We live in a fast paced world and want to get more out of our body and our voice for the least health investment we can manage.
So what do we do?
Some singers stop in for a cup of Joe, or even more accessible Red Bulls® and the billion dollar industry of 5 Hour Energy®.
We * think * that caffeine is helping us to beat time, giving us greater alertness – improving our ability to perform.
A pilot study was performed where 250 mg of caffeine was provided in tablet form to eight subjects.
The caffeine had an effect on each subject’s voice quality – this was determined by using laryngograph readings as well as monitoring blood levels while subjects engaged in free speech, reading a passage and singing “happy birthday”.
The vocal folds require moisture to work efficiently and though caffeine comes in the form of a liquid, it acts as a drying agent.
In fact, caffeine pulls water out of your system and depletes the vocal folds of needed lubrication.
Dry vocal chords tend to tighten which temporarily hinders voice range and endurance.
The more caffeine you drink, the worse the effect on your voice – check out the chart below to make sure caffeine isn’t sneaking into your life.
What You’re Aiming For
Voice scientists are unanimous that we should be drinking 6-8 cups of water daily.
This will help the vocal chords vibrate with less “push” from the lungs, especially in high pitches.
Adequately hydrated vocal cords resist injury from voice use more than dry cords and have an easier recovery rate.
And why the eighth cup? This will help thin out any thick secretions.
Hope for Coffee in Your Life
If you are hydrating your folds with water, you don’t have to give up coffee entirely but try to limit yourself to one cup / day which is 8 oz.
Avoid drinking this single cup of coffee before a performance or any occasion where you will be making demands of your singing voice.
Choose instant coffee when viable as opposed to filtered coffee that can have two and half times more caffeine.
All the while, maintain adequate hydration with clear water – don’t compromise on this.
Check Your Intake
The list of caffeinated supplements is limitless.
To give you a better idea of every day beverages and their caffeine content see the table below:
The numbers on the horizontal axis represent the milligrams of caffeine in an 8 oz serving. Try to limit yourself to no more than 150 mg/ day
Yes, caffeine is a natural stimulant and you may feel more alert for the short run, but the negative affects of choosing caffeine as a lifestyle outweigh the benefits – especially for singers.
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/
The author thanks researchers involved in these studies:
S. Akhtar, G. Wood, J. S. Rubin, P. E. O’Flynn and P. Ratcliffe (1999). Effect of caffeine on the vocal folds: a pilot study. The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 113, pp 341-345. doi:10.1017/S0022215100143920.
Titze, 1988; Verdolini-Marston, Druker, & Titze, 1990; Verdolini, Titze, & Fennell, 1994; Verdolini et al., 2002; Titze, 1981; Verdolini-Marston, Sandage, and Titze, 1994).
The chart is reprinted from: DCAPS – Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment, & Prevention Services, WSU Counseling Services, 280 Lighty Student Services Building. Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-1065 | (509) 335-4511 | firstname.lastname@example.org