Congratulations Ms First Year Saxophone Performance Major!
(And a big shout-out to the ladies in their second, third and fourth years of their undergraduate degrees, first and second year masters students, and all those long-suffering heroes who are completing doctorates and the Certificat d’aptitude.)
As this new adventure begins you may be feeling excited and terrified in equal measure. New professors, new friends, new city and new eating habits. Eating habits?!
Yup. Are eatz top of mind?
One of the coolest parts of university study is the (almost) unlimited time you get to spend in a small cubicle, reviewing, rehashing and expanding your saxophone skills. In addition to your personal practice time, performance majors play in several ensembles. One way or another you will be—quelle surprise!—playing almost all day.
Before long, your neck strap becomes part of your look and on laundry day you discover reeds in the pockets of your jeans.
Playing the saxophone becomes your number one activity, just as it should be. After all, this is what you signed up for! You are happily doing what you want to do. At the same time, it is physically demanding to be playing the saxophone anywhere from four to eight hours every day.
Soon, it is mid-January and the elevator is broken. Hauling your baritone saxophone up several flights, you wonder who thought it was a good idea to schedule Quartet on the top floor of the music building. You consider making a voodoo doll of the Scheduling Coordinator, but realize this would be mean and unfair and (reluctantly) abandon the idea as you reach the top of the stairs. You feel: winded, tired and lethargic. Saying hello to your colleagues, you glance in the mirror and it is disheartening. Your skin looks pale and your eyes are weak. You are getting enough sleep and you are working out regularly. What’s the problem?
Having survived the rehearsal, you trudge through the snow back to your apartment. What’s for dinner? There is nothing in the cupboard except a bag of pasta and a bottle of Classico. It’ll do.
But will it?
Lady! You need to eat! And eat well. There is one particular nutritional deficiency that has the power to trip you up, taking you off your game. Beware of ANEMIA: Evil Goddess of Low Iron. Slowly but surely, she is willing to drag you down.
If you suspect that you may be anemic, or simply suffering from low iron levels, schedule a blood test with your doctor or head down to Canadian Blood Services. Your blood will be tested for iron, and you are only allowed to donate if your levels are normal.
It is incredibly easy to fall into bad habits during your university years. Eating well at the food court is difficult. Take it from a gal who used to eat sautéed cabbage over rice several times a week because it was cheap and it tasted OK. There are other ways. Better ways! There are delicious and nutritious options that will allow you to thrive.
General advice: If you can, prepare your own food and eat at home. It is cheaper and healthier and you can actively incorporate iron-rich foods into your diet. Another clever trick for the home cook: use a Lucky Iron Fish. Excellent nutritional information is widely available and there are lots of ways to address the issue. Here are my top three suggestions:
Coffee & Tea
Who doesn’t love a coffee break? Breaks are good, but keep track of how much caffeine you are consuming. Experts recommend avoiding caffeinated beverages within two hours of a meal because it reduces iron absorption.
At the Food Court
Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine is a good choice. A falafel plate with two different salads is inexpensive and tasty. Pick one salad made with beans and/or lentils, and try the tabbouleh which is packed with parsley. This herb, rich in vitamin C, helps your body to better absorb the iron in the pulses.
The Breakfast of Champions
There is nothing I enjoy more than a plateful of oatmeal with a very large dollop of blackstrap molasses, sprinkled with pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Evil Goddess ANEMIA is persistent, but so are you. Don’t let her zap your vitality! Eat well and wisely so that you can play your very best.