Talking to the Experts: The Fuelin’ Roadie Wendy Jo Peterson
With the Grammy's right around the corner we sought to answer questions like how do musicians keep their voice in tip-top shape, or what do musicians eat on the road? I had the pleasure of speaking with registered dietitian Wendy Jo Peterson, who provides nutrition counseling for musicians including the guys from Reckless Kelly who are up for a Grammy this year.
When working with musicians I take on the role of a nutrition coach, culinary expert and sports nutritionist. I work with musicians on the road but also music festivals, catering companies and event coordinators. Besides working with some of the guys from Reckless Kelly, I have also worked with musicians from last year’s Grammy-winning group, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses.
Q: You counsel your musicians to eat like athletes. Do musicians really burn that many calories? Does this philosophy apply to the entire band (i.e. drummer, guitarist)?
Interestingly the current data is quite outdated in regards to calories burned by musicians, but I have measured calories burned with many of the artists I work with and yes, they burn like athletes. Whether they are banging drums, bouncing around with a fiddle, or doing a choreographed dance while singing they are all burning calories that require nutrition and sport performance considerations. In addition to calories they have major sweat losses on stage, and until they see the evidence they don’t quite get it. I employ similar principles with my athletes as I do with my musicians. The results are impressive!
Generally, they are given whatever the venue has to offer or gets catered. Most often I see sandwiches, chips and drinks. Personally I haven’t experienced anything wacky, but I do have clients who are vegans, vegetarians or have food allergies. Those musicians are quite relieved to have someone help navigate what they can and cannot eat. That’s where my expertise as a dietitian really stands out.
Thank you, it’s really exciting to be able to speak to a large group of musicians at one time and help bring awareness to nutritional concerns they have due to their profession. Generally speaking musicians don’t have medical coverage, so they struggle even having baseline knowledge of their health. Given their work schedules and rock-star lifestyles they are clearly at risk for liver issues (hard drinking), low Vitamin D (negligible food sources and work at night; thus, rarely get outside much to get sun), sleep deprivation which leads to all sorts of medical concerns, and a diet that revolves around fast food and truck stop fare.
Fast food, fast food, fast food . . . oh and throw in truck stops, too! Educating them on food choices at truck stops and fast food restaurants is key. I have my favorite stops and top picks, plus I teach them on what to add and what to skip when eating out. I always opt for the balanced approach knowing that they are going to eat there regardless.
Hydration is essential for vocal performance, so I always inquire about their beverage choices. Alcohol can hurt the vocal chords, so it’s a balance to keep them filling up on water in between cocktails. Colds can wreck vocals; thus, I do a lot to prevent the onset of a cold through foods high in probiotics. Although folks think dairy ruins vocals the evidence is weak; however, if a musicians feels as though it truly alters their sound then we skip it. Coffee or caffeine can actually help open the vocals, so sometimes I recommend it. I also have a tea with ginger, rosemary and lemon that we use to soothe throats. I have a lot of tricks to the trade!
Ha! Balance! I don’t pick on their drinking; however, I do recommend taking actions to help their liver heal. I focus on limiting fatty or fried foods, increasing water consumption, limiting caffeine and increasing fruits and vegetables. In addition to all that I teach them how to mix a darn good, and healthy cocktail. My favorite is a tart cherry twister: lime, tart cherry juice, ginger and vodka.
Absolutely, my most requested recipe is for my Kale Salad. I teach them to make this partly at home and toss it on the road. They prep the kale at home (or can buy it already cut at the store) and make the miso vinaigrette at home, then on the road they simply toss. Another key recipe I teach them is how to make a darn good scrambled egg on the road in their microwave.
In a large bowl, toss together kale with apple cider vinegar. Using your hands squeeze the kale and mix well with the vinegar, this breaks down the tough fibers.
Add in almonds and celery and mix.
In a small bowl whisk together miso, olive oil and citrus juice. Pour over kale mixture, toss, and store or serve!
- Serve with grilled or rotisserie chicken
- Toss with canned salmon, grated carrots, or orange segments
- Mix with cooked couscous, quinoa, or pasta
- Serve it along side your favorite fast food sandwich…it’s a lot better than fries!
I served it up Southern-Style tonight with some fried chicken tenders! I enjoyed a cold Shiner Blond Lite with it and it made me miss home. It’s all about balance, y’all! Enjoy!