I love to sing! I think I’ve had one of the most joyful days in a long time. I sang almost all day on Wednesday. I sang for an audience of coworkers and patients during Karaoke, and then, when I got home, I sang for some neighbors, and before bed I sang in the shower. I was shocked to discover that I nearly forgot how happy I feel when I sing. It’s as if a light went on in a part of my heart that lay dormant for nearly 20 years.
I haven’t really sung since college when I used to serenade those in the cafeteria kitchen which scrubbing pots. For most people, pot washing would be a dismal job, but for me it was fun to wear those huge rubber gloves that insulated my hands from the scalding hot water while listening to the radio and singing to my heart’s content. Ah, those where the days. Sigh.
While at my present place of employment, and before breaking into song, some co-workers and I were discussing celebrity sightings. One woman said she was in line at the grocery store behind Stevie Wonder and his daughter who were singing softly to each other while waiting to checkout. I was thrilled by her story, perhaps even a bit “Overjoyed” which is one of my all time favorite songs to sing. I don’t think I could have kept from chiming in with Stevie’s duet. She showed greater restraint than I.
Singing was my first love. I have memories of pelting out “Memories” with Barbra Streisand in the comfort of my childhood room. This was also one of the songs I sang in Karaoke this week.
Nutrition is my more recent love so I decided to investigate the connection between singing and nutrition. By the end of this article, those of you who are “American Idol” eligible should be as fit as fiddles and ready to “Wow!” the judges.
To start your day, and vocals cords off on the right, um, cord, drink plenty of fluids. Room temperature beverages are best since anything too hot or too cold might stress your vocal cords. Herbal teas, not too hot, with a little honey and lemon, make a great vocal lubricant.
You need energy to perform. It takes 136 calories to stand and sing for one hour based on a 150 pound person. That’s the same amount of calories you consume from drinking 1.7 glasses of wine. Whether you’re practicing for your big gig or belting out Karaoke favorites, you can burn between 10-20 calories per song. Of course, the more rhythmic the song, and the more you “perform,” the more calories you burn. To keep your energy up, eat every three to four hours. Choose water rich vegetables, fruits, soups and salads with some lean protein which helps strengthen the immune system, as well as rebuild and repair any potential damage to those muscles that support the vocal cords.
Alcohol, caffeine and most over-the-counter medications are not a singer’s best friend since they often cause dry mouth. Limit these items the day of and even the day before a performance and on rehearsal days. Just like any athlete, you need to be in tip-top shape to hit those high notes.
And speaking of shape, despite the stereotypical image of opera singers, being overweight is not a criterion, and in fact may be detrimental to performance. Obesity is associated with many chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, coupled with the physical stress and strain of performing, and you could be cutting your singing career short. Keep your health in check by accumulating up to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise up to five times per week. The better your lung capacity, the more easily those notes will flow.
To keep your weight in a healthy range, avoid fried foods and high fat cuts of meat. Opt for fish, which is loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fats, or lean chicken and turkey without the skin. If you’ve got a hankering for red meat, choose bison or buffalo which are naturally low in fat.
Limit foods that are known gastric irritants. Some common offenders include: caffeine, carbonated beverages, garlic, onions, beans, peppers and tomatoes. These items are great any other time except two to three hours before a performance. As with any athlete, I recommend practicing with different foods, and combinations of foods, and stick with what works best for you. A great pre-performance meal might be a plate of steamed vegetables and fish with a little lemon and olive oil, or a salad of similar composition.
If you’re trying to lose weight, try singing for your supper, or at least sing to your friends. You burn 14 more calories per hour while standing and singing than you would while standing and talking on the phone. That adds up to 1.5 pounds of weight lost per year. Add in those extra cardio sessions, and lighter pre-performance meals, and you could easily lose 15 pounds in a year. Next you’ll be singing my praises!
Not sure if you’re ready for the Grammy’s just yet, test your vocal abilities by singing the “Happy Birthday” song. Sing two choruses while washing your hands. That way, if someone asks what you’re doing, simply say, “I’m washing my hands and it takes TWO choruses of the Happy Birthday song to gauge if I’ve washed long enough.” You’ll seem wise for knowing this hand sanitation tip and not silly at all for singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself.