Can taking vitamins during a festival really help?

Young woman sleeping outside tent on grass at festival. (Getty Images)
Wondering if getting enough vitamins can help prevent you feeling depleted during and after a festival? (Getty Images)

Whether you're lucky enough to have a Glastonbury ticket, or have another exciting festival lined up for the summer, festival season is well and truly among us.

But while some much-needed fun is good for the soul, camping, lack of sleep, irregular meals, alcohol and a sky-rocketed step count can put our bodies and endurance to the test. And you might be wondering whether adding vitamins to your packing list could help to reduce how depleted you may feel.

But, can they really make a difference? Which ones are best? And what else should we be focusing on to keep ourselves well at a festival?

Here two nutritionists and a doctor share their thoughts (with slightly varying takes), to help you assess what's best for you before just dropping a tube of multivitamins into your rucksack.

Vitamins in hands.
The effect of vitamins may depend on the person and the time you take them. (Getty Images)

It seems the jury is out.

"In my experience, taking vitamins can provide some benefits during the festival season, especially when it comes to maintaining energy levels and supporting your immune system," says Helen Bell, nutritionist at UK Care Guide.

Some vitamins, Bell explains, can help mitigate these stresses by supporting your immune function, energy production and overall wellbeing. "People who take them are less likely to experience the post-festival 'crash', where you feel completely drained and susceptible to illness."

Kate Booker, nutritionist at Nutrition Geeks, adds, "I want to start by saying you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. We need to be eating nutritious food every day, and really limiting processed foods for optimal health." However, there are a few vitamins she thinks could have benefits.

Dr Alasdair Scott, science director at Selph, however, is less convinced. "If vitamins are going to have effects, they’re more in the long term. Things with festivals are quite short term, like drinking, not having any sleep and sun exposure.

"All those things affect you quite acutely and I don't think there's anything a vitamin is going to do that's going to change that. Even in the long term, to be honest, the data on vitamins is pretty shaky. It’s not totally proven. I think vitamin D is the only one that's actually consistently recommended by the NHS."

If they do have benefits, Booker thinks the effect can vary. "It totally depends on the person, the supplement quality, how much that person needed that mineral or vitamin."

Dr Scott adds, "I would say the kind of people that take vitamins tend to be healthier because they’re more health conscious, so they are probably less likely to drink heavily and more likely to exercise, more likely to eat better, so they will probably feel better just because they are healthier people."

Supplements and vitamins on a white background. Selective focus. Medicine.
If you are going to take vitamins, think about which ones are right for you. (Getty Images)

For Bell, who has some faith in the right vitamins, she suggests the following:

  • Vitamin C: "This is crucial for immune support. Festivals can be crowded, and your risk of catching a cold or other infections might be higher.

  • Vitamin D: "Often called the 'sunshine vitamin', it supports immune health and mood regulation.

  • B Vitamins: "These are essential for energy production. B12, in particular, is important for red blood cell formation and brain function."

"I always recommend starting to take these vitamins at least a week before the festival to allow your body to build up its reserves. Continuing taking them during the festival and for a few days afterwards will help your body recover," says the nutritionist.

Booker agrees vitamin C can be useful if we are feeling run down. "We tend to burn lots of energy at a festival so it could be a good one to support immunity, especially as sleep quality and length will be less than usual." And as well as for energy and the nervous system, she adds B vitamins are great for hormonal health too.

Booker also mentions another vitamin, which could be worth adding to your list.

  • Magnesium: "This is great for sore muscles from dancing, helps to create energy, and also helps with sleep. It's beneficial every day, not just for festivals. Muscle cramps can be a sign of magnesium deficiency."

When and how often does she think they should be taken? "It's hard to say without knowing the person's history and health status, some may benefit from taking them every day and the benefit may be more positive during a festival where the body is more depleted."

man sleeping in tent
Getting enough sleep may be the best way to prevent the post-festival crash. (Getty Images)

Even if, depending on the individual, certain vitamins might help, they're not a magic pill. "Of course, if you are partying hard and not sleeping much no amount of nutrient-dense food or supplements will counteract the negative effects on the body," says Booker, adding: "Eating quality real foods is really important, avoiding processed foods and getting some fruit, veg and quality protein in will have more positive effects than supplements alone."

Dr Scott questions whether food has any big short term effects at all, even when flipped the other way, stating: "I don’t know that eating burgers or pizza five days in a row is particularly going to do you any great harm. It’s all short term."

On another note, you don't want to be caught short. "From personal experience," says Bell, "I always advise festival-goers to pack some healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, and protein bars. These can be lifesavers when you're in need of a quick energy boost and there are no healthy options available."

Dr Scott thinks the biggest factor is sleep, often disturbed by alcohol, late nights and early mornings. "If you want to recover, then I think having a good night’s sleep is probably your best shot at a festival.

"If you can avoid drinking alcohol in the two hours before bed, it gives your body a chance to clear it so there’s less in your system and you’re likely to sleep better." It may also be worth investing in an eye mask and some ear plugs.

"Maintaining hydration is also really important as you’re in the sun a lot more and likely drinking alcohol," he adds, as well as not reaching for caffeine too late in the day, and of course, not taking things to the excess.

So, if you do want to take vitamins during festival season (and year-round), get advice about which ones might actually help you, and don't see it as a replacement for looking after yourself in other ways.