by Head Above Music

By Daniel Klassen
You wake up. You slept in the shape of a broken accordion. You drank too much and you smoked too much last night so your skin, mucosa and sclera are dehydrated. As the early morning sun hits your eyes and your pupils dilate, you realize you have a 10-megaton headache and the pressure inside your head is making your chronic tinnitus flare up again. While you smoked and drank less than usual last night, you feel unusually hung-over after only three hours of restless sleep. You reach for a bottle of water that fell under your captain’s chair only to realize that it’s actually half a litre of flat coca-cola. You use the decarbonated soda as mouth wash only to feed the scores of bacteria crawling on your gums and in between your teeth…

If this sounds familiar to anyone then you may have been on tour at some point. The attraction towards achieving a vagabond lifestyle with low responsibilities, lots of appreciation for your work and being able to play on the drums all day is obvious. It’s not until you’re knee deep into your first extensive tour that you may realize the physical trauma that is extracted on the body by traveling and playing music in a different city every night. While we’re not framing houses, drilling for oil or washing dishes, the traveling musician is exposed to many harmful environmental factors and daily attritions that harm the human body. Key issues include lack of nutrition, exposure to free radicals and damage to major and minor body systems. While each day of tour may seem like a vacation, days that turn into weeks of neglectful behavior will have a negative effect on yourself, your band, your performance and your ability to enjoy tour for what it’s worth. Staying healthy on tour is essential to your personal well being because it will have a positive influence on your mind set, energy levels and most critically your live show.


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While you may have rolled your eyes when your parents mentioned this fact it couldn’t be closer to the truth. Eating a balanced meal with complex carbohydrates at least an hour after you wake up will boost energy levels, give you a sustained release of calories throughout the day and kick start your metabolism. Avoid drinking coffee unless you’ve already eaten something. The sugar and caffeine rush will only last an hour max and will leave you feeling tired and craving another coffee. There are some health benefits to drinking coffee so I recommend drinking one cup a day. Try to drink restaurant or home-brewed coffee as the battery acid that comes from gas stations and convenience stores is often loaded with addictive energy supplements such as taurine or niacin. If your only option in the morning is a convenience store, choose your food wisely by going with natural foods and avoiding processed food. Go with apples, peanuts or fresh sandwiches over muffins, chocolate or gelatin-based candy. Preparing your nutritional intake throughout the day in advance is critical.
While some modes of transportation may not allow for the space, getting a cooler full of fresh, healthy and cool food is clutch. Ask yourself:

  • How many calories does my body require each day?
  • Am I getting all my vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids?
  • Do I need to complement my diet with any supplements?
  • Most importantly, am I hydrated?

The most common mistake in nutrition is dehydration. Water is the most critical nutrient of the human body. The human body is up to 75% water and even a 2% drop in hydration levels will produce negative effects on athletic performance. While the eight glasses times eight ounces formula for water intake (1.9 liters a day) is optimal, you will require more as a touring musician. Up to three litres may be required to adequately hydrate you before a show but this number may vary due to a variety of factors. These include weight, height, sex, illness, health conditions or environmental factors. Drink water during your set and after your set while ensuring to have at least one intake of sodium to replace electrolytes lost due to sweating. Water is not your only source of hydration. Milk, juice, fresh vegetables and fruit are excellent sources though nothing beats straight H2O. Keeping these facts in mind, it is physically possible to drink too much water. Taking in an excessive amount of water leads to a condition called hyponatremia where an electrolyte imbalance may occur. If you’re taking in large amounts of water and suddenly feel nausea, dizziness, lethargy and headache, you may be suffering from hyponatremia. Quite often individuals will try to alleviate these symptoms by drinking more water, creating a positive feedback cycle.

Thunder, Meet Lightning

While finding the time and space may be frustrating, working out on tour is important because it will make every show easier to play and will keep your muscles growing with your metabolism active. There are three moves that should form the core of any workout without weights and outside the gym: push ups, sit ups and body squats. Every other day do three sets of each move to avoid exhaustion. Doing tricep dips on a chair or bench along with chin-ups wherever you can will add variety to your routine. You may prefer to work out before or after you play depending on your style of music or schedule. I won’t go into detail involving each move or an exact plan. It is advisable to see a nutritionist, a personal trainer and a doctor to get a complete picture of your health and what works for you. Make sure to mention that you are a touring musician with difficult access to gyms and kitchens. There are many supplements that may also assist you. It is preferable to get all your nutrients from natural sources but the practicality of this ends on the open road. While controversial in some circles, creatine and glucosamine are used by many athletes to recover on a day-to-day basis. Getting essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 is crucial and often neglected. Ginkgo Biloba is an excellent herbal medicine that increases blood flow to the brain and therefore decreases the severity of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Make sure to consult a medical professional before taking any supplement to make sure it is right for you.

Sleep It Off

Let’s discuss sleeping. The Golden Rule for any band on touring must be when somebody is sleeping, let them sleep. Trying to catch some Z’s is tough enough in a roaming van without the added hindrance of practical jokes, loud music or sloppy driving. It is during sleep where the amazing recovery systems of the human body kick into action. Our muscles never recover while we are awake. The efficiency of your immune system doubles while you dream. Anybody can attest to the miraculous healing power that sleep offers and the only thing it will cost you is time. Invest in good ear plugs, sun glasses and a comfortable sleeping bag to start dreaming even while your bandmates are rocking Pantera.
Staying healthy on tour is essential to your personal well being because it will have a positive influence on your mindset, energy levels and most critically your live show. If we ignore our health we are ignoring our art. It is an indisputable fact that playing a show with a body that’s overly prepared for the physical struggle ahead will be easier than trying to so with a body that’s constantly injured, always in pain and infinitely thirsty. We owe it to ourselves, our bandmates and our fans to deliver a quality product and taking simple steps to ensure this will go a far way in bringing forth success. You will sleep better, you will perform with excellence and you will grow stronger with each day.



Thanks to the team over at Chorus Magazine. A great website for musicians!

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