While there are health benefits of dairy – it can be an excellent source of protein and calcium – the cons sometimes outweigh the pros of eating dairy. This is especially true for singers. And many celebrity artists have chosen to avoid it completely.
Dairy was once a staple of our diets. Milk, cheese, cream, eggs and yoghurt were all consumed in vast quantities. But now with an increase in clean eating, vegan diets and the rising number of people with lactose intolerance, dairy is much less prolific.
In this article, we’ll discuss the ways dairy affects a singers voice, and what alternatives there are available.
Why is dairy bad for your voice?
There can be confusion in the music community, over whether dairy and milk are good or bad for singing. Everything in your body is connected, so it’s important to understand how what you consume can affect your vocals. Does drinking milk affect your voice? What alternatives should you drink instead? Should you drink milk before you sing and is dairy bad for your voice?
Does dairy affect singing?
Performers are often told that they should avoid drinking milk in the hours before singing, as fat-rich dairy products can cause the mucus in your throat to thicken. Mucus and phlegm are never good for vocalists. Not all dairy is the same though. You may find some products affect you more than others. Eggs for example, rarely cause this kind of reaction.
Whereas full-fat cream or milk is much more likely to cause issues. Cheese (including that from goats and sheep) also has a clogging effect on the vocals.
Dairy and singing
Have you noticed when you have a cold, that eating and drinking dairy products makes it worse? While there’s no direct evidence that dairy products actually produce phlegm, too much dairy in your diet can thicken the mucus that’s already present in your airways. This bungs you up, blocks the sinuses and negatively affects your singing voice.
Drinking milk or eating dairy products can make singing more challenging by irritating your vocal cords. Phlegm can also increase your vocal breaks and make transitioning through your different vocal registers more difficult.
Is milk bad for your voice?
If you attempt singing after drinking milk, you’ll notice that it feels harder to approach the note. This is because of the thick liquid that sticks to your throat and nasal cavity and causes you to constantly have to clear your throat. Of course, you can’t continuously do this on stage, so you have to deal with an unclear tone and irritation. Phlegm can even lead to vocal breaks, as air pockets try to break through the phlegm in your throat.
Does milk affect singing?
For the reasons we’ve explained, milk stresses your vocal cords. But you don’t necessarily have to cut it from your diet altogether. Instead, avoid drinking milk on rehearsal and performance days. Follow this up over the next few hours or days with plenty of water and clarifying liquids, like fresh lemon in water.
Nearly a quarter of Brits are said to have made the shift from dairy milk to plant-based varieties.
How does milk affect your singing voice?
Phlegm doesn’t go away instantly. So, if you drink milk on days when you’re singing, you’ll need to drink copious amounts of water to thin out mucus and flush it out of your system. If your throat is irritated, singing becomes more difficult. You’ll also need to spend more time warming up your voice to combat milk’s effects and clear your vocals of any lingering gunk.
Milk and singing
If you naturally have a nasally sound to your voice, or you have difficulties raising your soft palate for high notes, avoid milky drinks in general. In any case, we suggest avoiding milk on the day of your performance and switching to water which hydrates the vocal cords and improves your tonal quality.
If you’re convinced you’d like to give up milk and creamy dairy products, what are your options? Well, there are plenty and the list seems to be ever-growing. You can switch to alternatives such as coconut milk, soya milk, almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk and rice milk.
Is almond milk bad for singing?
No, almond milk doesn’t have the same mucus inducing effects as standard cows’ milk. You can even make your own directly from almonds. But some plant-based milk is better suited for certain purposes. Oat milk, for example, works well in a cappuccino. Coconut milk is great in chai, but not so good in regular tea.
Almond milk is perfect for cereal or in a smoothie. Soya is perhaps the most versatile, suited to substitute most standard milk uses but can be an acquired taste. You can also check out a range of dairy-free cheese and creams in health food shops and mainstream supermarkets. Skipping dairy doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
Your voice is an instrument and should be taken care of just like you would tune a guitar or piano. That includes what you put into your body as fuel. Professional singers will look to clear and soothe the throat as best they can before a performance. Many take drinks that will reduce mucus and congestion, rather than increase it. Get creative and see what beverages and recipes you can create, without using dairy products.
- How long before singing should I avoid dairy?
Try to give it at least two to three hours between eating or drinking dairy and singing. If your gig is an important one, then it’s best to avoid it altogether for at least a day or two. This will help your vocals to be on top form.
- What do singers drink before they sing?
Being well hydrated is important for singers. Taking plenty of warm or room temperature water is ideal. It shouldn’t be too hot or ice cold. Infusions and herbal teas are an excellent alternative to standard teas and coffees.
- Is coffee bad for singing?
There are pros and cons of drinking coffee as a singer. Caffeine can dehydrate the vocal cords and drinking it with milk and sugar is bad for the voice. You can find out more about coffee and singing, in this article.
Have you found that dairy is bad for your voice? Do you drink milk before singing, or have you started using non-dairy alternatives? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.