By Cari Cole
Food and nutrition are fuel. When you feed your body the right nutrition and foods, your voice feels effortless. When you feed it the wrong foods, your voice peters out.
One of my artists who was on The Voice a few seasons back shot me an email asking about what is the right food to eat prior to performing. I wanted to share it with you, my tribe, so you could get the benefits of fueling your performances the right way.
Early on in my training as a singer, I was fascinated by the impact of food and nutrition on our bodies and consequently on our voices. The voice being an instrument housed in our body – what we feed it makes or breaks how our voice performs.
Here’s my Top 9 Vocal Super-Foods.
1. Fresh REAL food is superior to packaged or processed food.
If it didn’t grow from the ground, don’t eat it (or limit your consumption.) Veggies & fruits have more “energy” because they are “living” foods – singers need energy and oxygen in their blood (which real foods give us). Leafy greens, in particular, are energy givers: wheatgrass, watercress, kale, arugula, spinach (raw not cooked), romaine, mixed greens, broccoli rabe, escarole, etc.
2. Foods with high water content are hydrating.
Hydration from plants is an additional source that adds nutrition, too (8-10 oz. of water, too!). Celery is great for nerves (try a celery or carrot juice the day of – or sprinkle some on your salad.) Bok choy is actually a real super-food. And watermelon and melon of any kind is super hydrating for your voice. I throw some pieces in my water for extra hydration. See below for my top 6 tips for staying hydrated!
3. Salads are the main dish.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman (my nutritionist) says “make salads your main dish.” I squeeze a little lime or lemon & olive oil or use just a little balsamic. Top with avocado – great for lubrication.
4. Speaking of olive oil…
Some people swear by it for a little extra lubrication (but use sparingly.)
5. Green juice!
SHAZAAM! My favorite juice is celery (remember, great for nerves), cucumber, cilantro, sunflower sprouts, pea shoots + parsley with a smidge of ginger and garlic. Try adding more leafy greens too (watercress, kale, arugula, spinach raw not cooked, bok choy.)
6. Strawberries are great for the larynx.
Notice how it’s shaped like the thyroid cartilage 😉 – love that. Google it – you’ll find some awesome articles about it.
7. Broth soups hydrate.
Miso, garlic soup, veggie soups (but no tomato or cream base – causes reflux.)
8. Good sources of protein.
Tofu-quinoa-turkey-salmon: Stay away from ketchup (too much sugar) and sugar in general – depletes energy.
9. They say carbs the night before a performance gives energy.
Sweet potatoes are better than rice or pasta, which turns into sugar.
NOW… let’s talk hydration! I know this time of year it can be pretty hard to stay hydrated in this dry winter season. This is a huge issue for all singers, musicians, actors and public speakers – anyone who uses their voice for a living! No matter what the weather brings, staying hydrated is #1 to having a healthy instrument that won’t burn out. The majority of vocal issues I see could be cleared up (or at least dramatically improved!) with proper hydration.
Chronic dehydration leads to vocal fatigue, vocal loss, decreased range, inflammation, problems hitting high notes, a bumpier than usual break, vocal problems — AND — a plethora of health problems. Digestive issues, acid reflux, increased allergy symptoms, and a reduced blood supply that often manifests in the brain as mental and emotional imbalances are all caused by dehydration. Yikes. Totally not worth it – and totally avoidable with just a little of your attention ;).
Here are my Top 6 Tips to Stay Hydrated This Winter…and all year round!
1. Keep a Water Bottle Handy.
Jump on the wagon if you haven’t already, and get a reusable water bottle (or go for glass – blue glass if you can!) Then set the number of times you need to fill it up per day and “wha-la” you’re showering your insides and keepin’ up your hydration quota. Plus, your voice will LOVE you for it! (high notes, endurance, and flexibility abounds!)
2. Set a Reminder on Your Phone.
If you really just can’t remember to drink water, set up alerts for yourself throughout the day. There’s more to technology than just Instagram, you know 🙂
3. Drink Melon Water.
Not only is it super tasty, but adding chunks of melon (cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon) to hydrate your vocal cords + throat faster than regular water! It’s all science. The molecules of the melon are larger than water and they stay in the vocal tract longer and moisturize more.
4. Always snacking?
Reach for a glass of water first. Feeling like you’re hungry when you’ve already eaten is often a sign of dehydration. We don’t even realize that what our body really wants is more water, so we grab a snack to fill ourselves up. Drink that glass of water first, then go get a healthy snack if you’re still hungry!
5. Again…Eat Watermelon!
Nothing rocks more in a heatwave than a slice of watermelon! And – it hydrates you fast fast fast! Try a diet of watermelon for breakfast every day. Too much is never enough – and you won’t believe how much it keeps you hydrated.
6. Eat lots of Salad.
Veggies and fruits are foods with higher water content. (some more than others) Eating raw foods that are not cooked, like salads and fresh veggies + fruits, will increase your water content and keep you more hydrated. I ate a 100% raw food diet for 3 weeks last year and couldn’t BELIEVE how hydrated I felt. I never realized how much cooking takes all the water content out of food (and nutrients)!
It’s amazing how water helps all of your body systems operate at full capacity as well as flushes out those waste-bearing toxins. It also keeps you looking younger and feeling more energetic. If you haven’t made the water habit yet, get on it! Your body will thank you for it – and so will your voice!
What about you? Any tricks to staying hydrated that you’ve discovered? What foods do YOU find helpful for your voice (actual foods not remedies)? Share in the comments below!
P.S.- If you have a hard time remembering to drink water, here is a very user-friendly app we recommend to help you keep track! https://itunes.apple.com/tw/app/mywater/id665244736?mt=8
Happy Healthy Singing!!