9 Secrets to Staying Healthy at a Music Festival

I recently spent four mystical and magical days at Electric Forest, a multi-genre music festival with a focus on electronic and jam band genres in Michigan.

For some, festival season means an extended weekend filled with fried foods, too much sun, booze, and sleepless nights surrounded by 40,000 of your closest new best friends.

If this sounds like you, you may find Monday morning roll around like the impending doom that is a collapsing sun.

You’ve got a queasy stomach and a sunburn, you’re hungover, and you’re a walking zombie from sleep deprivation and exposure to every pathogen known to humankind.

What could you have done to deserve this!?

Or, better question…

What can you do to avoid this being you?

Here are some tips to help you make that transition back to “real life” a little more seamless.

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1. PREPARE

Unless you plan on buying all of your food from vendors at the venue, you’re going to want to hit the store before arriving to camp. Depending on the festival, you may be camping there or you may go home at the end of each day.

If you are staying, think in advance which meals you will buy on-site and which you need to bring with you. For example, breakfast at your campsite, lunch in the venue, dinner at your campsite. You probably won’t be allowed to bring your own food or drinks inside the venue, and unless you want to walk all the way back to your tent, you should map your day out in advance. I ate most meals at the campsite and ended up purchasing less food than I thought I would inside the venue – that ish is expensive, y’all!

At the grocery store:
– bulk items (nuts/seeds, dried fruit, trail mix)
– jerky, tuna pouches
– flavored water enhancers
– peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter
– whole-grain bread, rice cakes
– fruits (apples, bananas, oranges)
– vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, avocados)
– unsweetened applesauce, canned vegetables
– protein powder sample packets
– dry roasted edamame
– protein bars, ready-to-drink protein shakes

Cooler hack: freeze bottles of water instead of filling your cooler with ice – you won’t waste space on ice and you won’t have to empty your cooler out from all of the water (a.k.a. melted ice) every day or cry over soaked sandwiches.

Be sure to check with your particular festival to see what cooking appliances are allowed – campfire, grill, camping stove, etc. If the food you buy needs to be heated in order to eat, and you have no way of cooking it, then you’re S.O.L..

2. HYDRATE

When you spend too much time in the heat, your body temperature rises – just like when you’re sick. This can lead to heat rash or heat exhaustion when your body can’t cool itself.

In extreme cases this can result in heat stroke and even death.

Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can cause you to lose more fluids, so stick to plain water as much as possible.

Bring a hydration pack or large, reusable water bottle with you into the venue and refill often – your safety is worth it. Water at the refill stations was free and they do their best to spread them throughout the campgrounds and venue.

3. RECOVER

This is summer. Daylight is going to make up the major part of your daily hours, and with performances going until 3 in the morning you are going to want to be sleeping even when the sun is up.

Heck, probably even take a nap in the middle of the day.

Find yourself some quality ear plugs and invest in a sleep mask. Bring a cot or pad to sleep on if just the idea of sleeping on the ground makes your back start to hurt.

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4. MOVE

Take time to explore the exhibitions during the day. You would be amazed with how much walking you end up doing when you make it a goal to see and discover as many of the experiences available to you as possible. I racked up around 25,000-30,000 steps every day we were there.

Yoga may be offered in the mornings, so bring a mat. Also consider bringing something like a frisbee with you – not all activity has to be structured exercise!

Pack exercise bands and do bodyweight exercises in a circuit – all you need is 10-15 minutes to get the blood flowing. Even though I did pack a band, I did not end up using it – I simply did not have the energy after all of that walking!

Attention gym rats! You aren’t going to lose substantial strength or muscle size by taking a few days off from the gym. But, if you’re like me, activity can help you relax and better enjoy yourself for the rest of the day, so start your day off with a good pump to get yourself lookin’ swole AF in your tank top

5. STAND YOUR GROUND

Not everyone around you will be making healthy or wise choices.

Alcohol is allowed (with restrictions) and you probably don’t have to look to hard to find *ahem* more illicit substances.

If you don’t want to drink, then say “no thank you” and stand by it. You don’t have to do something “just because everyone else is doing it”.

It will not enhance or detract from your festival experience and hopefully you weren’t there just for the “party” aspect anyway and if you arrived with friends they should be supportive of your choices and love you just the same.

6. COVER UP

Wear sunscreen!

Your skin can burn within 15 minutes of sun exposure. You may have felt fine the first day, walking around with your shirt off and looking to get a killer tan. But once the sunburn starts to set in you will be miserable for the rest of the weekend, assuming that you did not burn so badly that you got to the stage of sun poisoning.

Wear wide-brimmed hats and bandanas that cover your ears, top of your head, and shoulders. Look for sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and reapply every 2 hours when you are out and about. Seek out shade when you can.

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7. SUPPLEMENT

Pack your vitamins! You’ll probably need them more than ever with less access to fresh foods and vegetables, less sleep, and near-constant contact with thousands of strangers (and their germs).

I packed a multivitamin, a shelf-stable probiotic, and fish oil to fill in the gaps I knew that were gaping in my diet.

8. SCOPE THE VENDORS

Electric Forest has a mobile app that listed all of the food and drink vendors. You can look to see what kinds of options will be available ahead of time and make a plan for the meals you don’t plan on bringing with you.

This can get expensive, so if I was buying something, I had to really want it. Most items appeared to be priced between $8-12 each.

Common food truck fare includes: pizza (a lot of pie), nachos, ice cream, smoothies, breakfast burritos, mac & cheese, coffee, grilled cheese, donuts, rice and noodle bowls, and typical American fried goodies.

However, there were also quite a few “green” options – perhaps due to the particular crowd that different festivals attract. Vegetarian and vegan options were abound. Some stations even had signs labeling their foods gluten-free, so I felt pretty thankful for what I had access to! I’m pretty sure most music festivals don’t have a kombucha station – a festival is a perfect place to try some new (and usually local) foods!

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9. LOOSEN UP

It’s only a few days.

There are very few instances where you would really need (or want) to bring all of your own food and rigidly track every macronutrient and calorie that crosses your lips.

#MemoriesOverMacros

Try to include a source of protein at all your meals and snacks, get something green in you at least once a day, stay hydrated AF, sleep when you can, but most importantly…

…ENJOY YOURSELF!

 

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