“What do you recommend we eat for marching band?”
This is almost a guaranteed question we get asked when we present clinics. The thought usually comes from a student who has a general idea of what it takes to be “healthy”, but doesn’t understand how that applies to marching band.
First, we must all understand that proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects of optimal athletic performance. Yes, we are talking about ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE!! Gone are the days of casually walking at 120 beats per minute to eight sets per movement. Marching bands are now regularly pushing 180 to 200 beats per minute, doing intense dance choreography, and executing 6-to-5 step sizes! If you are marching, you are an athlete.
Great athletes are like luxury cars; they don’t run well on regular fuel. This makes it imperative that you put high-quality fuel into your body. You need to achieve a balance of macronutrients from natural sources.
Carbohydrates should come from sources that grow out of the earth and aren’t processed in a factory (i.e. fruits and vegetables, not Pop-Tarts and Ramen noodles). We should welcome good fats (like avocados), and use protein to boost recovery after intense rehearsals. Let’s pull a page from Men’s Health Magazine and do a band camp version of “Eat This, Not That”!
(See the book Eat This, Not That here: https://tinyurl.com/ycclm8fp)
Eat This - Homemade bacon, egg, and cheese bagel. This has every macronutrient you need and plenty of calories to keep you energized through morning rehearsal. The bagel has carbohydrates for quick energy, the fats from the bacon and cheese will give you longer lasting energy, and the egg will give you protein to help you feel fuller.
Not That – Cereal. Dairy, heat, and running around just don’t go together. Also, most cereals are high in sugar and low in protein and fats. This will cause a sugar crash mid-way through rehearsal and you’ll be counting down the minutes until lunch starts.
(Ok, this one is specifically listed in Men’s Health, but we HAD to include it because so many of the students we teach go to Chick Fil A regularly.)
Eat This – Grilled Market Salad or Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
Look, it’s lunchtime. You’re going to want to go out to eat with your section members and get to know them. If there’s a Chick-fil-a near your school I guarantee band members will inhabit it during at least one break. Getting grilled chicken will give you protein to recover from your tiring morning block and you’ll avoid the unhealthy trans fats in the fried chicken.
Not That – Number One Meal.
You KNOW you shouldn’t eat fried foods and drink sugary drinks! The quantity trans fats in the fried chicken sandwich and French fries… A big cup of a sweet soda will cause you to have a spike in your blood sugar then later crash during afternoon rehearsal.
Eat This – Southwestern Food
Moe’s and Chipotle are perfect examples of fast food that gives you nutritional balance. Rice and tortillas give you carbohydrate sources that will sustain your energy levels. Beans have a balance of protein, carbs, and fats that will fuel you both at less energetically demanding moments (marching a ballad) and high-intensity moments (pushing 180bpm during drill). The lean meat options, like chicken, also give your body protein to rebuild the muscle tissue you have been working all day.
Not That – McDonald’s
Please. Stop. The. Madness. McDonald’s does not use quality food sources to sustain your energy or help you recovery. And don’t pull the “but it’s affordable” card because the dollar menu isn’t even that great anymore!
Remember, choose food sources that will give you a balance of macronutrients. The more natural the food the better (i.e. ask yourself, “does this food grow like this in nature?”). If you are choosing food that isn't natural then it probably is an inferior source of fuel for your body. You are an ATHLETE, and, therefore, need to give yourself the food sources that an athlete would pursue.