Fuel Your Instrument: Pre-Performance Meals

You’ve spent hours practicing, perfecting every measure, analyzing every character, picking the perfect performance outfit, planning every moment of the week before, all in preparation for the big performance(s)… Hours before you’re set to sing, it hits you: What do I EAT?!  In my experience, it seems that many performers have strong opinions on what NOT to eat, but don’t always detail what one should eat before a performance.

Perhaps this is for good reason, as what works for one singer’s pre-performance meal would be an absolute nightmare for another performer. It may do a singer well to ‘practice’ their pre-performance meal a few times by experimenting with recipes, then run through an aria or two to see how their instrument reacts. Believe it or not, dairy won’t kill every singer before a performance! It’s YOUR job as the professional musician to experiment and discover what foods will fuel you, versus what foods will hinder your instrument’s optimal performance–ideally, well before the big moment.

The goal of this compilation of “mini-interviews” is to give operathletes some pre-performance meal inspiration. One thing that struck me about every response is the presence of whole, home-cooked, healthy foods. Nowhere in sight is there a Whopper with a side of fries, or fried chicken with a slice of pecan pie! Although unhealthier choices are immediately rewarding to our tastebuds, they lack the power that whole foods have to truly fuel a performance. So channel your inner chef, and come up with a deliciously simple meal with balanced portions of macronutrients that will get you through an opera–and the after-party! 😉


Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.05.16 PM

LISETTE OROPESA, SOPRANO

“My favorite pre-performance meal is a large green salad that has young spring greens or spinach and arugula, kale, or whatever leafies are on hand.  Then I massage with a ripe avocado for that creamy goodness without the added oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt to help soften the greens, and then add my favorite toppings: cranberries, walnuts, and some spiralized zucchini, baby tomatoes, and the star ingredient, quinoa!!

This is a great, fresh, cooling meal that gives long lasting energy and some protein, but not so much that you feel heavy.  It can be enjoyed with sprouted quinoa for an excellent fully raw alternative.  

If you need a mid-performance snack, or a pick me up, I like a few slices of pineapple.  Does me great!”


Howard2-1

KIRSTIN CHÁVEZ, MEZZO SOPRANO

For my favorite pre-performance meal, I like to have a healthy dose of protein and fiber and a bit of carbs.  Because I am a vegetarian, I lean towards eggs! So, I usually prepare 3 eggs, either fried or scrambled, with a big pile of sautéed mixed vegetables, including broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrot and mushroom, seasoned with a bit of vegetarian bullion powder or herbs and spices. I usually mix in a bit of cheddar or mozzarella, and I will enjoy this with gluten free crackers or bread, a few olives, and a handful of mixed nuts. I like to eat this meal about four hours before curtain so that my stomach is relatively empty and settled by the time I get ready to sing. As an energy booster, I will have green tea with Matcha powder between my meal and curtain. During the intermission, I like to enjoy a couple spoonfuls of Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter!!


Zachary James, bass

ZACHARY JAMES, BASS

Three to four hours before I sing, I prepare ground turkey and peas sautéed in a little bit of olive oil with light salt and pepper.”

.
.
.
.
.
.
.


ashaASHA CARROLL, SOPRANO & CAKE IN A CRATE CO-FOUNDER

They say Pavarotti ate a big plate of pasta prior to every opera he sang. My take is a bit more health-conscious, but just as satisfying. It’s a big energy booster that gets me ready for anything: spiralized veggie noodles with a rich avocado pesto sauce. The meal requires about 15 minutes prep time, but it travels well and tastes great served hot or cold. I follow that up with apple slices and a big spoonful of almond butter, which makes for a great snack in between scenes. No sugar crash, no tummy troubles. Just good carbs, good fats, and veggie-based energy to last you through even the most demanding performance.”


Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 7.36.25 PM

JOYCE EL-KHOURY, SOPRANO

“[My pre-performance meal is] usually pasta, with chicken, mushrooms, and usually whatever veggies are on hand. I usually prefer red peppers, or peas. We use a cream/white wine sauce. Perfect for preventing reflux caused by red sauces.

I always eat pasta before a performance, and I add on fruit, and tons of water. And coffee….lots of it.”

.


Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.12.16 PMDAWN PIERCE, MEZZO SOPRANOOPERATHLETIC EXPERT PANELIST

“My pre-performance meal consists of low acid protein and carbs. I usually go for a chicken breast and plain whole wheat pasta or a potato with green beans or carrots. If it is a matinee, I like eggs and whole wheat toast. Usually I like to drink water and apple juice. I keep it very simple on performance day (which is unlike me on a normal day).”

.
.
.
.
.
.


