In this blog we are going to talk about the diet that a diver should, or rather should follow, especially on a diving trip where they usually do several dives per day and several days in a row. What happens to our stomach in that process? Can we eat the same kind of food and above all, in the same quantities that we would do at home? The answer seems rather obvious.
As we have said before, on a diving trip we will dive more than once per day and also several days in a row. To to make matters worst, we will not sleep as much as we would need, especially if we are in a “life on board”. Therefore, we must be very careful with what we eat in order to not make our stomach work very hard, due to food binges may have bad consequences under water.
On the one hand, as it is well-known, the alcohol is out of the diver’s diet while we are on our dive trip. The main reason is dehydration, which is one of the diver’s biggest problems as far as nutrition is concerned. The body uses our water reserves to metabolize alcohol, so if we drink alcohol we are at risk of dehydration. Not to mention, the high risk of ethyl poisoning makes it advisable not to bend your elbow on a diving trip.
Basically, dehydration is one of the main problems we can have that’s why we must drink plenty of water before, between and after dives to avoid this. It goes without saying that, the water we drink should always be bottled or treated mineral water, otherwise we will visit the toilette more than desired. On top of that, we will also avoid excessive coffee consumption as this is diuretic and it could also lead us to dehydrate. We must as well, take into account that diving trips tend to be in warm places, which can increase our needs to hydrate often. Last but not least, we advise you not to drink to m much orange juice due to the fact that its acid can play tricks under the water. Above all, if we also combine orange juice with coffee and milk, the result can be spending the diving day sitting in the toilet and I don’t mean the famous ones of the Yolanda wreck….
On the other hand, the amount of calories and, therefore, of food that we should eat should be proportional to the calorie intake we have. Although each body is different and burns more or less calories depending on its metabolism. It is generally estimated that during a dive under normal conditions ,we will consume between 300 and 450 kcal if the dive lasts about an hour.
To start with, let’s talk about the most important meal of the day: the breakfast. Since in a “life on board” the breakfast is served after the first dive, that means that in our first dive of the day we will jump into the water with only a coffee/tea with a cookie in our stomach. As a result of nearly an hour of flapping like hell, and despite that we will get to the ship starving beware of not having a binge, because in an hour we will return to the water. For the sweet tooth, just to say that simple carbohydrates such as sweets, jams or honey are the least recommended because they can induce hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar). When this happens, there is a rapid increase in insulin secretion followed by subsequent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar and therefore energy), which could affect us during the dive. It is highly recommended to have a light breakfast without heavy fats and without acids, based on fruit, yogurt, cereals and even eggs. If you are one of those who get seasickness, add cheese and crackers as they help to absorb stomach acids that will make you feel better.
During the surface intervals, between dives, we recommend eating fruit, especially banana due to its high amount in potassium. This mineral is known for avoiding the feared ramps on your legs. In case that there aren’t bananas on board, do not get suprised for this fact because there is an ancient superstition among seamen that says that bananas bring bad luck.
At dinner time, we will continue with our light diet. In other words, avoiding saturated fats and acids that can give us stomach problems during the night. Bearing in mind that we may have to get up early for the first dive, and as we have said before, we will go with the stomach almost empty. Our piece of advise is that, if you are not going to dive until the next day you can make a moderate consumption of alcohol, for instance having a beer at dinner.
Conclusions on nutrition and diving.
During a diving trip, a diver’s main food should be carbohydrates, at a percentage of about 60% of the total diet. In order to reach that percentage in a balanced way, it would be better to opt for foods that contain slow digestion sugars. These types of sugars are found in pasta, bread, potatoes, rice, etc.
Some studies indicate that it does not appear that the intake of caffeine or capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) improves thermal protection under water.
There is another study that describes a possible relationship between high levels of total cholesterol and the propensity to form bubbles in our body. More studies are required in this regard, but the possibility of this being a real effect should encourage divers to maintain low cholesterol levels. If you are overweight and / or cholesterol, extending the safety stop to five minutes is highly advisable.
By Sergi Garcia CMAS 3* diver since 1994