For decades, rock and roll has been synonymous with booze and drugs. Touring? Basically a code word for partying. The expectation that musicians want to black out as much as they want to perform has been the norm. And, frankly? We’ve seen the effects of this kind of lifestyle over and over again. Rock stars, pop icons and hip-hop legends die way too young, or struggle with addiction, sobriety and recovery. Plenty of the most famous, richest people in the world — with every resource available to them — have to quit, abandon and shorten their tours. Sometimes repeatedly.
Why? Because getting up on stage in a different city every night is such a strenuous and exhausting practice, that dietician Emmaline Rassmussen, creator of Sound Nutrition, thinks we need to start treating artists like athletes. “Musicians are subject to many of the same conditions that athletes are: constantly on the road, late nights, changing time zones, sweating through their clothes, performing in extreme conditions, the heat of the lighting onstage and even pyrotechnics,” Rassmussen tells InsideHook. “They’re subject to a very physical performance every night as well, but yet, we don’t treat them as athletes. We rarely pay attention to their health at all until it’s quite dire.”
To avoid those kinds of disastrous outcomes, Rassmussen’s consulting agency offers one-on-one nutritional assessments and meal planning support, like helping musicians stock their tour buses with healthy snacks or request the proper meals for their tour riders. The research that Rassmussen and other nutritionists have done around the link between energy, mental health and a proper diet is clear: Good food means a good show. But really, Rassmussen’s work with Sound Nutrition is about so much more than just a killer performance — it’s about pursuing longevity.
Initially studying the science of nutrition because she became a vegetarian at a young age, Rassmussen was poised to work in the realm of sports medicine until her love of music turned her toward how nutrition might be impacting musicians, too. “People would say, ‘Oh, musicians don’t care about their health, they just care about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and they want to suffer in order to make their art better,” she remembers. “I think that that notion has finally been flipped on its head over the last few years. The sports nutrition field was relatively new at that time, but I had this lightbulb moment, even as a college student, that if nutrition impacted athletes it must impact musicians, too.”
With an undergraduate degree in dietetics and a minor in exercise physiology from University of Illinois at Chicago, and a graduate degree in complementary and integrative medicine from Georgetown, Rassmussen also helps artists understand just how much nutritional choices impact their mental health. So far, she’s been tapped by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Passion Pit and Run The Jewels to help them stay on track so their performances — and their personal lives — don’t suffer during tour. “I utilize herbs in my practice and take a very holistic approach,” she explains. “It’s not just about the food they’re eating, but the entire lifestyle, the mind-body connection and mindfulness. I’m a yoga teacher, as well, so I incorporate that into my work with artists that bring me on tour, whether in person or remotely.”
Most recently, Rassmussen went on tour with Bridgers and her band, who were utilizing a tight “bubble” network to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. She offered private yoga sessions to anyone in the band and crew who wanted to practice and helped coordinate meals that met every band member’s dietary restrictions. Part of that coordination effort means analyzing local markets for restaurants that offer good, nutritious options and can accommodate vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
“There’s a reckoning happening in the touring world,” she says. “People don’t want to beat up their bodies and deteriorate their mental health just to make some money on tour. They want to do this sustainably and healthfully, so they don’t feel terrible when they get off the road — and so they can do it their entire careers.”
Learn more about Sound Nutrition here. Check out some of her recommendations for where to find healthy meals in LA below:
For fresh poke, including vegan poke.
For juice/smoothies and light bites.
For vegan froyo.
For a day trip, love their brunch.
For coffee on the westside.
For coffee on the eastside.
For vegan tacos and great gazpacho.
For Lebanese cuisine in Hollywood.
This article was featured in the InsideHook LA newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Southland.