A Healthy Freediving Diet
Instructor course handout
What is a healthy freediving diet?
Freediving is extremely stressful on the body and to combat the negative effects of this nutrition and diet are extremely important to aid the body in recovery. To quicken recovery time and return to your peak physically and mentally when training and in competition is essential to give you the best results. By choosing carefully what we eat and don’t eat can have a profound effect on how well we perform and how quickly we recover from freediving.
What to eat?
A balanced diet full of carbohydrates, protein and fresh vegetables and fruits and low in sugar and fat is essential for general health and wellbeing not just freediving.
Freedivers are athletes and just like top level athletes in any sport you need the right fuel for your body. Freediving burns a lot of calories so you need to be putting a lot back in.
Carbohydrates are great for freediving. Crabs are the main course of fuel for the body. Good carbs include brown rice, whole grain cereals, oats and vegetables such as sweet potatoes. These are digested more slowly and provide energy for longer than other carbs such as bread, pasta and white rice.
Protein is essential in everyday diet. While carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, protein plays an important part in the energy and muscle preservation needs for freedivers. Protein is mainly known for its role in the repair, maintenance, and growth of body tissues. “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training. Protein intake should be spaced throughout the day and after workouts”.
“Eating high-quality protein such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy or soy within two hours after exercise — either by itself or with a carbohydrate — enhances muscle repair and growth”. Protein can also be found in beans, lentils and chick peas. A quick and easy way to get enough protein in your diet is to take a protein powder supplement. There are many types including ones for people that don’t eat animals or animal products. These are made from Hemp and other vegetable proteins.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are just as important in your diet as carbohydrates and proteins. They contain a lot of the vitamins and minerals that you cannot get from carbs and protein.
Its recommended we eat 6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.
Vegetables contain many quality nutrients such as Iron, Vitamins a,c,b12 that are essential for freedivers. These vitamins and minerals help the immune system, create red blood cells that carry oxygen and boost energy. Types of vegetables particularly good for freedivers include green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, beetroots and sweet potato’s.
A lot of vegetables and fruit also contain high levels of Antioxidants. These are essential for freedivers as freediving is incredibly stressful on the body and creates molecules know as free radicals. When they accumulate they can cause oxidative stress to the body. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help increase your blood antioxidant levels to fight oxidative stress. Foods high in Antioxidants include Dark chocolate and berries such as blue berries and goji berries.
Keeping hydrated is very important for freediving. When freediving it is easy to become dehydrated through immersion diuresis, sweating and breathing in and out through the mouth. Dehydration can lead to impaired performance, headaches, cramp, decreased cognitive and muscle functioning, fatigue, and DCS.
It is recommended to drink before and after a dive session, and small amounts frequently during the dive session. The average person should drink a minimum of 2 liters of water per day. But when exercising, freediving or performing any strenuous activity we need to consume more. A general indicator of whether you are hydrated or not is by checking the colour of your urine. it should be a clear or pale yellow colour. This indicates you are hydrated. If it is dark yellow or brown you are dehydrated and need to drink more water. Sports drinks are good way to stay hydrated particularly after a dive session. Its advised you that you don’t drink too many as they normally contain a lot of sugar which will dehydrate you. Caffeine and alcohol are also substances that will have a dehydrating effect on your body. Its not recommended you drink these directly before or after a dive session.
Drinking water also helps with digestion of food. So its good to always have a glass of water with every meal.
Planning your meals around your dive session is very important. Its best to dive on an empty stomach because freediving will interfere with digestion. If you dive soon after eating this can cause stomach pain, indigestion, and reflux. You should eat a minimum 2-3 hours before you dive session. After a dive session its very important to eat and re-fuel your body. Taking foods high in protein and antioxidants after a dive session will quicken your recovery and lessen the effects of fatigue.
Some people who have food allergy’s or intolerances will need to be more careful with what they eat when freediving as some foods can make people produce mucous. Mucous is practically not good for freedivers as it can interfere with your ability to equalize when diving. Eating foods such as dairy products, Gluten and sugar should be avoided before diving. This doesn’t apply to everyone but if your not sure if it effects you its best not to eat them.
A good freediving diet should be full of natural healthy foods from the main food groups. Its important to have a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. This will give you all the Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need for good health and to help fuel you and recover during your freedive training.