It’s possible to be healthy at a music festival—even if your only food option is a sad cheese sandwich


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Whether you prefer twirling around to Phish at Bonnaroo or singing “thank u, next” at the top of your lungs with Ariana Grande at Coachella, you’re in good company: The festival season scene is a can’t-miss for millions of music lovers in the United States alone.

For savvy concertgoers (think, more Whitney Port, less Fyre Festival ticket holders), there’s a lot more to think about pre-festival than which boho-chic outfits to pack for the experience. Maintaining a sense of wellness in that environment requires a certain amount of research and mindfulness. Sure, some venues and festivals offer activities like fitness classes, art markets, and even kid-friendly events. But, big questions remain, like what to eat, what to drink, and how to protect the ears for years of music festivals to come.

Whether you’re a first-timer going to Austin City Limits or a seasoned vet heading back to Lollapalooza, easy-to-follow tips can help you have a great time without compromising your health.

Eat (well), drink (water), and be healthy

Festival lineups may offer a rich array of sounds from all over the world, but often the eats on offer are as basic and nutrient-lacking as they come. And if you follow specific diet plan, finding nourishment can be challenging, to say the least.

Challenging, though, certainly doesn’t mean impossible. After taking in the lay of the festival land to scan all your options once you arrive at the event, holistic nutritionist Ali Shapiro suggests centering your meals around proteins and vegetables, and avoiding empty carbs that drain your body of nutrients, and thus, energy. “I will always ask for extra herbs or even salsa to get more veggies in,” she says.

If all you have access to is a sad cheese sandwich, it’s best to enjoy a reasonable portion size of it at night (AKA, carb backloading).

Better yet, find out if the festival you’re attending allows you to bring in outside food. Because if you can BYO some Shapiro-recommended ingredients—like avocados, raw nuts and seeds, fruit, and bagged spring mix—you’ll be able to better control the nutritional quality of your festival meal plan. However, if all you have access to, is, say, a sad cheese sandwich, Shapiro says it’s best to enjoy a reasonable portion size of it at night (AKA, carb backloading). “Your blood sugar will reset when you’re sleeping, instead of crashing during the day.”

Furthermore, water—not energy drinks or booze—is a nonnegotiable in your cooler. “One of the main root causes of low energy and hunger is dehydration,” Shapiro says. And alcohol is a huge culprit behind dehydration, says primary-care provide Stephanie Long, MD. “The heat can also intensify the effects of alcohol, making it difficult to accurately assess tolerance.”

What’s that? Yes, you should keep your hearing in mind.

There are certain obvious accessories to pack in order to protect yourself from the elements at a festival: sunscreen, water bottles, sunglasses, bug spray, and hand sanitizer/antibacterial wipes. But one thing that’s often overlooked is actually pretty important—especially for the occasion at hand: protecting the very body part that allows you to hear and enjoy all the music.

Both in short-term (tinnitus) and long-term (permanent hearing loss) situations, concerts can have an impact on your ability to hear, says otolaryngologist Alan Langman, MD. “If things are loud enough, and you’re exposed for an extended period of time, you can lose some hearing from a single concert. It’s rare, but it can happen,” he says.  Protecting yourself is simple, though: Pop in some foam ear plugs, which are inexpensive and “do a pretty good job of protecting your ears on a short-term basis,” Dr. Langman says. You can also do your ears some favors by maintaining a distance from the stage and speakers—at least for some of the acts.

And you do experience ringing, buzzing, pressure in your ears, or any distortion, don’t freak out immediately. Rather than permanent damage, these symptoms may just be signs that your ears were overextended. But if your hearing remains wonky after a few days, definitely visit an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat doctor for a baseline hearing test. Doing so is a great way to stay optimally healthy so you can enjoy music festival season for years to come.

Curious about music festivals, but not ready to make the pilgrimage? Burning Man let’s you watch the action via live stream. And if fitness festivals are more your thing, check out what one is really like here.

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