A working musician can face a number of challenges to maintaining a healthy diet and receiving the nutrition that they need to optimise performance. A lifestyle of long rehearsals, late nights and touring can add up to regular meals and dietary considerations being neglected. Substitutes like coffee, chocolate or various types of fast-food might be difficult to avoid, depending on the working conditions; therefore, it can require a significant amount of planning and self-discipline to ensure that healthy dietary options are prioritised.
Regardless of a person’s role in the music industry, a balanced diet containing something from the five main food groups is needed every day. This should include:
- Proteins (meat, fish, eggs, beans)
- Vitamins (A, B, C, D, E and K)
- Minerals (calcium and iron)
- Carbohydrates (rice, wheat, pasta, potatoes)
- Fats (saturated and polyunsaturated)
Water intake is also critical to good health and cannot be overestimated. Other liquids such as coffee, tea or fizzy drinks are no substitute for water – in fact, they can dehydrate the body. A water intake of 1.5-2 litres per day is a good goal, as this is what the body depletes in a normal day.
Know your fats
It is important to understand the role of fats in the context of a balanced diet, including how to differentiate fats and how best to incorporate them into your diet. Author and nutritionist Stephanie J. Moore offers the following perspective in one of her protocols:
“Having a daily intake of healthy fats is imperative for sustained energy, cellular functioning, brain health and hormonal balance. Non-processed fats and oils in the diet provide, and allow us to absorb, the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E & K. Vitamins D & K are both required to get calcium into your bones and A & E are powerful antioxidants. Vitamin D is also essential for mood regulation and all the fat-soluble vitamins are involved in immune health. Including a range of raw nuts & seeds, avocados, oily fish, free range eggs and healthy cooking fats such (as below) will achieve this.”
Moore goes on to explain the risk of trans or hydrogenated fats and offer the following advice: “These (hydrogenated fats) are fats which may have started out healthy i.e. polyunsaturated fats from seeds but have been heated to a very high temperature to make them ‘shelf-stable’ i.e. to have a long shelf life without smelling rancid. These fats are used to make spreads, they include all the ‘vegetable / seed cooking oils and are always used in commercial cakes, cookies, snacks, ready meals, processed foods and by restaurants! These highly processed, damaged oils contribute to levels of cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Read the labels of the food you buy and never buy anything that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. Therefore, all commercial cooking oils and spreads are to be avoided where possible. These include corn, sunflower, safflower, vegetable, soy and rapeseed oils. Saturated fat is found in animal products like cheese, butter and meats as well as in tropical plants such as coconut and palm. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature unlike the polyunsaturated oils listed above, which will be liquid at room temperature. Saturated fats do not get damaged by heat as polyunsaturated oils do, which makes them ideal for cooking with. Having some saturated fat is considered by many experts to be necessary for good health.”
Healthy gut microbes
In addition to being mindful of the types of fats we should have in our diet, Moore is a huge believer in the importance of healthy gut bacteria and how this can impact all systems in the body. To keep our gut microbes healthy, we should aim for a variety of fermented foods in our diet every week. Says Moore:
“Including live foods is one of the quickest ways to establish healthy gut bacteria, which then supports gut health, detox processes, immune function, blood sugar regulation and fat burning. Again, variety is key. These foods may be a bit challenging at first because they taste sour. The sourness comes from the fermentation process. Fermented foods offer great health benefits due to the live beneficial bacteria and lactic acid they contain, which helps to keep the gut really healthy. Remember, the condition of our gut flora has an influence on virtually all aspects of health.”
When it comes to nutrition, you should bear in mind that one approach doesn’t fit everyone. While there is no shortage of advice and protocols you can undertake, make sure that you work under the supervision of an expert to maximise the potential benefits for you. Work within your limits, be aware of what you goals are and be mindful of how any change is making you feel and the impact it is having on physical and mental well-being.
Moore, Stephanie (2016) Why Eating Less and Exercising More Makes You Fat. www.heath-in-hand.co.uk, IngramSpark