As much research as I do about eating and performing, I still come up with general good eating guidelines. I have included below an article by Sharon Zarabi that was found in Voice Council Magazine. It truly is the basics of eating well for general good health.
Over the years, I have come up with a number of tips that have helped me and the singers with whom I have worked young and not so young alike.
1. EAT SMART - Eat foods you enjoy but keep the amounts reasonable & at least an hour before a rehearsal or performance. When you eat, your body uses a lot of energy to digest that food. You won't have as much energy to sing and you will probably feel uncomfortable. Keep it light before hand.
2, WHAT NOT TO EAT -
Spicy foods - for all the reasons above & the fact that you are with others & any digestive discomfort will by passed on. Pun intended.
Milk products - I have stayed away from milk, cheese, ice cream, cream etc. because I find it does make mucus thicker. Some people will say that it doesn't bother them. Great. As a general rule, it is a good one to follow.
Sweets - I find that sweets act much as milk does. Save the sweets as an afterwards treat.
Check out these general rules below. They make sense.
Do not wait until you are starving to eat
You may be at practice, on the road or have social events that go until wee hours of the night and with socializing comes drinking and foods that are not timed with physical appetites. Keep nuts, low sugar protein bars, and fruit with you at all times. Green apples are my favorites! The pectin (a fiber in the skin of green apples) keeps your belly satisfied. Try to get some calories in every 4-5 hours.
Do not make any food forbidden
The psychology behind avoiding prohibited foods makes them more tempting. If you choose to indulge in a not so healthy treat, do not go overboard, and OWN it. Eat less the next day or be sure to get some calorie burning exercises in to counterbalance the extra energy.
Read your labels
If it is lacking dietary fiber and protein, both of which keep you full, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. It’s a waste of calories and goes straight to the waist line all with still leaving you hungry. This disrupts your body’s understanding of what satisfied actually means. Check for foods that have greater than 3 grams of fiber and more than 5 grams of protein when available. Proteins include fish, chicken, beans, eggs, nuts, soy and meat. Keep canned tuna and low sugar protein bars at hand. This will help you with tip #1.
Drink your water
You need to hydrate those vocals chords and nothing quenches thirst better than pure water. If you get bored of plain water, carry bags of flavored teas with you and seep them in hot water and then add ice cubes for an enhanced flavored beverage without all the added sugar.
Move your body
Get the blood pumping, and muscles building with both cardiovascular and strength training workouts. When in the hotel, take the stairs, before a performance pump yourself up with a set of push-ups; when brushing your teeth work those legs with squats. The little things add up and can change your figure.
Keep a food journal
If weight loss is your goal, it’s good to keep a list of what you eat, when you eat and how you feel. This can help you discern between the foods that actually keep you full and to avoid any foods that may cause gastric distress. The last thing you need when going up on stage is an upset stomach or itchy throat, so keep a log to help you identify those foods may be “eating you up.”
Avoid late night eating
When you eat and recline you are not letting your body digest the food properly. The gastric juices will push back through the esophagus causing heart burn and irritating the throat. Also, if you wait until you are hungry to eat, you will eat more than your stomach can handle and, in the long term, this can lead to GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). The acid build up will affect voice quality – so, full circle back to tip #1.
Keep these tips in mind to keep you on rockin’ on stage!
Sharon Zarabi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (RD, CDN) and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Fitness Professional’s Association (IFPA) and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA.) She is a contributor to The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (Oxford University Press) and her work can be viewed at www.sharonzarabi.com/