Vegetarian Vocalist?

Singing Ensemble with Doctor

 Dear Dr. Jahn,

Many of my friends in the arts scene are vegetarians; I’m attracted to the idea. But, the thing is, I’m a hard rocker, use tons of physical energy on stage and I don’t want to compromise my health in any way. Is it possible to have a perfectly healthy diet and be a vegetarian or am I heading down an endless road of supplements and dangers? There’s just so much propaganda on this issue and I was hoping you could clear the air.


Dear Alan,

This is a great question and one for which there is no real answer, short of personal experience. But I would re-phrase it: can a vegetarian get enough nutrition from a diet that lacks meat? 

It seems to me that as long as you get the right amount (and the correct ratio) of carbohydrates, protein and fats, it shouldn’t make a difference whether they derive from animal or vegetarian sources. Of the three, fats have the highest number of calories per weight (of food consumed) so this would have to figure into your diet. Surprisingly though, fats do occur in vegetarian food, such as nuts. 

Protein is found in many non-meat sources, most notably in soy, while the best quick source of energy is simple carbohydrates, the sugars found in fruit, for example, so you should be okay in that regard. You would, however, be likely to need to eat a greater volume of food to get all of the nutrition you need. As you’re unlikely to sing well on a full stomach, I would recommend eating smaller amounts more frequently. This “grazing” style of eating is actually healthier than the usual three meals a day.

Now the really interesting question is: will you sing with as much passion and aggressive energy if you don’t eat meat? Soy, the main source of protein in most vegetarian diets, is a prime source of the female hormone estrogen (called phytoestrogen) and for this reason it is often recommended to post-menopausal women. Would substituting estrogen-laden tofu for red meat change the masculine energy of your performance? 

As I said, there is no real answer short of trying this, but do let me, and other readers, know!

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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