A Worship Deeper reader sent in an interesting question that every worship leader has at least thought about:
Should I eat on a Sunday morning before I lead worship, and if so, what food is good for my voice?
This is a personal and spiritual decision in many ways, but there are practical considerations to what you should and shouldn’t eat as well.
Eating Before Leading: Should I?
First, let’s look at it from a practical perspective. Sunday mornings can be very long, mentally challenging, and sorely lacking in opportunities to rest.
Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to eat something, preferably with protein.
When I lead worship, I’m there from 7:30 AM until about 12:30 — a full five hours if not more. This includes sound check/run-through, services, and tear-down.
We run two services. Some churches offer three to four services — so the worship team might be there even longer.
Length of time is important because you can suffer some pretty gnarly symptoms from not eating for that long, especially in the morning. Dizziness, disorientation, and even passing out are risks.
Some people are prone to these things, especially those with low blood sugar. Those who get very nervous can compound their symptoms (butterflies, the shakes) by not eating.
So, I would advise eating something, but there is certainly reasons to watch what you eat and how much.
How Much Should I Eat Before Leading Worship?
So I’ve just told you that you should eat before leading worship but that isn’t a license to go overboard.
I’ve been in situations where there was some sort of food-oriented event before a worship leading opportunity. When I’ve eaten too much, I noticed that I wasn’t as sharp mentally or spiritually.
Food is weird. You need it, but too much makes you feel weighed-down and not as keen to what is going on spiritually.
This is why many people fast — both those inside and outside the church. Even atheists realize that you achieve greater awareness by denying the body food.
Food can weigh you down physically, too. With a full stomach, I find it hard to take very deep breaths and easily get the volume and sustain that I need.
Plus, more food increases the chance of burping — never fun while singing.
That’s why I limit breakfast before leading worship to just a few things:
- 1-2 eggs (sometimes)
- 1 piece of toast with peanut butter and honey
- Cup of hot tea
This is enough to sustain me for a few hours, but not weigh me down. There is adequate protein, fats, and carbs. If you just eat simple sugars, you will crash just as you start leading worship.
But — just because something is nutritious doesn’t mean you should eat it before worship.
What To Eat And Not Eat Before Leading Worship
If you’re an instrumentalist, it doesn’t matter what types of food you eat before a worship set. But if you’re a vocalist of any kind, it matters big time.
First of all, stay away from dairy.
- No milk
- No cheese
- No yogurt
- No cottage cheese
I’m serious. Don’t do it. Dairy increases the thickness of phlegm according to the Mayo Clinic. And phlegm is bad for the voice.
That eliminates many breakfast foods. Lucky Charms with milk is out. And so is that yogurt smoothie.
Some other things to avoid before singing are as follows.
- Cold liquids
- Seltzer water
- Refined sugars
I’ve also found that greasy, fatty meats (sausage, bacon, and similar breakfast foods) are bad. It’s not so much the grease but the heaviness of the food that weighs you down.
Some things to include in a breakfast meal before a Sunday are:
- Protein and healthy fats (eggs, peanut butter.)
- Whole-wheat bread (skip the refined white bread and bagels)
- Fruit and citrus
- Hot/warm liquids (luke-warm water, hot tea, maybe coffee — see below)
Experiment with food combinations. You want to find something that satisfies but does not fully fill you up, and that preps your voice for a workout.
What About Caffeinated Coffee?
There’s a big debate about this one and I tend to disagree with most vocal professionals.
I’ve found that caffeinated coffee actually helps me sing.
It might be because I’m an absolute warm-liquids fiend.
I’ve enjoyed mint tea and café au lait in Morocco, billy tea in Australia, and good old fashioned overpriced lattes in America (although not all these are good for the voice — keep reading).
I came to my conclusion about caffeinated coffee at an outdoor church event in which no warm liquids were available except super-caffeinated Starbucks drip coffee. It was a risk, but I took it.
To my delight, my voice felt stronger than ever. I delivered one of the strongest worship sessions of my life. At that moment I concluded that the warmth of the coffee overcame any negative side effects of the caffeine.
Plus, the stimulant gave me the edge to perform at my best.
However, one caveat: It can’t be a latte (remember that dairy is bad) or iced coffee. It’s the warmth that helps your voice. Hot drip coffee or Americano only, maybe with just a drop or two of cream if absolutely necessary.
And, if you are already nervous, caffeine will make it worse. Stick to decaf if you are not already super-confident about your playing and singing.
So, try it out. Again, many people disagree with me, but I’m pro-coffee before leading worship.
If you don’t want to risk it, decaf coffee or herbal tea are great alternatives.
What Do You Think?
Have any sure-fire pre-worship-leading breakfasts to share?
Vehemently opposed to caffeine?
Let me know in the comments below. Share your wisdom on the best food and drink before leading worship.
On a normal day I am a 2-3 cup of coffee per day drinker. On Sunday I limit to 1 cup with nondairy creamer/no sugar and no food. The only downside is I usually have a caffeine headache by the afternoon but is relieved with an ibuprofen.
Yes, i am also aware of the effect of a heavy breakfast before service. It feels like my stomach is pressing to hard against my diaphragm, not good for quick breath “sips”.
I do not have any worries about caffeinated coffee. I can go for a whole 5 hour morning service on only an apple (any colour) and a cup of coffee.
On stage during service I have luke-warm water with a small dash of lemon. This idea of having lukewarm water freaks out many people.. but it really works. The dash of lemon also helps with the phlegm, especially if you suffer from post nasal drip.
Liquid dairy (milk, yogurt) is a BIG no-no.
Just my thoughts
Agreed! Lukewarm water is one of the best things for the voice.