Photo by Arielle Doneson

MICHAEL FABIANO, TENOR

“Chicken breast and legs (12 oz)
Two handful mushrooms
Two shallots
Thyme
Herbs de Provence
Bay leaf
White wine (6 oz or just pour it on)
Butter (sufficient)
Teaspoon Dijon
Teaspoon honey
Sea salt 

Cook the above ingredients in large pan 

Mashed sweet potatoes with butter and salt
Lots of broccoli with lemon
Pan fried Brussel sprouts with olive oil and pancetta, well cooked
1 liter water
A big nice coffee 

During the show:
Banana, apple, and almonds

Easy peasy”


Jennifer FleischerJENNIFER FLEISCHER, CERTIFIED NUTRITIONIST & OPERATHLETIC EXPERT PANELIST

“I like to keep my nutrition and macro nutrients as balanced as possible during the day by fueling my body every 3 hours, therefore I don’t necessarily have a specific pre- or post-performance meal. However, a typical meal before a heavy or long workout would be a smoothie with whey protein (slow releasing), casein protein (fast releasing) about 3oz of fruit and 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter. I like the two types of protein so my muscles are fueled immediately and for the entire length of the workout. And even though I keep my eyes on the clock to make sure I am prepared for my next meal, my body often tells me exactly when it’s time to re-fuel. I will grab real food like chicken breast, a small apple and a handful of almonds.”


With love,

Kendra Signature with Photo

Deficit Dieting Myth: Breaking the Yo-Yo Cycle

Today I would like to share with you one of my most powerful lessons. This information encourages JFW clients & OPERATHLETIC readers to make positive changes forever so that they can experience life long wellness and finally start living the life that is waiting for them.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.46.32 PM

This myth shines a light on the critical part nutrition plays in fitness. It addresses a popular fitness based philosophy that is, or once was, taught in almost every gym. The fitness audience will immediately recognize this dieting method and will be intrigued about the consequences of muscle and energy loss. Plus, teaching balanced eating is the perfect way to achieve a super lean and strong body poised for performances and strength & cardiovascular workouts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.56.33 PMFor years I believed what I read in magazines and was taught by fitness pros:

  • Work out longer, Eat minimally
  • Burn more than you consume
  • Create a calorie deficit
  • For every 3500 calories of deficit you will lose 1 pound

So for years, this was how I tried to lose weight. But eventually I would always gain the weight back AND SOME. Then, when I once again hit a breaking point with my weight I would start deficit dieting again. And once again, this method would fail me. This yo-yo pattern continued until I studied physiology and nutrition. Only then did I learn why it is scientifically impossible to find an optimal weight and peak fitness using deprivation and restriction.

Nothing in life has a quick fix or can run in deficit. I sure know my checking account or training can’t! What made me think that my nutrition could? Our bodies deserve better. And what do our bodies ultimately want? What every hormone, organ and function of your body is doing right now…

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.56.44 PM

Deficit dieting is just the opposite…unbalanced nutrition and fitness. This in turn forces our body to replenish the balance internally for energy to return to homeostasis.

The fact is that deficits create unstable blood sugar which makes the body to go into emergency mode and respond with a low blood sugar response. This response includes the pancreatic release of the hormone glucagon which tells the body to burn muscle for energy, hold onto fat and increase food cravings.

The deficit dieting misconception often lies in the thought that our bodies will solely burn fat for energy in times of deprivation. However, science tells us differently. Stored body fat cannot be converted into glucose so the body attacks the muscle to produce glucose for energy. Simply, the muscle breakdown provides amino acids which our body converts to glucose (sugar) to supply the body with ATP (energy).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.41.54 PM
Losing muscle reduces our metabolism which will always work against our weight loss and strength goals. Catabolizing muscle sacrifices the precious time we spend in the gym, deprives us of ideal muscle strength and could be one of the reasons some don’t yield optimal results even after repeated, intense workouts.

To once again, use me as an example, this is why when I returned to normal, non-restrictive eating after a deficit, the reduced metabolism made me look ‘softer’ and forced me to gain weight back plus pack on a few additional pounds. I’m eating what I ate before but now also have a slower metabolism. And the fact is that we will always return to our normal eating because all deficits need to be filled, hunger (depriving ourselves of food or food groups) is not sustainable long term and our body releases hormones (ghrelin) to signal stronger hunger. This is the scientific evidence behind Yo-Yo Dieting.

