For many, festival season means a weekend or more of the ultimate surreal life: prolonged imbibing, sleepless nights dancing to your favourite DJ under the stars, grazing on food truck fare.
In other words, scattered eating patterns, and not ultra conducive to keeping on track nutrition-wise (think Bridget Jones falling head over heels into the mud).
This begs the question, is it really possible to experience a festival without the need for a digestive cleanse and a week of sleep?
We chatted with Kailey Seabrooke, RHN, certified yoga instructor and festival guru on how to keep well while fest’ ing.
What was your first festival experience…
Splore on the North Island of New Zealand! I went with friends who were experienced festival goers, so I was lucky to come in hot, totally prepared with all of the right equipment, clothes, and food, to have a really great experience. Since then, I’ve been to festivals all over the world – including four years at Burning Man, one of which I wrote the recipes, shopped, and cooked for 45 people for a week in the desert!
How has your experience evolved since?
Over the years at different festivals with varying weather and access to amenities, I feel like I’ve tried it all in terms of self-care, healthy eating and not taking care of myself at all.
When you are prepared to maintain a certain baseline of your nutrition, you will have a better experience at the festival, AND feel good in the days after.
Can you share some general guidelines for staying healthy during a summer music + arts festival?
Staying healthy in a festival environment is totally achievable whether you’re attending to dance, do yoga and attend workshops, or stay up all night partying your pants off for a whole weekend. While the type of fun and extracurricular activities depend on the festival goers’ needs, there are three fundamental nutritional principles that every person can work on to have a great time throughout the festival.
Number one: HYDRATION.
We all know hydration is essential, especially when you’re dancing in the sun all day, all night, and all weekend. But, drinking water alone isn’t enough. While we lose a lot of water through perspiration and respiration, we also lose electrolytes.
Sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride are some of the electrolytes essential for the bodily processes that allow us to think, move and boogie.
Electrolytes carry electrical charges throughout the body, allowing our muscles to contract, our hearts to beat, our blood pressure to stay regulated, and for all of our nerve impulses to function correctly.
- sip electrolyte rich fluids
- eat watery foods throughout the festival
- sport a hat AND take breaks in the shade
- never hesitate to hit the medical tent to get some help!
Number two: keep your blood sugar balanced.
Your body is insanely intelligent, and it will do everything it can to keep itself balanced. The best way to help yourself out in this regard is to keep it appropriately fuelled.
We need to have a tightly regulated amount of free sugar in our bloodstream to keep our bodies and brains fuelled, so when there is too much or too little, our body will let us know.
When our blood sugar is balanced, we feel clear and energized. When there is too much, we feel like a kid with ADHD after eating candy! When we don’t have enough circulating blood sugar, we can feel hangry, hungover or even like we are going to pass out. And, anytime there is a massive spike in our blood sugar from eating sugary and refined foods, or too much caffeine or alcohol, there’s likely going to be just as big a crash to follow – making you feel exhausted.
So, unless you want to ride the blood sugar rollercoaster, do your best to keep your blood sugar balanced.
- Eat a real breakfast. One that has complex carbs, fats and proteins and make this non-negotiable, so you know that you have an excellent foundation to start your day with.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand like trail mix, sesame bites, or a quality energy bar to bail you out if you hit a wall.
- Slow your digestion by combining carbohydrates with quality fats and proteins: adding almond butter to an apple, or make overnight oats with chia seeds. This will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you don’t have to ditch seeing your favourite DJ just to get a snack.
Number three: consume high-quality calories.
Between walking everywhere, dancing to our heart’s content and laughing with our besties, we burn calories like crazy.
If you don’t refuel with real nutrients, your energy will be tapped, and it’s hard to keep the fun train rolling.
To get the best bang for your energetic buck, eat bioavailable whole foods rather than processed fast food. Whole foods contain a synergistic combination of nutrients that your body can use efficiently without stressing it out or having to work too hard to process.
On the other hand, when we eat refined and processed food, the body has to spend energetic resources to break it down, and in the end, it doesn’t get much usable fuel in return.
