Your singing will benefit immensely by discovering your personal best superfoods. As singers, we are naturally tuned into how the body and mind feel. The superfoods that will support your body and mind can vary, even from one hour to the next. But there is one constant truth: your singing instrument includes your entire body. And a diet including lots of superfoods is your most efficient way to fuel your body, so you can sing your best!
This article is an exploration of superfoods, focusing on your needs as a singer and guiding you to discover your personal best nutritional choices.
It Ain’t Over ’til the Fat Lady Sings!
One question people often ask me is why opera singers are fat. Have you ever wondered how body weight affects the singing voice? The video above features opera soprano Deborah Voigt, who at the time weighed roughly 330 pounds. Miss Voigt soon after underwent gastric bypass surgery, in order to lose weight permanently and as fast as possible.
Down through the centuries, there have been many famous singers who are terribly overweight. Personally I hate the word “obese.” However, the career of many singers are cut short, mainly due to being overweight. Singers who lose weight too fast are shocked by the need to re-learn how to breathe and how to sing! And for singers who remain overweight, often there are health issues that can curtail a professional career.
The physical and emotional burdens of live performance are immense. Singers in particular find comfort in food. But then again we need our energy! As a singer, you know, because you feel in your whole body, that singing is athletic. We do burn a huge amount of calories. Muscle strength and our endurance is paramount for any singer. So, eating more is often a necessity.
Comfort Foods for Singers
You already know that the definition of comfort food is highly subjective, a matter of personal preference. Here are some of my personal recommendations for food and beverages that a singer might try, particularly before a singing gig:
Your constant requirement is to be fully hydrated. Before and after singing, this is so very crucial. But it is truly is an ongoing need to drink your water. Without going blue in the face, let me state again that unless your doctor directs otherwise, please drink about 80-90 ounces per day of clean, unflavored water. You will be so happy with how much better your singing sounds and how well your voice responds, when it is well hydrated!
Here is a particularly good water bottle, reasonably priced, which will hopefully encourage you to drink your water.
2. Hot Herbal Tea with Honey
Particularly before and after singing, your best bet is usually a tea such as Throat Coat Tea.
Of course Throat Coat tea, the original formula, contains the wonderfully soothing herb called slippery elm. So lubricating and comforting to your throat! And this in turn has a definite psychological effect upon your whole being. You will feel confident and ready to sing!
Adding honey is another dose of lubrication. Honey is a form of pure sugar. But is also full of antioxidants, which work to neutralize cellular damage from free radicals. Used in moderation, honey ought to be a singer’s first choice for sweetening tea. The special form called Manuka Honey has impressive antibacterial properties, and many people feel that it will help cure a sore throat.
3. High Protein Food of Your Choice
Sustenance! Any athlete needs the slow-burning endurance that comes from eating plenty of protein. Your personal preference is the key here, because eating what you enjoy means you are more likely to develop a new healthy eating habit. Remember that you do need ample protein for your body to function properly for singing. We use a great deal of muscular energy. Please eat your protein!
4. Garlic Broth
Unless you are very accustomed to eating garlic, or drinking garlic broth, you probably should avoid this one before a singing engagement. And anytime you eat garlic, or drink garlic broth, there should be food in your stomach, in my opinion. Otherwise, you might experience nausea and begin to develop a bad attitude about this incredibly healthy food.
As mentioned in another post, garlic is densely packed with so many vitamins and minerals. Plus it is a natural antibiotic and is known as to be anti-inflammatory, which is something we all need. There are profound benefits to your immune system as well as your brain and your heart, from adding more garlic to your diet. If you cannot or do not want to eat garlic, there are supplements you can take instead, to still reap the benefits.
And don’t forget this fabulously simple one-ingredient recipe for garlic broth:
5. Major Superfood: Vitamin C
Did you know that our bodies do not produce vitamin C? Yet this is a crucial vitamin for innumerable reasons. We must eat foods rich in vitamin C, to sustain optimal health.
For example, we need vitamin C for muscle and bone formation, to ensure your body’s healing capabilities, and to absorb and store iron. All of this impacts your physical strength. A singer’s diet must focus on building a robust bodily constitution. In other words, eat foods that give you sustained energy!
Which foods are high in vitamin C? We instantly think of citrus. But please bear in mind that citric acid will dry the mucosal lining. So this will in turn irritate your throat. Citrus foods and juices can definitely be used in moderation. You are probably best advised to avoid citrus within about 24 hours of a singing performance. Other foods high in vitamin C are found in this listing.
6. Complex Carbohydrates
We are always thinking of what we can eat or drink that will give us lots of physical stamina. But singers in particular need sustained energy, not merely the cheap thrills you get from a sugar high! My personal choice, for comfort food that is also a complex carb, is mashed potatoes. And here is a clear explanation of the difference between simple and complex carbs, including a list of foods.