Fitness At HomeSo what can we do to promote a lean, strong, healthy body? We will greatly be rewarded with optimal weight, faster times and stronger bodies if we can create homeostasis externally by eating to stabilize our blood sugar. This is accomplished by eating a sensible portion of your macronutrients every 3-4 hours. Simply, eat 3 to 5 ounces of some protein, 3 to 5 ounces of a carb and around 7g to 10g of healthy fat every 3 hours. An example would be grilled chicken, apple and peanut butter. Or a perfectly balanced protein shake. The perfect way to always be fueled for a performance or a workout.

This effective and healthy way of eating, that is based in physiological evidence, will drive you to achieve your weight and fitness goals. The compounding effect of this lifestyle radiates throughout the body, brings each system of the body in balance and creates internal and external harmony. To liberate your mind, make best use of your energy and create a stellar strong, lean body, say GOODBYE to deficit and HELLO to creating a healthy, smart partnership with food.

For more information, a free video or to get your pass to becoming a JFW RockStar, check out: www.JenniferFleischerWellness.com


Keep Rockin!

Jennifer Signature

YOU AND IMPROVED: Finding the Perfect Gown

Rather than writing a how-to article on how to find the perfect dress, I’ve decided to feature some of my favorite stylish divas from Opera Diva Dress Collection who embody OPERATHLETIC’s motto, “Opera Singers are Vocal Athletes.”

These three beauties are also interested in how their health and psyche affect them on and off the stage!

– By Suzanne Vinnik, Founder of the Opera Diva Dress Collection


 

OPERATHLETIC is thrilled to have Suzanne Vinnik, Founder of the Opera Diva Dress Collection, contribute to the blog! Her passion for all things opera and fashion is absolutely contagious.  Ms. Vinnik interviewed three diva-licious ladies about how they navigate the dress racks to find the perfect gown for their performances, as well as how they stay healthy while on the road.  Thank you, Suzanne, Jessica, Karolina & Chelsea for being a part of OPERATHLETIC!

With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo


 JESSICA CATES

Holistic-Gown Hoarding-Southern Belle

In addition to her lovely voice, Jessica has some of the greatest petite gowns (size 2 to 6), is an Arbonne consultant, and is pursuing training at The Academy of Healing Nutrition to become certified in integrative healing and nutrition. The program is an overall look into food energies, healing with food and herbs, and a variety of mind and body healing practices. When she finishes she’ll be able to take on clients as a Wellness Coach. This spring, she is also going to get her personal training license.

IMG_2325
Photo by Suzanne Vinnik

What do you look for when you are buying a gown?

Obviously it depends on the type of event.  Most of the time, I find gowns when I am not searching for them.  I enjoy being able to find a good deal, and a good fit on my own time.  Nothing is more stressful than needing a particular type of gown and having to scour New York City for a particular idea in your head.  Any time I’m in a discount store, I always check their formal sale racks.  If I have a gig approaching where a Glitz & Glam gown is required, I will hit up the fashion district, or independent dress shops (usually wedding dress stores).  These are the places that don’t always have a gown to fit, but a good deal will allow me to pay for alterations.  There are also plenty of formals to be found buried in consignment shops (not just in NYC!).

How did you come to embrace your body?

I did not begin to fully embrace my body until sometime in my late twenties, a year or two after moving to Washington Heights.  Growing up in the south with a “round asset” as a child, earned me a lot of names, and bullying (as early as 1st and 2nd grade).  My mother said I used to look like a “toothpick with an olive out the back.” I remember the first time a boy told me he really liked my big, bubble butt. I was shocked.  Even through adolescence, and being known as the white girl with a bootie, I still dressed to conceal it at all costs.  Anything that flattered, rather than accentuated my backside.  Even as a performer, I always chose concert and audition attire that hid my curves below the waist.  It wasn’t until I embraced myself in the culture in uptown Manhattan, that I truly accepted my body type.  No, it was not the cat calling that made me more comfortable with revealing a big butt, rather, watching how beautiful, curvy Hispanic women carried and dressed themselves.  Their confidence was inspiring.  Add that to a time when big butts are viewed as desirable (or as my friend Cathleen says, currency), and I came to accept, and eventually accentuate, my “greatest asset.”

Jessica Cates Gown 2
Photo by Suzanne Vinnik

Do you ever have to alter your items? Where do you go and what do you have done to them? Tell us your secrets!

I have also embraced the fact, that I cannot always buy stuff to fit off of the rack.  It is OKAY to spend money on alterations.  This goes for street clothes too!  Down on Orchard Street is a little gem of a dress shop, with a woman with an eye for fitting women.  I have trusted her with altering her own dresses, as well as bringing her outside gowns.  I am also not afraid of the local dry cleaners & alterations.  I was in a bind last year to have a semi-formal dress altered, and the seamstress at my dry cleaners was very skilled in her ability to deal with fitting me into a dress.

