Fueling Your Voice: What to Eat and Drink (and What to Avoid) for Optimal Vocal Performance

Singers avoid cheese

As a singer, your instrument is your voice, and like any other instrument, it needs to be properly maintained and taken care of to perform at its best. 

This includes paying attention to what you eat and drink. While there are no hard and fast rules about what foods and drinks are off-limits for singers, certain items can negatively impact your vocal health

In this article, we explore the foods and drinks that singers should include and avoid in their diet to keep their voice in top form. Whether you’re a professional performer or enjoy singing as a hobby, this guide will help you make informed decisions about what to put into your body.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid

Let’s start by looking at the foods and drinks to avoid if you looking to keep your voice in the best possible condition.

Milk

Avoid: Dairy

Do you ever struggle to hit those high notes after indulging in a big bowl of mac and cheese? Well, you might want to consider cutting back on the dairy.

Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yoghurt contain proteins that can produce mucus in the body. And while a little bit of mucus is completely normal, an excess can accumulate in the throat and cause irritation or discomfort – not exactly the recipe for a successful performance. In fact, dairy can make the throat feel thick or congested, which can make it harder to sing with clarity and control.

But it’s not just about the singing – dairy can also increase mucus production in the respiratory tract, leading to congestion and difficulty breathing. And let’s face it, singers need all the breath control and airflow they can get.

Now, it’s important to note that not everyone is affected by dairy in the same way. Some singers can chow down on a big bowl of ice cream and still hit those high notes with ease. But if you’re finding that dairy is causing problems for your vocal cords, it might be worth reducing your intake or eliminating it from your diet altogether. Your audience (and your throat) will thank you.

Spciy Indian food

Avoid: Spicy Foods

Another type of food that you may want to avoid (or at least limit) is spicy foods.

Spicy foods can irritate the throat and cause discomfort when singing. This is because they contain capsaicinoids, which create a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. While this might be tolerable (and often enjoyable) when you’re just eating a spicy meal, it can be downright unpleasant when you’re trying to sing.

Spicy foods can also cause dehydration, which can affect vocal quality. 

Of course, everyone’s tolerance for spice is different, and some singers might be able to handle a little bit of heat without any issues, so pay attention to how your body and adjust your diet accordingly.

Alcohol

Avoid: Alcohol

Alcohol can be especially problematic for singers, as it can cause dehydration and affect the muscles in your throat.

When you drink alcohol, it causes your body to lose more fluids than it takes in, leading to dehydration. This can be especially detrimental to singers, as a dry throat can negatively impact vocal quality. This includes all alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, spirits and cocktails – many of which are high in sugar, causing even more havoc with the vocal cords!

In addition, alcohol can affect the muscles in your throat, making it more challenging to control pitch and vibrato.

Coffee

Avoid: Caffeine

While caffeine is a stimulant that can boost energy, it can also be dehydrating. This can be especially problematic for singers, as dehydration can affect vocal quality. In addition, caffeine can cause jitters and nervousness, making it harder to focus and perform at your best. If you’re a singer who relies on coffee, teas and fizzy drinks to get through the day, consider switching to decaf or reducing your intake to see if it makes a difference to your vocal performance.

ph scale foods

Avoid: Acidic Foods and Drinks

Acidic foods and beverages can irritate the delicate tissues of the vocal cords, leading to inflammation and potentially affecting the voice. When the vocal cords come into contact with acidic substances, they can become inflamed, leading to irritation and vocal fatigue.

Acidic foods and beverages can also disrupt the body’s pH balance, which can impact the overall health of your vocal cords. Maintaining a proper pH balance is essential for the overall health and function of the body, including the vocal cords.

While acidic foods and beverages can affect the voice, it’s not necessary to completely eliminate them from your diet. Some acidic foods and drinks can actually be beneficial for overall health in moderation. Remember, moderation is key!

