What Can I Eat Before Singing?
Nutrition plays a big role in singing, because our body itself is the instrument. And you may have been told to avoid certain foods before singing. But, why is that? In this article, I’ll mention a few foods (and drinks) that you should avoid for a certain period before singing and a few foods that are “safe” to be consumed before singing. I’ll also explain why that is so. But before I start, let me just say two things in advance: First: every vocal instrument (body) ist different and that means that they are affected differently by food. And second: eating several small meals spread throughout the day is better for your digestion than 2 or 3 large meals, because smaller meals help you steady your metabolism as they prevent your body from ´crashing´ after a large meal. Now, let’s get to the part where we discuss what to eat and what to avoid before singing.
What to avoid before singing:
- Dairy: anything that contains dairy should not be consumed for several hours before singing. The reason is, that dairy is quite hard for the body to digest. It thickens the mucus that is present in our airways and even increases its production, and therefore makes it harder to sing clear tones. It may also cause acid reflux, which irritates your vocal folds.
- Processed sugar: anything that contains processed sugar is no good for your voice. Just like dairy, sugar is quite hard to break down, and it has inflammation enhancing properties. This means that it increases the level of mucus present in your instrument.
- Fried food: anything fried or too greasy will gunk up your throat and also generate mucus.
- Caffeine: minimize the caffeine intake. This includes coffee, caffeinated tea, soda and energy drinks leading up to performances. Why? Well, these drinks dehydrate your body, and you need to be hydrated so your vocal folds are lubricated and don’t build up friction and swell.
- Alcohol: prior to and during singing, alcohol consumption should be zero, because like the caffeine, it dehydrates the body. Also, too much of it causes you to lose your fine-motor skills.
- Red meat: avoid eating large amounts of meat before singing, because it takes somewhere between 4-6 hours to digest, and that may leave you feel lethargic when singing.
What to consume before singing:
- Water. And I cannot say this enough. DRINK UP!!! Stay hydrated, my fellow singers. Your vocal cords need water – they actually create hyaluronic acid from it. This hyaluronic acid keeps them lubricated and that in turn, prevents them from building up too much friction, swelling and fatiguing quickly. Pay attention to the temperature though. While the food and drinks we swallow don’t actually touch our vocal folds, too cold food (or water) contracts the muscles in your throat and builds up unnecessary tension, whereas hot beverages expand the muscles. Room temperature water is the safest way to go for us singers. Water also helps to flush toxins from your body, and it clears your skin. What’s not to love?
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: because they are packed with nutrients and energize your body, fruits and veggies should be included in every meal. They can be snacked on throughout the day, even if you have a performance coming up in a couple of hours.
- Honey: you can mix it into some warm water, a ginger tea, or even eat a teaspoonful of raw honey. Honey is one of the best natural antibiotics, and it helps soothe a sore throat just as much as it helps prevent throat infections altogether.
- Nuts: you can always include nuts in your daily nutrition. Before singing, you should opt for raw, unsalted options, because the salt will dry out your throat.
- Chicken/Fish: you may include chicken or fish in your meals leading up to singing, because both are lean protein and will fill you up. Make sure to have small amounts and opt for non fried versions to keep it easy to digest for your body.
With all this being said, every singer should get to know their own instrument and eat according to what they observe. Some people for example get bad acid reflux from citrus fruits, while others can eat several oranges throughout the day without noticing a thing. I encourage you to listen to your body, quite literally. The state of your voice and also how much effort you have to put into creating clear tones, will tell you a lot about which foods work for you. And don’t forget: your body doesn’t need only food and water – it also needs rest. So make sure you get a reasonable amount of sleep!