by Στέφανος Τσαγγαρούλιας

What should I eat before diving?

The body should have as large amounts of energy storage as possible i.e. glycogen (within the liver and the muscles) in order for you to achieve better performance and endurance. This energy derives from carbohydrates. It is advisable, one day prior to your dive, to consume a meal rich in carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes) and protein free. Consuming high - protein meals compared with protein – rich meals causes higher body energy expenditure, thus requires using more oxygen (whose storing is necessary), which results in this high metabolic activity lasting longer. So the day before the dive you should have small and frequent meals rich in carbohydrates (cereal bars, crackers, juice, fruit, isotonic sport drinks, cereals) in between main meals consisting primarily of pasta. Supper should be small and digestible for a better night's sleep. Fluid intake should be increased on the day before the dive (3Lt) to achieve better hydration. It would be best to avoid alcohol consumption for it leads to dehydration. Athletes often avoid eating breakfast when the dive takes place early in the morning as solid foods may cause discomfort during the dive. An alternative solution is consuming carbohydrate – rich clear liquids such as low – fat milk, smoothie or juice that will engage the energy required during the dive.

What should I eat after diving?

The body needs nutritious foods for muscle recovery as well as energy storage refueling. This is necessary for not feeling exhaustion, weakness and for getting sufficient energy during the following day. To do so, it is required consuming a meal as soon as possible after the dive, when the body restores energy faster. It should better be an easy to carry, rich in carbohydrates meal containing proteins and good quality fats. Good choices after diving are, milk or low fat yogurt with honey and a handful of nuts, crackers, cereal bars and sandwiches. Afterwards it would be best for you to eat a meal every 2 hours, which will contain ingredients from multiple food groups, for a total of 6 hours after surfacing.

What should I eat in between dives?

During surface intervals athletes have a valuable opportunity to maintain good hydration, blood sugar levels and to provide carbohydrates to their body's working muscles, especially when diving in warm air temperatures with high humidity levels. It is advised to avoid exposure to the sun in order to prevent further loss of body fluids and electrolytes due to sweating. Drinks including carbohydrates and electrolytes will better meet your sustained intense activity needs compared to plain water. Moreover, fat or protein foods (e.g. Protein bars) have nothing to offer to the building muscle at this point. Solid foods that are rich in carbohydrates (banana, crackers, cereal bars) can be consumed in between sessions provided this time is enough for the food to be absorbed by the stomach, otherwise gastrointestinal disturbances may occur. The human body adapts to the slowly increasing amount of fluid intake with no gastrointestinal problems.

What fluids should I consume in order to keep my body fluid, electrolytes and glucose levels balanced?

Example: During sports that last for several hours, such as free diving and spearfishing, not only fluid and electrolyte loss through sweat occurs but high body energy expenditure too. Thus proper hydration is vital.

  1. 1-2 hours before activity 500mL carbohydrate solution 5-10% (500ml water with 2 tablespoons sugar or honey)
  2. 15-30 minutes before activity 300-500ml carbohydrate solution 5-10% (300ml water with 2 tablespoons sugar or honey)
  3. During exercise and per 10-15 minutes 180-240ml/ 5-10% carbohydrate solution (i.e. about 2 bottles of water 1,5 Lt each containing 5-6 tablespoons of sugar or honey should be consumed within four hours).
  4. Immediately after exercise, the body is in great need of carbohydrates (1kg. / kg. body weight) for recovery and glycogen synthesis. Foods can be either in liquid or solid form. A glass of milk or 1 cup of yogurt, 1 glass of fruit juice, 1 bowl of cereals or a sesame bun is considered to be good energy sources. A meal/ 2 hours for a total of six hours is recommended.
  5. During the activity, the body also needs sodium (salt), which is lost with perspiration. Isotonic drinks contain both sodium and carbohydrates. Another alternative is to add salt to your water (2.5 kg. / Lt) but the taste is not very preferable. Provided excessive amounts of water are consumed and your body levels are normal, generally no problems of hyponatremia may occur. For this reason a small increase in salt consumption a couple of days prior to the dive will help, especially when the climate is very hot and water consumption is high during the long hours of this activity.

In achieving better performance, it is essential to maintain normal fat and muscle mass body percentages, which can be accomplished with a balanced diet on a daily basis and regular physical exercise.

The aforementioned are general guidelines and each individual's needs should be taken into account separately.

Efi Grigoriou

Clinical Nutritionist - Dietician