In my early years of learning to sing, I went through periods of my voice feeling hoarse even after short practice sessions.
I started to panic. I was seriously concerned that I had somehow damaged my voice.
I rushed to my singing teacher, arms flapping as I explained what I was experiencing.
She asked lots of questions. She got me to do a few vocal exercises. And then she asked: "How much do you drink ?"
I had no idea how to answer that question. “Enough”, I feebly answered.
In all honesty...I had absolutely no clue!
Hi, I'm Rebecca! And I truly love everything about the art, science, and teaching of singing. If you're looking to build an effective and healthier singing technique so that you can sing with more ease and confidence, then you're in the right place! Here's a few other blog posts you might also like to read:
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And that’s when I started experimenting on myself – it’s not as weird as it sounds!
I tracked how much and of what I was drinking and I saw that I was averaging about 5-6 glasses each day. Well below the recommended 8-10 glasses per day.
As I mentioned in My Winter Vocal Health Routine I measured my fluid intake for several years. I studied my habits. And made changes to ensure that I was staying properly hydrated.
And the hoarseness disappeared.
If you’ve read a few of my other vocal health articles, you’ve already heard me talk a lot about how important hydration is for singers.
In this post, I wanted to explain a little more about why staying hydrated is so important, ways you can stay hydrated, and when you need to think about adjusting your hydration routine.
Let’s dive in!
HOW IMPORTANT IS HYDRATION
Whilst humans can survive 30-40 days without food. We can only survive 3 days without water.
The reasons why our body needs to stay hydrated are:
To regulate temperature and prevent overheating;
To carry hormones and nutrients around the body;
Help remove waste and toxins; and
Lubricate joints and organs, including the eyes.
Plus, a whole host of other benefits including:
Aids muscle function;
Acts as a brain booster;
Improves skin appearance;
Helps with calorie control; and
By staying properly hydrated you’re also preventing:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs);
Dizziness (and potential injuries from falls);
Pressure ulcers/skin conditions; and
General poor health.
Whilst we all instinctively know that staying hydrated is essential for our survival, it is less understood that hydration also plays an important role in our vocal health.
I’ve said it a million times before, as a singer, staying properly hydrated should be a top priority and the most important part of your vocal hygiene routine.
According to notable laryngologist Dr Robert Sataloff (and friends, staying hydrated helps maintain normal balances of “…serous and mucinous secretions to ensure the vocal folds stay suitably lubricated for phonation”.
In other words, this means that the vocal cords need to be moist to function effectively and efficiently.
When they’re dehydrated there’s an increase in friction as the cords vibrate (in both speaking and singing) and the potential for developing problems, like nodules.
In a recent 2017 study on the effects of hydration on voice quality, researchers also found “…that well-lubricated vocal folds require less subglottal pressure to vibrate, optimizing the efficiency of vocal vibration and thus enhancing voice quality.”
WATER ISN’T YOU’RE ONLY SOURCE OF HYDRATION
We lose water when we tinkle (use the bathroom), sweat, breathe, and through evaporation through the skin. So, we constantly need to rehydrate.
It is recommended that we consume 8 – 10 glasses of water per day.
Whilst water is the preferred source, Sarah Schenker, author of Eating fat will make you fat: and other human body myths busted, says that beverages, like tea and coffee, soft drinks, like coke have only mild diuretic effects and can also serve as adequate hydration sources.
Similarly, in their 2017 paper: The Effects of Hydration on Voice Quality in adults Alves and his team found that there was no measurable difference in vocal hydration levels whether someone had water or a caffeinated beverage.
The best way to stay hydrated is to drink plenty of water. But, you can also drink:
Milk (>90% is water);
Soft drinks; and
And remember, 20% of your daily intake will come from food, especially fruits and vegetables, which are >80% water.
Personally, I find that too much tea, coffee, and soft drinks, like coke, have a diuretic effect on me. I usually notice this builds up over a couple of days, if not kept in check, and tends to affect my concentration and productivity levels first rather than my voice.
On normal (non-performing) days, I limit myself to 1-2 cups of tea or coffee per day.
On performance weeks and days, I stick to just water or green tea.
This is by no means based on scientific fact but from years of analysing what works best for me. Feel free to steal and adapt any of my routines, if these work for you.
And don’t be afraid to experiment on yourself.
YOU’RE MOST LIKELY TO DEHYDRATE WHEN…
Unlike animals like camels, sheep, dog, and cows, humans can only quickly replace between 50-80% of fluid lost. The process of becoming fully hydrated is much slower.
An important reason to keep on top of your hydration levels!
AND being as little as 1-2% dehydrated can cause:
Problems with cognition;
Decrease in mental & physical performance; and
Even once you’ve found your hydration balance, you’ll still need to make assessments and adjustment depending on:
When the seasons change: heating and air conditioning systems can quickly dehydrate your voice;
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding;
When you’re travelling, especially between different climates, and by air;
After exercising, especially in humid climates;
When singing or performing for more than 1 hour;
If you’re wearing heavy costumes/performing in hot spaces.
You may find that upping your fluid intake is not enough to replace fluid lost. Sports drinks and dissolvable tablets can help replace lost sugars and sodium, and boost hydration.
Personally, I prefer the Science in Sport Go Hydro dissolvable tablets as I found sports drinks are not only full of calories but also very syrupy in texture which thickens mucous and affects my vocal quality.
If you’re struggling with hydration, or if you’re like me, and have no idea how much you drink each day. Click the link below and grab my FREE printable hydration tracker to get you started.
I’m going to say it again: If there’s ONE thing you can do for your vocal health today that’s staying properly hydrated.
I’m not going to say that it’s easy. But I KNOW you’ve got this!
You constantly need to adapt, whether that’s to the changing seasons, travelling, or increased activity.
The best way I found to manage my hydration is by analysing my habits and creating routines (you know I love a good routine) that helps to take away the stress and anxiety, and get on with life.
Give me a yes in the comments below if, like me, you have absolutely no clue if you drink enough each day.
And don't forget to grab your freebie:
The Ultimate Vocal Health Guide
- a 14-day plan to help you improve your voice!
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