Caffeine and the Singer

Weekly Teaching Tip – Oct. 28, 2013
Taken from the “Voice Council Magazine”

Is a cup of Joe really that bad? Nutritionist Sharon Zarabi sounds a wake-up call.

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.

Think Again

A pilot study was performed where 250 mg of caffeine was provided in tablet form to eight subjects.

CaffeineText02This is a small pool of subjects – so further research needs to be done. However, the results are telling:

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.

CaffeineText01Need another reason?

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.

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