what should musicians eat before going on stage

What Should Musicians Eat Before Going On Stage?

To the untrained eye, knowing what musicians eat before going on stage can be deceptive. Are they fueled by chips and alcohol like rock star stereotypes, or on well-regimented diets like sports stars?

Generally, when musicians eat before going on stage, they look to eat foods that are high in energy like carbohydrates or rich in sustenance like nuts and protein bars.

Trying to get a balanced diet is tricky for performers – especially when constantly on the road. That’s why knowing what to eat is important to keep the body and mind healthy.

With there being unhealthy temptations never far away, many can find it a fine line to knowing what is best to consume and at the right time before starting a show.

What Food Helps Musicians On Stage?

Before even thinking about stocking up, you need to know what foods are good for the body and what aren’t.

The core process of this can be done by breaking down how food groups are processed by the body. This includes core food types such as:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Vitamins & Minerals
  • Fats
  • Sugar

All these foods give the body different amounts of energy. These can be measured in both calories (kcal)and joules (kJ). The higher the count of these, the more basic energy it will give the body to burn.

The World Health Organization states that the human body needs an average of 2,200/2900 kcal a day for women and men respectively to stay healthy. That’s based on going around your normal daily life.

However, if you are active, these intakes are then increased to match the extra activity a body is doing. This means that athletes or performers can eat up to double this intake to match their lifestyle. Super active musicians like drummers probably need more calories than cellists that sit down to play.

A healthy balance

Of course, it isn’t just about making sure that you eat foods that are high in calories. It’s about how the body breaks them down.

After all, foods high in sugar match protein-rich foods in terms of calorie intake, but the body processes them differently.

High-calorie foods like protein and complex carbohydrates break down into amino acids. Our muscles and blood cells process these acids to give us energy to use.

However, sugars and fats don’t break down as easily. They are stored as fat by the body, and not burned. Therefore, it increases your weight over time as it builds.

So knowing what helps fuel the body is imperative for staying healthy when moving. That is something touched upon by ex-head dietician for the Australian Olympic team Prof. Louise Burke OAM.

Prof. Burke, Chair of Sports Nutrition at Australian Catholic University, elaborates on what works for fuel for the body. “Carbohydrates provide fuel for the muscles and brain. These components enhance performance for prolonged moderate-high intensity exercise.”

What Foods Are Good For Musicians Before Going On Stage?

To get the body tuned in properly, there are plenty of foods that musicians should eat before going on stage. And it’s a broader list than you might think. But here are the best things to consume:


Perhaps one of the best foods for musicians is nuts. Nuts and beans are naturally rich in protein and amino acids, helping provide quick bursts of energy to the body. On average, they have 20g of protein per a 100g serving, making them an excellent fuel source.

However, they are more than just a good fuel source. It’s a food that caters for nearly everyone. Being a natural substance, nuts can fit into most dieting regimens or plans. They are also easily accessible and can be consumed quickly in small portions – ideal for any musician to eat before going on stage.


If you want a food type that is a great fuel source, beans are a perfect match. Not only are they high in protein but they are also high in both fibre and carbohydrates. All these are vital elements for helping the body get the fuel needed for high-energy performances.

The best thing about beans though is they can blend in well with any type of meal. They can be combined into a salad or used as a side. They can also be blended into a paste if necessary. With some spreads like hummus made up primarily of beans and chickpeas, they can even be put on a sandwich to give a quick energy source before heading on stage.


One of the best bases for any meal is rice. It’s not only an easily accessible food but one that is rich in a host of different nutrients. Alongside being an excellent source of carbohydrates, it is also rich in minerals such as zinc and phosphorus. This gives the body strength to endure and process fuels for longer.

It’s also an easy meal to prepare and eat when on tour. It is something that can be cooked quickly, only taking 2-3 minutes to heat up. That’s why it can be used as a core base for salads or a filling in other foods.

What Foods Should Musicians Avoid?

As good as some foods are for musicians, others can be very damaging. Some may even surprise musicians before going on stage. So what should you look to avoid?

Dairy products

On their own, dairy products are a good food source. They are high in calcium which strengthens your bones and skeleton. But it isn’t good for musicians – particularly in a live setting.

For starters, dairy products are a highly alkaline food source. So when it gets digested by the body, it produces large amounts of lactic acid – a type of acid used for burning fuel. However, too much lactic acid causes muscles to cramp and seize – limiting your movement. Therefore, it’s best to wait until after a show before consuming it.

Also, eating dairy products causes the body to produce excess amounts of saliva and phlegm. This potentially causes issues for singers, as this can increase the strain on their throat and vocal cords if they are not careful.

Spicy Foods

If you think that spicy foods can give your body a kickstart for a performance, then think again. It’s something that can be detrimental to have in your system before a show. It doesn’t matter if it’s a jalapeno pepper, a chilli sauce or even a capsaicin tablet, it won’t do you any good.

The problem with spicy foods is that the high acid content takes a lot of time to digest properly in the body.

As the extra acids break down in the stomach, it can cause excess acid to escape the stomach. Should this happen – it could cause two conditions: reflux and heartburn.

Reflux is bad for your throat and severely impacts vocal cords for singers. For others, it can also cause heartburn and stomach cramps.

This could create extreme discomfort for minutes or hours if you aren’t careful.

How Much Water Do Musicians Need Before Performing?

As key as it is for musicians to eat before going on stage, they also need to keep themselves well-hydrated when going out on stage.

Keeping the body well hydrated is essential for performers so that they can keep going for long periods. This is more than just a matter of chugging down bottles of water. The body loses both water and electrolytes when active, leaving the body open to becoming dehydrated.

Therefore, consuming water and electrolyte-rich sports drinks is a must for performers to stay hydrated during a show. This is something highlighted by Prof. Burke who noted the impacts of these products.

“Most sports drinks replace water & electrolytes and contain carbohydrates as they expect athletes to refuel during longer sessions, ” she remarks.

“Others only replace water and electrolytes lost to encourage people to drink,” she added when discussing their effect on performance.

Additionally, avoid over-drinking water, because you may be inclined to use the restroom in the middle of your set.

Avoid energy drinks

When it comes to consuming liquids, just think carefully about the product you are consuming. It’s particularly true when it comes to handling energy drinks.

Despite their tag as an “energy source”, these drinks are more detrimental than many expect. Their high caffeine levels mask the fatigue someone feels, but are also high in sugar.

What you will find is that their long-term draining effects are felt stronger than the short hit given from the caffeine injection.

It’s an issue that Prof. Burke also feels can be misguiding for a lot of performers. “These products contain extra caffeine or other stimulants and chemicals that target the brain. It masks the feeling of feeling energized.”

“It’s best to stick with a modest amount of caffeine to achieve the lowest effective dose,” she added.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when looking at what musicians eat before going on stage. Surprisingly, some of the best foods are those that are most easily accessible.

Foods such as rice, nuts and beans are not only good fuel sources but can be combined to form full meals in mere moments. On the other hand, eating dairy and spicy foods are good targets to avoid.

Especially if you don’t want to feel uncomfortable on stage or affect your vocal output.

Alongside consuming the right foods, taking on the right liquids has a strong effect too. As always, drinking water or isotonic sports drinks is the best way to keep refreshed.

Meanwhile, it’s important to resist energy drinks that pose more harm than good. In the end, though, maintaining a healthy diet is important particularly when out on tour and that helps guide what musicians eat before going on stage.  

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