Many times I have the waist of skirts and pants taken in to fit my hips/butt to waist ratio (because no one really makes anything for a 26″ waist and a 40″ bubble butt).  With short legs, I am no stranger to finding the perfect pair of jeans and knowing I’ll have to have them hemmed – I have even learned how to do this myself from my own mother.  Ordering dresses blindly online, to hand me downs, to losing a lot of weight in 2006, to buying sample dresses, I have had many seamstresses take in dresses to fit my body.  Having a thin torso and round butt (measurements 32″-26″-40″), I have had so many dresses taken in at the bust, the waist, and had to be let out around the butt and hips, and then always hemmed (to avoid wearing 6″ heels).

Jessica Cates Gown 1
Photo by Suzanne Vinnik

In this new phase of your life what are your goals?

I want to bring wellness to the singer community and educate singers on how to take care of and maintain a healthy instrument from a holistic perspective.  My dream is to open a wellness center particularly for singers with other classically trained vocalists who understand how to heal a musical instrument, not just a body!

Since you are selling beauty from the inside out… What are your favorite products that you live by to look your best on and offstage?

Last year a friend of mine introduced me to a new product she was selling: Arbonne.  I had no interest.  Fast-forward to earlier this year when I became a consultant. Arbonne products changed my skin like nothing I have ever used, and I will never use anything else.  Their skincare, hair care, and TRULY amazing cosmetics, have cleared up my skin, and I kid you not, I receive compliments almost daily about my skin and makeup.

Being a conscious consumer (aware of what I purchase to put in and on my body) I now make sure that the beauty products I purchase are free of parabens, phthalates, and certified vegan (no animal testing).

Other products I recommend are Arbonne primer and liquid foundation, hairspray (dont skimp on price and Arbonnes brand is great), and Spanx! 

 


KAROLINA PILOU
“A Statuesque Mezzo with a Massive, Sinfully Rich Voice”

The NEW YORK OBSERVER, put it best… Karolina is “A statuesque mezzo with a massive, sinfully rich voice.” I first encountered this Greek Goddess of Style at Mannes College of Music where she literally blew my socks off in a master class and I secretly envied her wardrobe!

IMG_2128
Photo by Suzanne Vinnik

What factors do you consider when designing custom clothes for auditions and concerts?

Even though the dream to expand is undeniable …so far I have only designed for myself, which means my first consideration is that the garment truly compliments my curves. I know my body well, so I recognize my “ problem ” spots, my assets, which shapes work for me or not and how to balance things out in order to create the figure I like on me. Then there is the issue of fabric in terms of travel. A gown or cocktail dress that is beautiful, but creases very easily and requires 40 minutes of steam to get back in shape is useless for an opera singer!

Another important element is uniqueness. Since I am designing and having it custom made, I can indulge in putting my mark on it and not looking like a bridesmaid from the rack. I personally love vintage fashion inspired looks, so that usually comes through in the design. Last but not least … Color! Not so much for concerts, but for auditions, for me this is imperative. We often wonder how boring it must be for an audition panel to sit through and listen to so many singers per day, but what about the visual aspects?  I am certain people who hear auditions get sick of the little black dress and more to the point if you wear something un-original, you make it even harder for them to remember you. I love entering an audition room and immediately getting a compliment on the color of my dress!

Where do you shop or have items created?

I consider myself very lucky to live at a time when there are so many brands and shops for plus size people, so I fortunately can get a lot of great items online. That is such a convenience especially since I am not a fan of hectic, in-store shopping. I especially love ‘’ simplyBe ” a UK online store.  However, when it comes to gowns the options are more limited for me because even though there are plenty of nice plus size gowns, to find one that is also made with a 6’1″ tall woman in mind is extremely hard. And then the two to three gowns that fit both these criteria end up being worn by every single tall and plus size opera singer around, which makes it not ideal.

That pushed me to create my own clothes. I have only worked with Jenny Couture in NY so far and loved it! I have a very clear idea of what I want and can design it, but I can’t sew to save my life, so it is great to have someone like Jenny who does couture and designs, to not only lend her expertise but also to be happy to work with my designs. It is co-creating in a way.

IMG_2264
Photo by Suzanne Vinnik

How did you find Jenny Couture? Can you provide contact details? 

I was so very lucky! I found out about Jenny through a basic yelp search. She had great reviews from users who looked rather stylish, so I made an appointment mainly to look around. I loved the pieces I saw in her studio, so that was that. I believe that her website is still under construction, but her phone number is +1 (212) 997 4102.

Where do you find fabrics?

