“Feed Your Voice!” A Voice User’s Guide to Diet, Part One

 In Vocal Health
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What should you eat before a presentation or performance? Should you ask for lunch before or after that talk at the conference ? I posed questions on Twitter. The answers I received were somewhat varied, but also fairly consistent with what I’ve believed over the years.

@SierraRein said: Not eating spicy to keep hydrated”. Not eating heavy (ie high-calorie bar or a smoothie) helps w/ breathing/ keep blood sugar up.
@kfutterer said: i like to eat #steak before i go onstage (obviously leaving time for digestion)
@SierraRein also said: Not drinking a lot of alcohol the night before is one of my rules.
@alanhoffler said: Hydrate the DAY BEFORE speaking. Lotsa H2O
@EricLeist said: Always avoid dairy products.

@SierraRein also suggested in an earlier response that warm drinks with lemon are good for your voice and @pirateverseput suggested peppermint for focus. I also looked for similar questions on Yahoo! Answers and found that one person’s remedy was another person’s taboo. For example, some people suggested drinking tea while others said to stay away from it. On the lighter side one person said they always avoid soda because they don’t want to burp when they sing (though a friend of mine swears he can’t sing a note without drinking a can of coke first!) and another suggested that Drano and anything else caustic should be avoided! (I have to admit that I put Coke in that category!)

My personal favorite is a light meal of pasta, broiled chicken and some green peas if I need to use my voice in the afternoon or evening. I drink warm water with lemon, and sometimes suck on peppermint before going on.

What I Discovered
I took all of these remarks and headed off to Google, and some other sources. The results were both predictable and unexpected. At a high level, my research showed the following:

  • Hydration is very important, but it can be achieved in some surprising ways
  • Protein may be overrated
  • What you drink should be aligned with how you think
  • What you eat after your talk may effect how you feel the next time
  • Eating what you like may be more important than changing your diet

Most importantly, I learned that each person’s voice-diet needs may be different (which would explain why one man’s tea is another person’s Drano!) and that the kind of diet you need is directly related to how your body reacts to being “on.” Are you anxious and need calming, or are you nervous and need focus? Do you need more energy before a talk or do you have more than enough already? Your voice is a reflection of your physical, emotional, and intellectual being, and your choice of what to feed your voice should be in alignment with your unique physical, emotional, and mental needs.

3 Tips to Start With
In this series, I look forward to sharing my findings with you. However, so as not to leave you hanging, I’ll start by giving you three very important food tips that you can use today:

  1. If you add one thing to your diet in support of your voice this week, let it be water. Hydrate the day before and the day of a presentation or performance.
  2. Don’t change your diet the day of your presentation or performance, even if you think you need to eat more healthy.
  3. If you know a food or drink works for you to feel better or more focused or to sound better, go with it.

This series, Feed Your Voice!, is focused on providing some insights and resources to help you find the right foods to support your physical well-being both before and after you speak or sing. I appreciate the help I’ve already gotten from those who answered my question on Twitter, and I welcome any more comments as well. What do you eat before a presentation, talk or performance and why? What do you avoid? What food myths have you heard? Please join in the conversation!

 

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