Hydration and how I cut out soda
Is your voice feeling raspy or brittle? Is your range getting smaller? Do you find your upper register to be very difficult to access, especially in the morning? Does your mouth make a lot of extra pops and clicks and other gross noises when you speak? Are your low notes breathy and crackly? Are you coughing a lot but not producing any phlegm? Do you get frequent headaches? You’re probably dehydrated.
Dehydration is a chronic problem for many people, even though nowadays we have on-demand access to as much clean drinking water as we want, unlike any previous era in human history. The reason this is the case is because there are so many beverage alternatives to water, and companies aggressively market these very sugary or caffeinated drinks to consumers. While these drinks do contain water, they also contain minor diuretics like caffeine, which can cause your body to increase urine production. There is controversy over the extent to which caffeine can dehydrate, and I personally haven't had too many issues with my coffee drinking, as long as I drink water along with it. But one major change I would recommend is dropping sugary soda from your diet.
Do your body a favor, stop drinking soda and drink seltzer water instead. I used to be a big drinker of soda, Coca-Cola especially. I would down at least a can a day, usually more than that. My recycling bin was always full of red cans. I realized how at risk I was for developing diabetes later in life, consuming the massive amounts of sugar from all these cans of soda. But I didn't quite know how to break the habit. I like the taste water, don't get me wrong, but there was something about a cold can of Coke that was so much more refreshing - during a meal or after a long day. I wasn't convinced that it was a sugar addiction that was fueling the habit.
I began to wonder if maybe the habit stuck because of the convenience of having a cold, fizzy beverage on demand. No water filtering, no waiting for it to cool. There was also something about drinking out of a cold metal can was an essential part of the experience. I decided to experiment with drinking cans of seltzer water instead. I was still getting the same convenience of being able to grab a cold fizzy drink from the fridge and the experience of drinking from a can, just without all the sugar. I can get it lightly flavored, but I found that even the plain seltzer water was just as refreshing. Turns out I was right about the sugar not being the main cause of the habit.
Back to the topic of hydration for singers: the important thing to keep in mind is that nothing you drink will ever touch your vocal folds, unless you are drowning. Hydration is systemic, not topical, which means that you can’t localize your hydration, you can only hydrate your body as a whole. You can’t “moisturize” your vocal folds by pouring water over the tissue that needs hydration. Instead, the body absorbs the water you drink in the large intestines as a part of digestion. The water is then distributed around the body through the bloodstream.
Since your body takes time to process fluids, you need to drink your water at least 1 hour before you need it. It would also be a good idea to hydrate well days in advance of any major performance. In fact, why don’t you go ahead and just hydrate well all the time? Wouldn’t it be nice to always have your voice ready to go at a moment’s notice?
In addition to plain water, tea with honey is good for a sore throat, but keep in mind that non-herbal teas still have caffeine. Now, just because these drinks can dehydrate, it doesn't mean you can't still have your coffee, tea, some soda and alcohol, or whatever. Just consume in moderation and be aware of your vocal needs and performing schedule - and be sure to hydrate beforehand!
While it does take at least an hour for water you drink to circulate, keeping water on/back stage while you perform or with you in your lesson is still important. Even if it is "too late" to hydrate right now, sipping water as you go still has other beneficial effects, such as:
rinses out excess saliva and phlegm from your mouth and throat
helps to lubricate a dry mouth (a symptom of moderate dehydration)
provides a cooling and relaxing effect to the muscles surrounding the throat (not your vocal folds, you can't feel them)
creates a short pause for your body/mind to reset and refocus
provides psychological comfort (just be careful to not let it become a crutch!)
further hydration for later
I hope you enjoyed this article. Thank you for reading and be sure to subscribe to be notified of new blog posts. Till next time!