What to Eat and What to Drink Before Singing

I often get asked questions like, “What can I drink to help me sing better?” “Does 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!

Voice Lessons

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.

14 Responses to What to Eat and What to Drink Before Singing

  1. avinash kumar June 25, 2015 at 4:46 am #

    Singing is my life

  2. Matvey July 20, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    Thank you for this article!
    Now imagine I’ll definitely buy a steamer.
    But I have a question – Whether there are some special drinks for the vocalists to use during the singing? Maybe there are some major manufacturers / brands?

    • Guy Babusek July 21, 2015 at 1:41 am #

      Water is probably your best bet. But remember when you drink ANYTHING, it bypasses your vocal folds. The only way to get anything on your folds is to breathe it. That’s why breathing steam is a good idea.

  3. sakora scheidegg July 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    i love to sing alot and every day

  4. Millicent Jones September 9, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    Thank you for this Mr. Babusek. I especially appreciate the clarification about “citrus” fruits. Years ago, I used to perform at weddings and anniversary parties quite often and the lovely woman that used to assist me (though not a voice coach), would always have me to suck on lemons. The belief was that lemons would help in some way. Well, after reading this article, I was brought to the realization that we were all wrong those many moons ago. Do you also offer tips for how one could strengthen their voice? I have more difficulty pulling some notes out than I used to. I’m a lot older now and I haven’t consistently “used” my singing ability but I know that it’s not entirely gone. How would a woman in her mid 40’s reawaken her voice?

    • Guy Babusek September 9, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

      Hi Millicent! The best thing you can do to strengthen your voice is find a good voice teacher who is well trained in vocal technique and train with them.

      Thank so much for reading my blog and taking the time to comment!

  5. Andy November 5, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    Hi when I sing I constantly feel the need to burp, its like I have really bad GERD or something. I dont know if Im perhaps singing the wrong way and putting too much pressure on my adomen and that is what forces it up – have you ever heard of this happening before?

    Funny thing is when I sing lying down on my back on the floor it doesn’t happen so i think its a support issue.

    Any thoughts plz?

    • Guy Babusek November 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

      Hi Andy!

      I like to wait an hour or so after I have eaten to sing, especially if I am performing. GERD and reflux can really wreak havoc on the vocal folds. It’s always a good idea to see your doctor and find out if that’s a problem. It’s usually fairly easy to treat!

      Thank you so much for reading my blog and taking the time to comment!!

      • sy November 12, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

        Well I’m in to singing gospel music and I’m trying to be singing it and I really need help with that

        • Guy Babusek November 25, 2015 at 1:11 am #

          Are you working with a teacher or coach?

  6. grace November 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    Hi! I have an audition coming up, and I really want to do well. Any recommendations for having a strong powerful voice?

    • Guy Babusek November 7, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Hi Grace!

      Make sure you work on your song and your technique with your voice teacher during the time leading up to your audition, so that you are prepared vocally. The day of the audition I would do a thorough but gentle warm up several hours before your audition (if you have a good voice teacher they will give you the exercises that are best for your own particular voice), and then rest your voice. Do a couple gentle warm ups right before your audition.

  7. Joan November 20, 2015 at 2:09 am #

    Thanks so much for the amazing information. I will back off vinegar some. Taught school for 42 yrs…talked all day. Still could sing relatively well when younger. Think I am experiencing results now. Dr. Says no nodules, still plumped up cords, but mucus dried to v cords over years. Very hard to correct. Any suggestions?

    • Guy Babusek November 25, 2015 at 1:08 am #

      Hi Joan! Have you had your cords scoped? Have you been tested for acid reflux? Guy

Leave a Reply

Schedule an Appointment with GuyBook Now