Hot sun, greasy food trucks, plenty of booze — music festivals tend to have a free-for-all vibe that’s not exactly synonymous with healthy living.
But if you plan ahead, it’s possible to rock out with a few thousand of your closest friends without subsisting on junk food or dealing with sunburn, ringing ears, and a nasty hangover the next day. If your summer plans include a music festival, here’s how to stay safe and healthy.
Between the summer heat, free-flowing booze, and showing off your mad dance skills, dehydration can be one of the biggest health risks at a music festival. Drink some water before the festivities begin, and use the festival schedule as a reminder to rehydrate — make sure you chug some H2O every time a new band takes the stage.
And before you go, check out the festival’s water bottle policy — many festivals now have water stations, so you can bring an empty bottle to refill throughout the day, says Jeanette Kimszal, RDN.
Replenish your electrolytes.
On extra-sweaty festival days, you may also want to replenish the minerals your body is losing, says Kristine Arthur, MD, internist at Memorial Care Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. You probably won’t be allowed to smuggle in electrolyte drinks, so carry some electrolyte-enhanced Nuun drink tabs or Lyteshow drops that can be easily added to your water bottle.
Pregame the right way.
If you know your day may be full of food trucks and boozy beverages, at least do your best to start the day off on the right foot with a healthy breakfast. “Eat a hearty breakfast with protein and fiber,” says Maria A. Bella, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and Founder of Top Balance Nutrition. “Protein suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and fiber from produce adds volume and further aids in satiety.”
If you’re on the road, swing by a roadside diner for an omelet packed with veggies. If you’re camping at the festival, make some instant oatmeal topped with peanut butter or nuts and blueberries.
Protect your ears.
While a normal conversation clocks in at 40 to 60 decibels, a live concert can reach levels of 120 decibels — or higher if you’re standing in front of the speakers. (For reference, a jet engine 100 feet away clocks in at 130 decibels.) And festival-goers experience these higher decibel levels for extended periods, which can lead to ear pain, tinnitus, and temporary hearing loss, As if that’s not bad enough, research suggests drinking alcohol may boost your odds of temporary noise-induced hearing loss.
To protect your ears, choose a spot farther from the speakers and pack specialized high-fidelity earplugs by brands like Earasers or Eargasm that reduce the noise level while still maintaining sound quality.
Stay on your healthy-eating game.
Pack protein-rich snacks to keep you satiated, so you can resist the wafting smell of fried foods. “I love raw, unsalted almonds or peanut butter in a packet as a quick snack, as they are easily transportable and can fill you up quickly,” says Holly Roser, an NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist in San Francisco.
If outside food isn’t allowed at the festival you’re attending, Kimszal recommends looking for filling and satisfying foods like grilled chicken, beans, or grain bowls.
Pack SPF (and reapply often).
Festival outfits aren’t known for being full-coverage, so make sure your sun-care game is strong. Wear a wide-brim hat to help protect your face and scalp from sun exposure, and pack a cover-up in case you start to burn. And, of course, be sure to start the day with a liberal coating of broad-spectrum sunscreen — and remember to reapply every two hours.
If you need a reminder, set a timer on your watch or phone, or try a wearable reminder like Sunburn Alert UV Body stickers or the La Roche-Posay Skin Track UV wearable and app that helps track your sun exposure.
Don’t share germs.
Whether you’re crammed between fellow fans at the barricade or packed in a tent with your closest friends, spending extended time in close quarters can raise your chances of sharing germs. Music festivals can put you in contact with a wide variety of potential pathogens — like mundane cold and flu germs, skin infections like athlete’s foot, sexually transmitted infections, and more serious outbreaks like norovirus, says David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Pack some disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and any other protection you think you might need during the festival. “Maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding obvious sources of infection, and careful hand washing are all essential for music festival health,” Cutler says.
Know when you need a break.
Don’t feel like you need to go full-throttle for the entire length of the festival. “Get enough sleep, and try to squeeze in a short nap during the day,” Bella says. Lack of sleep can mess with hunger and fullness cues, she adds, which may make you more likely to give in to those festival-food cravings. If you can’t find a spot for a catnap, at least look for a quiet, shaded spot to relax for a few minutes, or see if the festival offers free yoga sessions.
Imbibe in moderation.
We’re going to go out on a limb and say there’s a good chance you’ll be drinking alcohol at the festival. If you’re planning to imbibe, be smart about it, Kimszal says. Eat protein-rich snacks throughout the day to help slow the absorption of alcohol, and drink plenty of water. “You always want to make sure you have a glass of water with each alcoholic beverage to keep you hydrated,” Kimszal adds.
Cut yourself some slack.
Okay, so you couldn’t resist trying the fried Twinkies from one of the food trucks. Don’t beat yourself up — for most of us, attending a festival isn’t a weekly thing, so it’s not a disaster if you don’t have a super-healthy day, Bella says.
Instead, look for small victories. “Maybe pat yourself on the back for having two healthy meals out of three, or for taking 10,000 steps per day, or for returning to healthy eating the next day,” Bella says. Focusing on the things you did right — like dancing for hours! — can make it easier to get right back on-track Monday morning.