Keeping the Energy Up for the Big Show
July 7, 2010 4:14 AM   Subscribe

I've got a big show this weekend! Help me prepare for it - especially by working out what I can eat during the day without either killing my stomach or passing out. (esp since I won't have time for dinner...)

I'm participating in a pretty big pageant/talent competition this Saturday, and would like to be able to get through the day in good health and good spirits. I have done medium-to-big scale productions before, but this is my first time participating in a competition of this scale, and lately I've found that my eating habits have become completely crap and that I seem to be showing signs of a cold (it is very cold weather here in Brisbane). So I'd like some tips on how to manage my diet on the day so that I have a good supply of energy to power me through the evening.

(Nothing's been said about possible catering either way, but assume that none's available)

The event itself starts at 6pm, though us participants need to be there by about 3pm and pretty much get cracking on hair, makeup, costume, setup, etc etc. There will be fashion parades and performance routines, so a good deal of walking, standing, and dancing/moving around. Things will get quite hectic and busy as we jump from one section to the next.

a) How can I space out my meals during the day, especially since my last meal for the day will probably be just before 3pm? I will probably get hungry by around 6 or 7 and will need food to function, but I don't think there'll be space or time to get a proper dinner.

b) I figure that the best thing to do is to eat a hearty breakfast, and have smaller meals/snacks for the rest of the day. I do find it hard to eat anything too heavy first thing in the morning - lately I find that while I do get quite hungry upon waking up, I only have the appetite for something small like a banana, and then munch on nuts or get some cereal/toast after a few hours. I do like big breakfasts though! What sort of things could I eat for breakfast/lunch that will give me good nutrition and energy (esp protein) without being a pain to prepare?

c) What could I bring backstage to munch on during breaks? I was thinking nuts but I don't want to set off anyone's allergies, and the only fruit that I think would be OK are bananas - anything else could be too juicy or too unwieldy. Any other suggestions?

d) Any other things I could do to prepare myself physically, mentally, and emotionally before the big day? The whole experience up to this moment has been gratifying, challenging, and very stressful (though I am in a better mindset about it now), and I will be facing some of my harshest critics amongst my most supportive fans, so it will be quite an emotional time anyway. What sort of things helped you focus and charge up the day of a big event or project?

Any other tips on getting ready for a big show/performance - such as random backstage tips that you don't tend to hear from regular sources, or how to get a good night's sleep the night before, or how not to let the nerves eat you up - would be greatly appreciated too.
posted by divabat to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
At 3 pm, eat some oatmeal or toast with peanut butter. Neither are terribly heavy foods but will keep you feeling full for a long time.
posted by tetralix at 5:13 AM on July 7, 2010

c) Think like you're a mom with a 2-year-old and bring shelf-stable finger food-type snacks for yourself. Dried fruits are terrific for energy and aren't messy at all. Cereal in individual containers (Ziploc bags or Tupperware) is easy to pick at when you're hungry. Nuts are great, but if you're worried about triggering allergies, how about dried/roasted chickpeas or soynuts?
posted by xingcat at 5:13 AM on July 7, 2010

What are you performing? I would imagine the food advice is going to vary quite a bit if you're singing or dancing; I don't eat anything whatsoever on a day I have to sing in public, and I'd imagine you'd want to avoid certain foods if you're going to be dancing around. If you're playing an instrument or acting it might not matter as much (I wouldn't know).

If you're singing, I would only drink room temperature water and try not to eat anything unless you already know that no foods gunk up your throat. It's really easy for me to go a day without eating because I do low carb and my blood sugar never crashes, so if it's an option to eat low carb the day before, give it a shot. If you get hungry though, DO eat something because you don't want that distracting you.

The thing that helps me get through performances is to remember that no matter how nervous I might be about screwing up, what people really want is for me to do well and show them a good time; almost no one goes to a show hoping anyone on stage will fail, and you'd never perform to the expectations of those few people at the expense of the whole audience anyway, so put them out of your mind. More than that, they want you to be dramatic and larger than life, the kind of person that is confident and emotional and stands out. They don't want you to seem impeded by nerves. This is very different than how they want people to act in normal social situations, where we don't like for people to think overmuch of themselves or make a spectacle. So even though we're socially conditioned to have a healthy doubt of ourselves and you just spent all this time practicing with an eye to noticing and smoothing over your faults, you have to let that go when you're performing. In the moments you're performing, it's a virtue to come across as unaware of your faults -- at least if you generally do a decent job and just make a few mistakes. We're all embarrassed for those delusional tone deaf people that audition for American Idol, but few people are actually that bad. You're probably not going to be awful, and that's really as high as the bar gets for you to pretend you're hot shit and for it to work.

I tell myself that as long as I'm in front of the audience we're all going to play this game where I'm everything they want me to be, and we will both benefit from it. It keeps me from feeling like I'm some frightening distance removed from them, all on my own; it reminds me of their good will and makes me want to give something back for their kindness; and telling myself it's a game gives me permission to act like a raging narcissist without feeling bad. It also helps to think of myself as stepping into a social role, one that millions of people before me have done for thousands of years, like it's some weird human ritual you'd see in a nature documentary and it's just something people do. It's just like when a stranger approaches me for directions and I adopt all the characteristics of the Helpful Person role, or when someone is in trouble and I adopt various In Control Person qualities to calm them down even though I don't know what the hell I'm doing. We just become what other people need from us sometimes, and performing is no different. Instead of making it about me, I think about them; I will fail myself but I am unwilling to fail other people who ask me for something easily given.