That’s another thing that Jenny does for me. I tell her what I am looking for in terms of “wearability” and finish and she suggests a few fabrics that would work, shows me samples, we decide and then she buys it for me. Something I figured out since I started designing my dresses back in London is that it is more economical to have the designer or seamstress buy the fabric, as they usually get discounts, because they buy from certain stores frequently and in bulk!

What is the value of making items for you?

I would say each dress runs about $500-$1000. It mainly depends on how luxurious the fabric you choose and how much of it the design requires. It’s not cheap, but it is a matter of priorities. I would rather have only a few, great quality, unique dresses that fit me beautifully (especially important for a 6’1″ plus size singer!) that I can wear for years and slowly build on that collection, than to have many cheaper dresses that don’t fit right or that everyone else is wearing. So for me it is worth the investment. But I understand that it’s not for everyone.

Where do you get your confidence as a performer? You have nerves of steel to sing your repertoire!

To be fair, I have not yet sung the hardest roles for my voice (The Ortruds etc.). I don’t know that I have nerves of steel, but I recently discovered that the only way for me to get through repertoire like this is sharp mental focus while staying calm and trusting my technique. Trusting that I know exactly how to get through the various difficult phrases and simply performing the technical tasks as practiced, without listening or reacting to my sound is what keeps me going.

Have you ever been insecure and how were you able to overcome it?

Most definitely, yes! Perhaps surprisingly for some, despite my size, I have always been confident in most aspects of my life that I can think of. With one exception: singing. Singing was for the many years something like a thorn for me. I was convinced that I would never manage to refine my technique and consequently would not have an operatic career. I tried very hard to change my mindset and to consciously redirect any negative thoughts into a more positive “I can and I will “ mode. Meanwhile, I also took the steps required to fix my technical issues, changed teachers and continued working really hard on my voice. So eventually the two came together: I started singing much better and getting more work, which as a result boosted my confidence and helped me get over my insecurity. It became apparent that what I was doing was indeed working out for me and that the old insecurity (as with most insecurities) was not based on true facts, but rather fear and a distorted image of how I was supposed to be, how I was supposed to sound and by when things should happen for me technically (vocally) and career-wise.

IMG_2129
Photo by Suzanne Vinnik

Has there been a specific moment where you knew you were over the old insecurity?

I had a pretty defining moment this past summer. I was singing some management auditions and in one of them they told me that even though they were impressed and thought I was ready for a career, because of my weight and height they didn’t think that I would get cast in the smaller starting roles that everyone has to go through before getting a big break. They were honestly very gentle and almost kind in saying this to me and kept reiterating that I shouldn’t be upset about this because they really liked my singing. My response was something along the lines of “No problem at all, I am very grateful that you are being honest and I understand your concerns. But I have faith that wonderful things are about to happen for me and truly they already have started happening, it is now palpable. I know that I will sing, so please don’t worry…I am not disappointed. You just won’t be the person who got me there and that is totally fine “. We parted ways very warmly. Then later on I remember feeling so shocked that not only this person’s “rejection” had not upset me, but that I also had the confidence to respond and make it known that there were no insecurities being triggered from this interaction. It was a pretty wonderful feeling.

What are your other hobbies besides singing and designing beautiful clothing?

I read a lot and I am very much interested in art film (with a soft spot for European films). But my big love is dancing! I enjoy Ballroom, Latin, and samba to belly dancing. It is a good way to exercise, but mainly to connect mind and body. When dancing starts, all worries are left behind.

 What is your dream role?

You know that it is cruel to ask a singer to pick just one role! Even though I have already sung Azucena (Il Trovatore) and Zita (Gianni Schicchi) I cannot leave them out, because I could sing them forever and ever and be ecstatic every time. From those I haven’t performed yet, hands down…Klytaemnestra (Elektra)!

 


CHELSEA COYNE
“Siren of the Sea”

“Siren of the sea”… Chelsea currently headlines exclusively on The Regal Princess line. We bonded over our love for sequins, fake hair pieces and singing a production of Carmen in a pile of dirt during our undergraduate studies at Texas Christian University.

Photo Courtesy of the Artist


How do you find dresses?

I’d consider myself an athletic build; I have really broad muscular shoulders, big muscular arms, a larger ribcage and a tiny waist so it is difficult to fit my body if there are straps because it pinches under the armpit area. I usually get bigger sizes and then take them in if there is something that I really like. I find that strapless dresses are easier to fit with my body type. Sleeves are always too tight on me…. The struggle is real.

Where do you get your alterations?

