Hello, and welcome to the first installment of my blog. This series is designed to tackle a question that I have experienced firsthand and witnessed with many of my colleagues – “How do I maintain a healthy lifestyle as a musician?”.
Today, I thought we would start with the most prevalent issue that I have witnessed among musicians. I have come into contact with many that have expressed to me that they would like to eat healthy, however it seems like a Herculean task to do so on a fast paced and ever changing schedule. Surely, anyone in the music world knows this problem too well. Between performing engagements, rehearsals, teaching, and classes (if you are a student) there is very little time to choke down a burger from a fast food joint, much less eat a healthy meal. Adding to the problem, many of these engagements are not in the same place and we are constantly driving from one spot to the next. In this installment, I am going to discuss ways that we can navigate these hectic schedules and maintain a healthy eating lifestyle.
I believe this should be the first item on the list, as it takes the most effort but I believe it to be the most effective step. In my undergraduate years, like many music students, I took pride in how much time I was spending in the practice room with hardly any time to eat during the day. While practice is a necessity in a musician’s everyday life, it should not come at the cost of starvation! Certainly, malnutrition and not eating enough will have a negative effect on your performance and ultimately some of the time that was spent practicing will be offset.
For many of us with a busy lifestyle, a solution to this problem is making healthy ready-to-go meals that we have pre-prepared. The concept of food prepping is that you cook all of your meals for the next week (or a few days) all at once and they are ready to eat as you need them. Personally, I typically take Sundays to do all of this as it is the day where the least amount is typically going on and there is ample time to do this. A go-to prepared meal that I use regularly is a chicken breast seasoned to taste, a cup of whole grain rice, and some sort of vegetable. Although the kid inside me is revolted at the thought of Brussels sprouts, they have become a favorite of mine and they reheat very well. Now, it is not uncommon to see me in the guitar suite at school heating up my prepared meals between classes and practice in an effort to fit in a healthy meal!
Of course, you should choose your specific meals based on your own macronutrient needs and goals – which we will discuss in a later post. Another easily prepared and classic lunchtime meal that could be done each morning is a sandwich. However, choosing the ingredients for the sandwich is an ultimately important step in making it healthy. Try to use whole wheat bread and stick to leaner deli meats like chicken or turkey breast. To compare, 1oz of turkey deli meat is 25 calories, .5g Carbohydrates, .2g Fat, and 5.5g Protein while 1oz of ham deli meat is 40 calories, 1.5g Carbohydrates, 2g Fat, and 4g Protein. When making a sandwich with a few slices of meat on it, the differences between the two choices grow larger.
2.Carry A Water Bottle
It’s not just a folk remedy, carrying a water bottle with you will absolutely help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and suppress your appetite. According to a study done by the University of Tennessee, about 75 percent of Americans are functioning in a state of chronic dehydration and about 37 percent has such a weakened thirst response that symptoms are regularly mistaken for hunger. To know that over a third of our population mistakes thirst for hunger could really benefit us in the quest to reexamine our living habits!
Carrying a water bottle and regularly drinking from it will help you stay in the 25 percent of Americans who are not chronically dehydrated and can help strengthen your thirst response so that you are abler to accurately differentiate between thirst and hunger. Additionally, it can aid in portion control. A 2010 study done by Virginia Tech University found that those who drank glasses of water before a meal every day ate 75 to 90 less calories. Over the course of 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals in this study lost about 5 pounds more than the dieters who did not increase their water intake.
I know, the word ‘snacks’ seems counterintuitive when we are talking about a healthy eating lifestyle. In fact, regular snacks should be a part of your eating regimen and have many benefits! The first key is knowing what sort of snacks to have. Many of the snacks that we typically think of are high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, which often result in an unsatisfied feeling. When it comes to controlling appetite, protein is the macronutrient that reigns supreme as the appetite satiate. Eating portable snacks high in protein can help you satisfy your appetite and give you energy to keep going through the day. Some good examples would be beef jerky, trail mix, Greek yogurt, or hard boiled eggs.
Finally, we come to the most important meal of the day – breakfast. Those who know me are probably laughing at this point since they know exactly what I am about to say. Your first meal of the day should provide you with healthy carbohydrates for energy, fiber for a feeling of fullness, protein for muscle growth, and some healthy fats to help you feel satiated. For many musicians our days start early and end late, making this meal an absolute necessity. It is 100 percent worth it to wake up fifteen or thirty minutes earlier to start your day with a good meal. My go-to breakfast, with borderline comic regularity, is two sunny-side up eggs and two pieces of whole grain toast – affectionately nicknamed the ‘Zach Special’ by those familiar with my breakfast habits. However predictable it may be, this meal regularly keeps me satisfied until lunchtime with all of the energy needed to perform my necessary duties that morning (practicing, reading, going to the gym, etc.). If two sunny-side up eggs and two pieces of whole grain toast isn’t necessarily your speed – I couldn’t imagine a world where it wasn’t – some foods that you should consider for a healthy start to your day would be Greek yogurt, turkey sausage, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, apples, and spinach. Each of these foods can provide you with a form of healthy carbohydrates, fiber, protein, or healthy fats.
I hope that you enjoyed the first installment of this series, and I certainly hope that you have found some valuable insight regarding a healthy lifestyle on a musician’s schedule. If there is anything you would like to ask or say, please comment below!