developing a regime of activities that promote muscle strengthening and better flexibility (such as yoga, pilates or martial arts) will allow you to move with fluidity, and help drain away the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and joints. Each instrument has its own unique and common elements that challenge your body's limits. By strengthening your total body through low impact, weight-bearing exercise such as swimming, elliptical machines and light to medium weights you can oppose the stresses placed on your body while playing. Two major causes of injuries are excessive force to an area and repetitive movements. The best defence is to be aware of your posture and what muscles groups, tendons and joints are affected while you play your instrument.
Probably a tour routine: waking up early, start out with a healthy breakfast (should include a piece of fruit + one portion of cereals + one portion of milk or dairy), workout - gym (weights and cardio such as running), or a "home-workout” (including burpees, situps and pushups at least).
If gyms or home workouts are not your thing, then try to be active otherwise. A general recommendation is a daily aerobic exercise of moderate intensity for about 30 minutes (walk, dance), or aerobic exercise of higher intensity (competition sports, cycling) for about 75 minutes per week. According to celebrity fitness trainer and nutrition specialist Harley Pasternak, Kanye West is usually playing basketball, Alicia Keys likes to mountain-bike, and Adam Levine (Maroon 5) enjoys to walk 18 holes on a golf course while being on tour. Pasternak also specifies daily goals for his clients and asks stars like Ariana Grande or Levine to walk, e.g. at least 12.000 steps a day and to explore the city by foot as much as they can.
To finish, wherever time zone you are in keep that time on your watch. It is essential to maintain a regular and constant schedule, so your body isn’t exposed to a lot of stress and doesn’t feel disoriented. Also, don’t forget a healthy lifestyle includes proper sleep and resting time (about 8 hours of sleep).
We hope that we could somehow inspire you with this article to care more about your health, nutrition and fitness in conjunction with your touring life. We can tell you that you will feel the differences after changing your current habits to healthier alternatives that make life being on the road less stressful and exhausting.