The worst is when we don’t eat at all, and the body has to break itself down to make energy. And I hate to break it to you, but it’s not coming off your “trouble areas” either.
So, while the chip truck might look good when you’re feeling a little hangry mid-weekend, trust me, you’ll be much better off finding a veggie curry or a fresh wrap or salad even if it’s not what you’re craving.
Do you have any pre-fest health rituals to keep your body and mind nourished?
In the days leading up to a festival, I always try to make sure that I’m well hydrated and well nourished. Even when you go in with the best intentions to stick with your best health care routines, they can so easily fall by the wayside in the name of a good time, and if they do, then roll with it – an epic night of dancing and laughter is absolutely priceless!
When you go in with a full tank, you get by better than if you came in depleted.
I also try to check the schedule for what I am most excited about. At festivals, my regular routine often goes out of the window. Where I usually go to bed at 10 PM, but a lot of my favourite artists aren’t playing until 2 or 3 AM, then I tend to amend my sleep schedule before I’m on site so that I’m not totally exhausted every night.
What are your must-haves for festival survival? Do you have any go-to recipes to stock your cooler?
First and foremost, I always make sure to take any supplements (or medication) that I take daily in real life. Festival life can be surreal, and your routines there can be non-existent, but continuing to consume the things that keep your health stable is a priority. I try to take my supplements when I wake up and when I go to sleep – two of the only things that will happen for certain!
Two other supplements that I almost always have on hand are magnesium and oregano oil.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and can come in really handy if your muscles are cramped and sore from anything from dancing to dehydration (and it can help you poop if you’re feeling a little blocked up!).
Oregano oil is a potent natural antibiotic. A few drops a day when you’re in the presence of thousands of strangers and running yourself down can protect your immune system before it comes under attack, or help manage it if you’re feeling a little off.
My other non-negotiable is weather-appropriate clothing. This can be a pain in the butt for packing purposes, but if you are uncomfortable, wet, too hot or too cold, your fun levels suffer.
I have four food staples:
- A decent energy bar goes a long way in my books. It’s the perfect crutch to take me from hungry on the dance floor to getting myself to a real meal without getting crabby in between.
- Grapes. These are like perfect little hydration bombs and are such a great sweet, satisfying, watery snack, especially when you wake up in the morning in a hot tent.
- Wraps. Wraps pack and last even in a hot tent and with a few other ingredients on hand, you can make an easy meal or a simple snack. I like them with peanut butter and banana for something light but satisfying, or with hummus, shredded carrots and a handful of greens for nutrient boost. It’s easy to store, make and clean up.
- Coconut water. Gotta get those electrolytes!
Festivals seem to be working hard to reinforce safety and inclusivity. What about health? Do you find the festival culture is starting to embrace healthier options?
Safety and inclusion are top priorities at most major festivals. There are often established sanctuary spaces for those who need to rest or may be having a difficult trip, volunteers on watch for anyone looking like they might be having a hard time, along with robust event security and medical teams. Some festivals like Shambhala even have drug testing facilities available to keep attendees safe and informed.
It is also evident that food options are becoming healthier. Festivals often attract an “alternative” or so-called “conscious” community. This is reflected in food options with festivals offering only vegetarian or vegan options, and most offering amazing whole food vendors with options like smoothie bowls, fresh wraps, and curries!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a festival, but concerned about missing their daily smoothie and green routine?
Bring your green routine with you! Your festival is your own experience. Bring your fave ingredients portioned out in a cooler and a magic bullet that you can plug into your car lighter to blend it, or check the vendor list ahead of time to see if what you need is going to be on offer.
If a smoothie isn’t reasonable, then mix a super greens powder in water and take it like a shot. Be flexible.
Don’t let the fear over being in control of your routine stop you from a potentially awesome experience!
Kailey Seabrooke is an adventure loving health nut and freelance writer. She draws on her expertise in the fields of holistic health, lifestyle design, and adventure travel to infuse character and credibility into content for digital spaces and print pieces. When she’s not playing with words, you can usually find her getting creative in the kitchen or surfing in tropical waters.