My particular nervousness usually stems from feeling uncomfortable being the center of attention, if you can't tell; it seems like an arrogant thing to perform in front of people. I do worry about screwing up but it helps a lot to remind myself that I screw up less when I tell myself I'm the greatest thing ever for five minutes, plus technical screw-ups tend not to have much of an impact if they're brief.

I learned all this from being in the audience and paying attention to how I react to certain performers. I'm always rooting for people that seem to throw everything they have into it, and when they screw up, I don't care and neither does anyone else. I have experienced myself and my fellow audience members being far more excited by a mediocre talent with great energy and confidence than a great technical performer with less energy. I have been singing since I was three years old, but the older I get the more I realize technical skill only matters up to a minimum; you can do more things with more technical skill, you can potentially have a greater emotional impact than someone with less technical skill and the same performing presence, but none of it means anything if you don't have the performing presence to pull the audience in. All those technical tools will just stay as unrealized potential and people with much less technical skill will touch far more people in more profound ways. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people do a zillion vocal runs in a row and have been bored out of my mind; as impressive as it is, technical skill can be learned by anyone so there are thousands, probably millions of people who are amazingly technically talented, and it's rarely memorable. Character is memorable.

I've consistently seen this applied to other art, like playing an instrument or dancing. My husband plays classical guitar and has come to feel much the same way. I think so many performers focus on technical skill because it's more straightforward than learning stage presence and less intimidating. Also, if you look around you at what's popular, you can very clearly see that what matters to people is that confidence and energy; popular people either have great technical skill or not, but they pretty much ALWAYS have confidence and energy, and a ton of technically talented people get nowhere. So you don't have to be good, you just have to be confident that you're the best ever, so you just allow yourself to feel delusional for a brief while. The rest works itself out. Don't let yourself think that you can never do what all the great performers you've seen do, that they have some magical fount of confidence you don't. I'd bet money that all good performers have to allow themselves to feel delusional while performing, because people that think they're that great all the time don't acknowledge their faults and fix them when they're not performing.

In short: if you're worried about screwing up, know that technical screw-ups matter very little compared to being confident and drawing the audience in. I've seen video clips of Beyonce and Gaga falling down at concerts and no one cares the next second. I've heard countless clips of amazing singers flubbing a note here and there, or having a rough tone, and no one cares.

Whatever you're performing, I want you to do great!
posted by Nattie at 5:54 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Energy bars?

When I sang, I had lots of oranges, or orange juice, and kept glucose tablets in my pocket.

Break a leg!
posted by stereo at 6:34 AM on July 7, 2010

Hydrate like it's a sport and avoid salt on the day of the event, and byo snacks.
posted by rainbaby at 7:26 AM on July 7, 2010

Seconding the recommendation to avoid salt/sodium on the day of the event. Also, avoid caffeine as much as possible. Drink coconut water -- it's high in electrolytes and potassium.

To keep calm, alternate nostril breathing has worked for me, and I'm pretty keyed up much of the time. (I have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.) It's just complicated enough to force me to focus for a moment on something other than my own anxiety, but not so complicated that I'm forced to quit in frustration.
posted by virago at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: Nattie: I'm doing burlesque - mostly dancing, plus a couple of fashion-parade walking, but there's a short spoken word piece towards the end of the evening.

Any recs for meaty/savoury snacks? I was thinking jerky, but it'll get stuck in my teeth.
posted by divabat at 12:41 PM on July 7, 2010

When I have long days at work a boiled egg sneaked in my bag is a great way to get a protein hit at short notice. You'll need a bin to put the shell in but otherwise it's not messy, doesn't get on your hands or in your teeth etc. One small egg leaves me feeling full for ages whereas a meusli bar (which is another good go to snack) doesn't last as long. The egg often gets squashed when I don't use a lunchbox but it doesn't matter, you're going to peel it anyway.

Both eggs and meusli bars are a little dry so definitely take water or a sports drink, I'd think that staying hydrated is important anyway (particularly since you need to be able to talk near the end of it).

When we do long distance walks then lollies (I like jetplanes) and homebaked oatmeal cookies are easy to stash in a pocket and give a nice hit to keep you going. You could also look into sports gels for hydration and quick energy, although try them out first because some gels make some people's stomach's feel oogy.

Actually this goes for everything, try it out before hand while practising so you're only eating or drinking (or wearing or using) things you know are going to make you feel good. An unexpected tummy upset would be disasterous plus there's a certain postive psychology to having a routine that feels familiar to you on competition day.
posted by shelleycat at 3:19 PM on July 7, 2010

Snack constantly. I like high-protein finger foods like: cut-up chicken breasts, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs (peel them in advance, maybe put some soy sauce on them in a container), yogurt (careful so you don't spill on a costume, though!), string cheese, baby carrots dipped in hummus, almonds, Clif bars or some other kind of "sport" granola-type bar, and one million gallons of coffee.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:01 PM on July 7, 2010

Oh, the teeth thing for jerky is a valid concern. Buy little floss sticks and keep a couple handy. Also, drink from a straw so you don't mess up your lipstick, and don't be too cool to wear a robe or bib or napkin over your costume when you eat or drink; seriously, spilling on yourself sucks.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:04 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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