Singing: What to Eat & Drink

Different bodies have different sensitivities, so you'll need to experiment with different foods to see what works best for you as a singer. Here are some guidelines: 

When to Eat 
Think of yourself as an athlete and eat that way: an athlete wouldn't stuff herself with food just before running the mile and neither should you. A full stomach inhibits the movement of the diaphragm-you'll have difficulty taking in full breaths and you'll be prone to burping. Don't starve yourself, either--singing is hard work, you need fuel. A normal meal an hour or two (two is better) before a singing session works best. If you need to eat between sets go for non-bulky, easy to digest food. Before a show I like eggs--high protein, low density. 

What Not To Eat Or Drink Before Singing 
    • Foods that add mucous: milk, ice cream and other dairy products 
    • Foods that dry the throat: citrus fruits, alcohol 
    • Throat Irritants: Overly spicy foods, coffee 
    • Sodas and other fizzy drinks put lots of air in your stomach 
    • Ice cold anything: your throat will constrict. Warm water or herbal tea is best 

What's Soothing To The Throat 
Licorice tea or candy (experiment with this, some people get an uncomfortably speedy buzz from licorice), baking soda or salt water gargles (see below), honey, sugar lozenges, steam, certain herbal teas -- which teas to drink varies from person to person, experiment some more. 

What Helps To De-Gunk The Throat 
You've probably heard that honey, lemon, and hot water are helpful if you have mucous in your throat. But remember that lemon is drying so don't overdo it. I prefer gargling, here's the best way: 

    • Mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + one cup warm water. 
    • Take a small amount of fluid in your mouth and gargle at a high pitch-this causes your vocal cords to contract and rise closer to where you are actually gargling (your epiglottis will prevent the fluid from actually reaching your vocal cords). 
    • Spit and repeat several times. 

Medical journals are finally confirming what singers have known for years: gargling with salt water can prevent a cold, or clear it faster. 

Allergy Relief 
Often when allergies hit, you get rear-nasal drip, and it drips down your throat and irritates it. Prescription and OTC allergy medicines can overly dry out your vocal cords. If you must take find the minimum amount that works for you, and drink gobs of water throughout the day. Here's an alternative: clean out your nose with saline spray or a neti pot (use the same mixture printed with the gargling info above), then line the inside of your nose with vaseline or its equivalent. This prevents the allergens from getting into your system and setting you off. This won't help after an allergic reaction-- do it first thing in the morning as a preventative measure before you face the pollen. 

If you wake up in the morning with allergies it might be dust: use an air filter in your bedroom. It could also be food allergies: try eliminating dairy or wheat for a few days and see if you feel better. 

© Susan Anders

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