The Secret Diet for Musicians: How to Eat for Peak Performance


Naama Neuman

7/5/20242 min read

The Surprising Link Between Diet and Musical Performance

The food humans evolved to eat, packed with all necessary nutrients while excluding today’s inflammatory “foods,” can significantly impact our health and performance. As apex predators, humans primarily evolved on a diet of animals, mainly ruminants. Therefore, a fatty steak stands out as one of the most nutritionally dense foods available that won’t cause inflammation and promotes healing.

Why Musicians Need a Special Diet

The Brain’s Energy Consumption

Did you know the human brain consumes about 20% of our total energy? Now, think about the energy needs of musicians who face the mental and physical challenges of playing instruments and performing under pressure. It’s clear that these demands are even higher.

The Hidden Energy Demands of Musicians

Playing a musical instrument involves immense mental development benefits due to the multiple actions synchronized and executed simultaneously. Moving fingers, blowing air, articulating with the tongue, reading music, and listening to oneself—all at the same time—is both physically and mentally exhausting. Surprisingly, musicians are seldom advised to properly fuel their bodies to meet these energy demands.

The Inflammatory Culprit: How It Reduces Musicians’ Potential

From personal experience and observations of colleagues, friends, and students, it’s evident that neglecting nutrition negatively impacts musicians. Many challenges faced during education and careers are rooted in inflammation. Tendinitis, common during undergraduate years, is often attributed to intense practice. Mental resilience is another significant challenge. Without the ability to focus and perform under pressure, many musicians abandon their dreams of winning competitions and auditions.

The Good News: Reducing Inflammation Through Diet

Recent research highlights how eliminating chronic inflammation improves physical health and resolves severe, lifelong mental illnesses. Removing the source of inflammation allows the body to heal and function optimally. The best part? Diet directly and substantially affects inflammation levels, and this is entirely under our control.

Fuelling Your Brain: Beyond Glucose

Most nutritionists advise consuming healthy carbs to meet the brain’s high energy demands, as they convert to glucose, which fuels the brain. However, there are two misconceptions:

1. Our brain can only run on glucose.

2. The only way to get glucose is by eating carbs.

The Superior Fuel: Ketones
  1. The brain can run on both glucose and ketones. Ketones are superior as they reduce inflammation, provide stable energy, and promote higher brain function. When blood sugar levels are lowered, and exogenous glucose is depleted, the brain switches to running on ketones, often experienced as emerging from a “brain fog.”

  1. No essential sugars/carbs are needed. Through gluconeogenesis, proteins and fats are converted into glucose based on our physical needs. Excess sugar in the blood (beyond one teaspoon or 4-5 grams) leads to elevated blood sugar followed by a crash, contributing to fat gain and increased inflammation, which can cause diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and mental disorders ranging from brain fog to depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders.

Best Nutrition for Musicians: Key Facts

  • High-Protein, High-Fat, Animal-Sourced Foods: These contain all necessary nutrients and are what humans evolved eating.

  • Avoid Sugars: Regardless of their origin, sugars are inflammatory from the first bite, whether from added sugar, whole grains, or fruits.

  • Fibre Is Not Essential: Human nutrition doesn’t require fibre.

  • Plant Toxins: Plants contain more toxins to deter animals than the pesticides used to protect them.

My Personal Journey: From Plant-Based to Carnivore

Switching from a mostly plant-based diet to a low-carb, animal-based diet transformed my health and musical abilities. Today, I am sharper, more focused, free from negative self-talk, maintain stable energy all day, have no joint or tendon pain, and can take breaks from practice without significant performance decline. I also look better and am physically stronger with minimal activity.

In conclusion. If you wish to outperform other musicians, sustain a long and healthy career, and unlock your full potential, I highly recommend learning about low-carb diets, particularly the ketovore and carnivore ways of eating.