Mom’s Alterations in Arlington, Texas! Since we discovered this place in college, I still go there for all of my altering needs. I really do! It’s so inexpensive and she does an awesome job. On the ship a lot of the costumes are provided for the productions but if it is my personal show, I’ll bring 2-3 along with me.

What is your routine at sea?

I like to work out 6 days a week with one day to rest! There is a gym and they offer class everyday. I’m in better shape at sea! Ideally, I do 30 minutes of cardio and one hour of strength training. I’m an advocate of weight lifting. Many singers shy away from it because they think it will make you tense but if you breathe correctly while doing weights it actually makes you stronger and improves your singing! I think I am a better singer because I’m physically stronger. My support is so much better than it used to be!

IMG_6226_2
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

How do you stay healthy at sea?

I am a Young Living distributor because I travel so much. I’m flying, staying in hotels and on the ship. These places are a breeding ground for germs. I’m getting paid to sing for a show and at sea… if you are sick there it is difficult to get better.

I have a travel diffuser that I take everywhere with me! It makes my room smell great and makes me feel more at home because it is often very lonely! There are so many wellness benefits to the oil. You can contact me via my website www.oilyhour.com to purchase and for more information on how these products have kept me medicine free since June!

 As a singer what is your favorite oil product?

I love diffusing peppermint in the bathroom to open my sinuses before singing. It gets all the junk out!

There are also nutritional drinks and bars I’ll eat and drink because I have to avoid temptation of the really incredible food offered on the ship! I’ll eat my bar and stay in my room.

DSC_5847
Photo Courtesy of the Artist

How many gowns do you travel with?

When I am at sea, I usually bring three gowns. I probably only need one because my other costume is provided. There are formal nights—you can’t wear the same thing twice! I usually bring nicer cocktail dresses as well that could double for my show if I need them as a back up. I ALWAYS pack my main gown in my carry on and bring a backup because you just never know what will happen at sea!


IN CONCLUSION…

Opera Diva Dress Collection has so many talented, creative and entrepreneurial divas with unique style. I always look within the group before I go out and buy things and hope our 4,600+ members do as well. I’ve tried to make this group a place where we can support one another mentally, emotionally and financially. If we all work together and share our information, I believe we can change the arts from within and of course make some extra coins!

If you haven’t been on recently, please check out the latest items for sale, and rent. Interesting threads are provided by YOU, OUR MEMBERS! If you aren’t a member, I look forward to personally accepting you into the group!


Embrace your inner diva!
Suzanne Vinnik

 

 

Could You Have Muscular Tension Dysphonia?

[Editor’s note] Today’s post is contributed by one of our three amazing expert panelists, Julian Rivera!  With a truly impressive wealth of knowledge in the health, fitness, and medical fields, Dr. Rivera is an asset to the OPERATHLETIC team. Learn more about Julian by reading his bio page here.

I want to welcome you all to OPERATHLETIC and to my first post. Today, I will be writing about Muscular Tension Dysphonia (MTD). My main goal overall is to bring awareness, synthesize the current available research articles, and provide you with a cohesive, down-to-earth understanding of this very common issue that plagues many individuals from non-professional to professional singers.

In general, we take our voice for granted. The voice is a beautiful instrument that is completely unique in each individual person. No one voice is the same, but we all possess three main components that allow us to speak: sound activation, a vibrator for desired frequencies, and a resonator for sound uniqueness.1 Even though we all possess these three components, voice production entails a precise interaction between many different systems in our body. If any one of these variables is out of place, it can then effect phonation, which can lead to MTD.


What is MTD?

Muscular Tension Dysphonia, also known as hyperfunctional dysphonia, is a voice disorder caused by repeated contraction of one’s throat musculature due to overuse or improper use.2 This simply means that the once in sync muscles that help create voice production are now out of sync, which places great unnecessary stress on one’s voice. The subjective symptoms of MTD can include strained or effortful voice quality, aberrant pitch, breathiness, and vocal fatigue.3 Some physiologic features can include elevated hyolaryngeal position, decreased space between hyoid and larynx, and increase throat musculature tightness.3


Doctor - Young female doctor or ENT specialist - with a patient

Treatment options

Now, how do you fix it? If you feel like you have MTD, I recommend that you seek professional assistance either via an ear, nose, and throat specialist, speech pathologist, physical therapist that specializes in neck and throat musculature, or a voice specialist. There are many different causes of MTD, some of which that are physical, neurological, psychological, extrinsic, or intrinsic. Hence why it is important for one to seek a professional opinion to rule out other pathologies and to find the site of the problem. Following that disclaimer, for simplicity purposes, I will focus on explaining self-treatment for general throat musculature tightness.

