I often get asked questions like, “Doesn’t tea with honey help the voice?” “Does drinking olive oil and water make you sing better?” “Should I avoid dairy products before singing?” etc. Since the topic of what to eat and drink before singing is on the minds of many singers, let me give you my perspective now.
First, let’s talk about the ideas of lemon, honey, teas, throat sprays etc. While all of these things can help the throat feel good, the only way that any of them will actually come into contact with your vocal folds is if you breathe them, and this is not something I would recommend. The only thing that you can breathe that is beneficial is steam. I recommend that each of my students purchase a steamer. You can find steamers at your local drug store for about $35. A popular steamer is the Vick’s Personal Steamer. This is not the same as a vaporizer which puts moisture into the air of a room.
A steamer actually has a little mask that goes over the nose and mouth. Water is put into the basin beneath the mask, the unit is plugged into the wall and powered on. A heating element then heats the water to just below boiling. The steam rises from the heated water through the mask and is breathed into the lungs. The steam passes over the vocal folds on its way into the lungs and has a very hydrating and healing effect on them. Steaming is much preferred over gargling. I find gargling to be somewhat irritating and don’t recommend it.
As far as food is concerned, it is important to avoid singing on a completely empty stomach. Singing can be athletic, and you want to have plenty of energy for your performance. However, it is also important to avoid singing on a completely full stomach. When the stomach is too full, it is difficult to take the low breaths necessary for healthy singing. Also, singing tends to cause burping when it is done too soon after eating, and burping is an activity that is usually frowned upon by many audience members during a vocal performance.
A rule of thumb is to eat a healthy “singers meal” about 2 hours prior to a performance. A singer’s meal would be balanced in 1) lean meat, chicken, fresh fish, eggs, or a high quality vegetable protein such as tempeh or tofu; 2) a complex starchy carbohydrate such as whole grain bread, brown rice or potato (not much butter, and no sour cream); and 3) plenty of fresh vegetables and/or fruits (citrus fruits however seem to cause mucous or dryness in some singers). Make sure to never stuff yourself, especially before a performance.
Some foods and beverages to avoid prior to singing are mucous producing foods such as dairy, stimulants such as caffeine and spicy foods, soft drinks, refined sugars, chocolate, iced drinks and alcohol (including wine and beer). Be aware also of any foods which you may be sensitive to or allergic to prior to singing (for example, some singers have trouble with citrus fruits, wheat, nuts, shellfish or soy).
It’s also important to keep the body well hydrated with water the day of a performance, but please remember to lay off on the water intake several hours before you go on, since there probably won’t be too many bathroom breaks. Some performers will chew a bit of sugar free gum or suck on a sugar free hard candy prior to going onstage to keep the saliva flowing in lieu of drinking water.
I hope that answered some of your questions. Please keep emailing me with more!
This blog is not owned or operated by Speech-Level-Singing International, it is owned and operated privately by Guy Babusek. The views expressed herein are strictly his own.