What to eat and drink

Now that we’ve been through the things to avoid, it’s time to focus on those foods and drinks that you should incorporate into your diet to keep your voice healthy and ready to perform.

singer drinking water

Drink: Water

Keeping your body hydrated is essential for maintaining a healthy voice. When you’re dehydrated, your vocal cords can become dry and swollen, leading to hoarseness and vocal fatigue. On the other hand, when you’re adequately hydrated, your vocal cords can function at their best, allowing you to produce clear, strong vocalisations.

So how much water should you be drinking to support vocal health? The general recommendation is to drink at least 8-10 cups of water per day, depending on your size and activity level.

Staying hydrated is a key aspect of vocal care. By making sure to drink enough water and avoid dehydrating beverages, you can help ensure that your vocal cords are healthy and able to function at their best.

Drink: Honey and Lemon

One or two mugs of honey and lemon is a great addition to every singer’s diet.

Honey is known for its soothing properties, and its thick, viscous consistency can help coat your throat and provide a protective layer. This can be especially helpful if you’re performing for long periods of time or in a dry environment. Lemon, on the other hand, is known for its astringent properties and can help reduce inflammation.

While honey and lemon can be helpful for singers, it’s important to remember that they should not be the only source of hydration, and it does still contain sugars. It’s vital that you drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Drink: Decaf Teas / Herbal Teas

One simple yet effective way to improve every singer’s diet is by replacing caffeinated drinks such as coffee with herbal alternatives. While coffee can have some benefits, it can also have adverse effects on the vocal cords, such as causing dehydration and irritation.

Herbal teas, such as chamomile and slippery elm, have properties that can help soothe the throat and reduce inflammation. Other herbal teas, such as liquorice root and marshmallow root, are thought to have demulcent properties, which means they can help coat the throat and provide a protective layer.

Eat: A balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet plays a crucial role in maintaining vocal health. A varied diet that includes a wide range of nutrients will support the overall health of your body, including your vocal cords.

Certain nutrients are particularly important for vocal health, for example, vitamins C and D, zinc and magnesium all play a role in maintaining healthy tissues, including the vocal cords. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are excellent sources of these nutrients.

But that’s not all – a balanced diet can also help support your immune system, which is important for overall health and can protect against vocal cord infections. Plus, adequate nutrition can help reduce the risk of fatigue and other issues that can negatively impact your voice.

fruit and veg

Eat: Fruits and Vegetables

If you want to keep your vocal cords in tip-top condition, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting your 5 a day. Here’s a breakdown of why:

  • Improved vocal health: Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the vocal cords from damage caused by free radicals. 
  • Increased energy: Fruits and vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates, providing a sustained energy source – super-important for singers who perform for long periods or do multiple shows in a row.
  • Improved immune function: Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that support immune function, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene. 
  • Weight management: Many fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fibre, making them an excellent choice for singers who want to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Hydration: Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content, which can help you stay hydrated. For example, watermelon and cucumbers are over 90% water! A simple way to increase your water intake and keep your vocal cords working at their peak.
porridge

Eat: Whole grains

Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice, are a good source of complex carbohydrates, which provide a sustained source of energy. They are also high in fibre, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied.

Eat: Lean protein

Lean protein sources, such as chicken, fish, and tofu, can help support muscle health and provide a sustained source of energy. They are also rich in amino acids, which are important for maintaining good vocal health.

healthy food: nuts, seeds, fish, veg

Eat: Nuts and seeds 

Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats, which are important for maintaining good vocal health. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E and zinc.

Eat: Legumes

Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are a good source of protein and fiber. They are also rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, such as iron and zinc.

leafy green salad

Eat: Leafy greens

Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and folic acid. They are also a good source of antioxidants.

Foods for singers, food for thought

The foods and drinks that you consume can have a significant impact on your vocal health and performance. By avoiding the pitfalls and incorporating a healthy selection of food and drinks into your diet, you can ensure that your voice is always at its best, no matter what the occasion.