There are two main methods to self-treat MTD, either directly or indirectly. Direct treatment includes postural education, breathing, and/or soft tissue massage.4 For postural education, one should work on having relaxed shoulders and ensure that their head is in line with their shoulders to prevent a forward head posture. As for breathing, the singer should ensure that they have a relaxed diaphragm to allow proper lowering of the diaphragm. During proper breathing, one’s shoulders should not rise during each inspiration. Lastly, for soft tissue massage, try to focus on tender spots within the neck region. While starting the massage, first apply a small amount of lotion to decrease friction. Start softly and superficially and progress with depth, pressure, and duration. While performing the massage, try sustaining vowels or a hum because you may be able to notice a positive change in vocal quality.4 Remember this is not a quick fix, and that improvement will be noticed via vocal quality and reduction in pain.

Indirect treatment includes singer education and vocal hygiene, which fall hand in hand with each other.4 As a singer, it is important to take care of your instrument and understand what helps as well as what hurts your voice. There are three subgroups for indirect therapy:

  1. Environmental – avoid speaking with a lot of background noise;
  2. Vocal use – avoid yelling, screaming, or shouting, and
  3. Personal behavior – avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoke, and any foods that cause acid reflux.4

Again, if you feel as though you have MTD, talk to your medical provider for more specific medical advice and treatment. Although this article includes a very simplified definition and self-treatment plan for Muscular Tension Dysphonia, it is my hope is that this post will bring further awareness to MTD and increase the standard of care for singers.


Sing with heart,
Julian Signature

References:

1 Benninger MS. The professional voice. J Laryngol Otol. 2011;125:111-116.

2 Liang F, Yang J, Mei X, et al. The vocal aerodynamic change in female patients with muscular tension dysphonia after voice training. J Voice. 2014;28(3):393.e7-393.e10.

3 Lowell SY, Kelley RT, Colton RH, Smith PB, Portnoy JE. Position of the hyoid and larynx in people with muscle tension dysphonia. 2012;122:370-377.

4 Van Houtte E, Van Lierde K, Claeys S. Pathophysiology and treatment of muscle tension dysphonia: a review of the current knowledge. J Voice. 2011;25(2):202-207.

 

 

The 15 most powerful, healing and fat loss herbs

Spice Title

images-1

[Editor’s note] Today’s post is contributed by one of our three fabulous expert panelists, Jennifer Fleischer!  With a contagious vigor for life and an incredible wealth of knowledge, Jennifer Fleischer is truly a “rock star.” Learn more about Jenn by reading her bio page here at OPERATHLETIC, or by visiting http://jenniferfleischerwellness.com.

Here is my list of the top 15 herbs and 1 plant that can promote health and fat loss!

1. BASIL:

Basil is an herbal carminative, that is, it can relieve gas and soothe stomach upsets. One possible explanation for its calming effect is a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to help ease muscle spasms. Research is still preliminary, but laboratory studies also suggest that compounds found in basil may help disrupt the dangerous chain of events that can lead to the development of cancer.

2. CAYENNE:

Cayenne pepper is a hot red powder made from tropical chili peppers. It contains alkaloid capsaicin, which relieves pain by blocking the chemicals that send pain messages to the brain. If you eat cayenne at the first sign of any type of headache, with plenty of water as a chaser, this spicy herb may be an effective alternative treatment. Added to food, cayenne perks up appetite, improves digestion and relieves gas, nausea, and indigestion. The herb also thins phlegm and eases its passage from the lungs, thus helping to prevent and treat coughs, colds and bronchitis.

3. CINNAMON:

Cinnamon bark contains an oily chemical called cinnamaldehyde that kills a variety of illness causing bacteria, including the dreaded E.coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureas. Research shows that cinnamon is also able to stop the growth of the Asian flu virus. Herbalists report that cinnamon bark also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and checks flooding during menopause. Also cinnamaldehyde has a tranquilizing effect that helps reduce anxiety and stress.

4. CLOVE:

Oil of clove is 60 to 90 percent eugenol. A potent pain deadening antimicrobal. Clove has earned the official endorsement of the FDA as an effective stopgap measure for tooth pain. Clove is also among the spices that can help the body use insulin more effectively, thus lowering blood sugar somewhat. In one lab study, clove was also found to speed healing of the dreaded cold sores.

5. DILL:

Dill has been used to soothe the digestive tract and treat heartburn, colic and gas for thousands of years. In fact, the word dill comes from the Old Norse word dilla, meaning to lull or soothe. The herb has an anti-foaming action that suggests why it might help break up gas bubbles. Like parsley, dill is rich in chlorophyll, which also makes it useful in treating bad breath.