Regarding Singers Who Are Diabetic
In general, diabetics can benefit enormously by the specialized care of a registered dietician. The dietician should be informed that you are a singer, with special needs for having lots of sustained energy.
Needless to say your doctors should also be informed that you are a singer. As mentioned in another post, it is important for singers to avoid medications which can dry the mucosal lining, such as antihistamines.
Diabetes and pre diabetes have become an epidemic. Your basic health requirements should always come first. When your diabetes is stabilized by medication and/or by diet, your singing will respond favorably.
Is exercise part of your routine? One of the smartest choices any singer can make is to practice one of the simpler forms of yoga. This can become your main workout routine, as it is gentle and incredibly powerful. Yoga will profoundly strengthen the body, and you will find that lower deeper breathing becomes second nature, automatic.
Regarding Underlying Health Conditions
Singers of all ages can experience chronic health issues, which require medication and possibly special diet. Do you have food allergies? Do you suffer from asthma or from COPD? Are you being treated for a heart condition? Possibly you are receiving medical therapies on a regular basis, for a serious illness.
In all such cases, your needs for singing are ultimately best served by following the advice and recommendations of your trusted doctors. Regular consultations with a dietician can make a huge positive difference, and I say this from personal observation within my own family. A good dietician can and should be an essential member of your healthcare team.
Nearly every day new information becomes available regarding which foods are healthy and which are not. A dietician is the particular health specialist who will be the best informed, particularly about the ways in which various foods and beverages are likely to affect you personally.
It is crucial that all health practitioners are informed you are a singer. We tend to have more sensitivities to the side effects of prescription drugs. Here again, I speak from much personal experience as well as observation of literally hundreds of singing colleagues, throughout the last 38 years or so. I urge you to immediately report any harsh side effects of medication. This includes any reactions you might have, from using a natural remedy. Your doctor needs all such information, in order to provide the highest quality of care.
Dr. Andrew Weil: Anti-Inflammatory Food Diet
My go-to source for the latest and best health information is Dr. Andrew Weil. As mentioned in previous posts. Dr. Weil is a Harvard-educated MD, who has an undergraduate degree in botany. This means he has a deep knowledge of plants, herbs, and natural remedies.
Dr. Weil is the Founding Medical Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, Arizona. His message is to stop eating refined, processed foods. Dr. Weil believes in eating a wide variety of foods, including pure dark chocolate and red wine in moderation. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables are the centerpiece of this Mediterranean style diet.
Dr. Weil believes that the average lifestyle causes us to live for many years with low levels of inflammation that simply don’t go away. This places us at increased risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, illnesses of the digestive system, and degenerative diseases, including arthritis and dementia. The anti-inflammatory food pyramid is illustrated here in this great article by Dr. Weil.
Being Sensitive to a Singer’s Needs
Singers should always work on reducing inflammation throughout the body. I have no doubt that Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet meets the definition of superfoods, for the special needs of a singer. It is, however, a big change in the normal diet. And it is likely you would then to lose weight. For a singer, losing too much weight too quickly will almost always cause an upheaval in your vocal technique and probably in the sound quality of your voice as well. If you need to lose weight for medical reasons, an anti-inflammatory diet would surely be an ideal choice for any singer. My advice is to read up on this, ask your doctor, and give it a try!
Superfoods and YOU!
All singers can benefit from improved nutrition. We have to monitor how we are feeling, literally hour by hour. We should experiment with various foods and diets, until we find combinations that address our needs in the moment.
For example, if my breakfast consists of scrambled eggs (high protein), rye bread toast, cottage cheese with fresh berries, and hot herbal tea with honey, I have good energy for the next 5 hours or so. And if I begin feeling a scratchy throat, 5 hours before I am scheduled to perform a live concert, I rest my voice, use slippery elm lozenges, drink plenty of water, and usually lie down and rest for an hour.
From experience I know that if I skip meals, I won’t have the energy needed to sing my best. So I make sure and eat something high protein, even if it is a rather light early supper. In the back of my mind, I figure on eating again after the concert. By then I am more relaxed and hopefully can enjoy a better meal.
Which nutrients mean the most to you as a performing singer? Do you like to eat before performing live? Are you concerned about reflux? If yes, did you read this post yet, about natural remedies for reflux?
Share Your Comments!
In short, the most valuable knowledge you can accumulate is that of your own life experience. Find out by trial and error which superfoods are your most reliable sources of nutrition, for your singing calendar, from one day to the next.
This post has explored many was to incorporate superfoods into the diet and lifestyle of any given singer. But it is your comments that really matter. Please share your views of what defines a superfood and what sort of diet you follow, to support your singing activities.
Don’t delay! Email me now for a free voice evaluation and to schedule your singing lessons online!
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