The pressure is on when you’re gearing up for a studio recording session, rehearsing for a recital, or hitting the road with your band. Studies show that singers are more prone to throat infections because they use their voices as athletes use their muscles.
So, one way to maintain vocal health is to know what to eat before singing. You want foods and drinks that soothe your voice, give you energy, and calm your nerves before you get on stage. Everyone and their grandma has suggestions to help improve your voice, but which ones work, and which ones are bad for you? We’ve appraised the lot and compiled a complete list of voice-friendly foods for performers.
Why Healthy Vocal Cords Matter
Vocal cords are two bands of muscles in the throat that do much more than help us speak or sing. They allow us to breathe, swallow food, and cough to protect the airway from foreign particles or irritants. Think of your vocal cords as muscles that need nourishment, warm-up, and recovery after a workout. Like all muscles, they tense up and relax, and they respond to temperature changes. They can also be overused, and their performance is determined by practice and diet. Consider the recommendations below to improve vocal health.
What To Eat Before Singing — And What To Avoid
The general guidelines to maintain a healthy voice are to stay hydrated, eat plenty of protein, and avoid processed foods.
So, let's look at the recommended diet for vocal health below.
Warm or Room-Temperature Water
Water is a quick and reliable way to maintain healthy vocal cords, but it needs to be warm or at room temperature. That's because cold or ice water makes your vocal cords contract and tense, increasing vocal strain when you sing. Drink water throughout the day, not just before getting on stage.
Ginger has numerous health benefits for singers. For example, ginger's warming effect may boost your circulation and keep your vocal muscles supple. If you have a sore throat, ginger can get you back in excellent performing shape by soothing irritation and improving your immunity.
Herbal teas like chamomile, dandelion, hibiscus, peppermint, or rosemary are great drinks to energize and refresh you before your performance. Add organic honey or maple syrup to sweeten these drinks naturally and soothe your throat. Avoid caffeine as it dehydrates you due to its diuretic effect on the body.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Eat watermelon, cucumber, apples, oranges, and peaches as you prepare for your performance, preferably whole, not juiced. These fruits offer the nutrients you need to stay energized and hydrated without increasing mucus levels in your throat. Opt for fresh salads with kale and spinach.
These dark leafy greens are rich in vitamin A, which keeps your vocal cords healthy. You can add unsalted nuts for a healthy crunch in your salads, but avoid adding cheese since it may lead to acid reflux, harming your throat.
You should include protein in what to eat before singing, and the best sources are chicken and fish. Avoid the fried or roasted versions because of the high levels of oil and salt. Instead, bake or broil them and serve with a generous portion of fresh vegetables on the side. If you prefer a vegetarian diet, load up on beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, and tempeh to prepare your vocal cords for a long, energetic performance.
Another great source of protein and energy is peanut butter, which also makes for a delicious snack. Choose natural peanut butter with less salt and sugar to spread on your toast instead of butter, which contains more oil that may thicken the mucus in your throat.
Green powders can elevate your performance diet with the extra vitamins and minerals you need. As you eat all the above foods before singing, a green powder can recharge, revitalize, and promote good immunity. Choose a green powder that contains no caffeine or artificial sugars for the best results. Mix your green powder with water, herbal tea, fruit juice, or smoothies to keep your vocal cords hydrated.
What To Avoid Before Singing
We've mentioned a few foods to avoid in the list above, such as cheese, caffeinated drinks, butter, and processed sugars. But some foods are harder to resist, especially when you need extra energy during a rehearsal or performance. Watch out for the foods below before singing:
Dairy products in general
Milk and yogurt make great smoothies. Unfortunately, they can trigger acid reflux and extra mucus in the throat. These can lead to discomfort during your performance. Avoid dairy products at least three hours before you sing.
A chocolate bar before singing can upset your vocal cords. The sugar and caffeine in chocolate can lead to acidity.
Avoid drinking sodas before singing. Otherwise, you may end up burping during your performance.
It's tempting to reach for a drink to calm your nerves before singing, but choose an herbal tea instead. Alcohol may dry your throat and increase sugar levels if mixed with sodas and juices.
Even if you love spicy food, avoid it just before singing to reduce the risk of heartburn during your performance.
While there's no fixed diet for singers, every performer knows how much energy it takes to sing in front of an audience or complete a studio recording session. You can tailor these food recommendations to match your age, diet, and performance needs. Of course, you can celebrate an outstanding performance with all the foods you love after the show. But a few hours before you hit the stage, keep the tips above in mind to keep your vocal cords in great shape for years to come.
You can get yourself on the right path toward a healthy diet today; check out Live it Up products for your daily dose of nutrients.