6. FENNEL:

Rich in volatile oils, fennel is what’s known as a carminative herb, meaning that it can ease bloating, gas pains, and digestive spasms in the small and large intestines. Fennel can also reduce bad breath and body odor that originates in the intestines. Women who are breastfeeding may find that fennel, which works in a way similar to the body’s hormones, increases milk flow.

7. GARLIC:

Intact garlic cloves contain an odorless, sulphur-containing amino acid called alliin. When the garlic is crushed, alliin becomes allicin. Research shows that allicin helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and also helps prevents blood clots. Garlic can also reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Compounds in this familiar bulb kill many organisms, including bacteria and viruses that cause earaches, flu and colds. Research indicates that garlic is also effective against digestive ailments and diarrhea. What’s more, further studies suggest that this common and familiar herb may help prevent the onset of cancers.

8. GINGER:

When it comes to quelling the queasiness of motion sickness, ginger has no equal say herbalists. In fact, researchers have demonstrated that ginger beats dimenhydrate, the main ingredient in motion sickness drugs such as Dramamine, for controlling symptoms of seasickness and motion sickness. Ginger stimulates saliva flow and digestive activity, settles the stomach, relieves vomiting, eases pain from gas and diarrhea, and is effective as an anti-nausea remedy. This aromatic herb also helps lower cholesterol. Herbalists have also found it to be useful as a pain reliever.

9. MINT:

Herbalists the world over use mint, as a premier stomach tonic, to counteract nausea and vomiting, promote digestion, calm stomach muscle spasms, relieve flatulence, and ease hiccups. Menthol, the aromatic oil in peppermint, also relaxes the airways and fights bacteria and viruses. Menthol interferes with the sensation from pain receptors, thus it may be useful in reducing headache pain. Scientific evidence suggests that peppermint can kill many kinds of micro-organisms, and may boost mental alertness. In one study, people who inhaled menthol said they felt as if it relieved their nasal congestion, although it didn’t increase their measurable air flow.

10. OREGANO:

Oregano contains at least four compounds that soothe coughs and 19 chemicals with antibacterial action that may help reduce body odor. The ingredients in oregano that soothe coughs may also help un-knot muscles in the digestive tract, making oregano a digestive aid. This familiar spice also contains compounds that can lower blood pressure too.

11. PARSLEY

Diuretic herbs such as parsley prevent problems such as kidney stones and bladder infections and keep our body’s plumbing running smoothly by causing it to produce more urine. They also relieve bloating during menstruation. Also there’s a reason for that parsley on the edge of the diner plate, its not just there for fancy decoration; it’s an effective breath freshener because it contains high levels of chlorophyll.

12. ROSEMARY:

Rosemary is one of the richer herbal sources of antioxidants, which have been shown to prevent cataracts, and contains 19 chemicals with antibacterial action that help fight infection. Traditionally used to ease asthma, this common culinary ingredient has volatile oils that can reduce the airway constriction induced by histamine, that chemical culprit of asthma and other allergy symptoms. Herbalists think that rosemary may also help ease breast pain by acting as a natural drying agent to fluid filled cysts.

13. SAGE:

The oils found in sage are both antiseptic and antibiotic, so it can help fight infections. Sage is effective for symptoms of menopause, night sweats and hot flashes, because of its estrogenic action and because its tannins can dry up perspiration. There’s also compelling evidence that sage may be of value to people with diabetes for whom the hormone insulin does not work as efficiently as it should. Lab studies indicate that sage may boost insulin’s action.

14. THYME:

Thyme contains thymol, which increases blood-flow to the skin. The warmth is comforting, and some herbalists believe that the increased blood-flow speeds healing. An anti- spasmodic. Thyme relaxes respiratory muscles and is endorsed for treating bronchitis by Commission E, the expert panel that judges the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicines for the German government. Aromatherapists say that thyme’s scent is a mood lifter.

15. TURMERIC:

Many clinical studies agree that curcumin in turmeric has anti-inflammatory effects, including a significant beneficial effect in relieving rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Curcumin, which gives this spice its familiar yellow pigment, may also lower cholesterol. Turmeric is also packed with antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, which have been shown to prevent cataracts.


ANOTHER PLANT THAT LOVES US…

PSYLLIUM:

Psyllium is a bulking agent that helps to reduce hunger and encourages the elimination of waste. When using psyllium, you must drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day or severe constipation will result. It can cause upset stomach, bloating, and gas. Pregnant women and asthmatics should not use psyllium at all.

To use:

Mix 1 teaspoon of psyllium powder into 2 cups of water or smoothie, twice a day.


Keep Rockin!
Jennifer Signature