14 Mar Diet for Freediving | Foods you Should be Eating
I’m gonna talk about diet for freediving. Now, full disclosure I am NOT a dietitian, I am not an expert in diet at all. All I’m gonna do is tell you what works for me in freediving, what works for me with my own competitions and competing. I’m gonna tell you what I eat, my logic, and my ideas behind my own diet and diet for freediving. So, well I’m not an expert, I suppose I’m just gonna give you insight into my own thoughts about it.
Check out the video below or continue reading on!
We’re gonna talk about stuff that you can do at home for your own diet and in the end of the video I’ll finish by talking about supplements, so if you are interested in supplementing your diet or supplementing in general for freediving make sure you watch it ‘till the end.
I use one main concept to govern the way I eat for freediving and that is to eat to match my body’s output. Eat enough food and eat the right kind of food to replenish and restore my body for the level of exercise and strain that I’m placing on it. How much food and what food is something that I discovered for myself over many years of trial and error, but I have also noticed that using the same food sources over and over again means that my body gets better at taking energy or taking what it needs from those specific food sources.
Now, really quick this eating for output thing does not mean you just eat everything that’s in sight or eat as much as you can, because digestion requires a lot of energy. If you’re eating or if you’re overeating or eating too much, then it will mean that your body will not have energy for recovery and to restore itself. Before I go through my own personal diet, let’s touch on a few very key points. It’s super important that you press the notifications button, don’t miss out on these videos. Everybody loves free information, so make sure you press the little bell button right next to the subscribe icon.
Okay, number one: Diving on an empty stomach. Is it best to eat before diving? How long should I eat before diving? What foods should I even eat before diving?
Yes! You need to eat before you dive. There are almost no high level freedivers that do not eat breakfast or do not eat before they dive. Some people do struggle to eat in the morning or they struggle to eat before they dive, but I really do suggest that you get past it. Because diving is taxing for your body and your body will need fuel to draw from, also low blood sugar will affect your body’s ability to hold its breath. FUN FACT: When I first started to freediving we thought it was best not to eat at all in the mornings before I dive, and over a period of maybe 4 or 6 weeks of training it was really normal for a diver to lose about 5-10 kilos it was really unhealthy. You need to eat. Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat Everything! EVERYTHING!
In my opinion that best thing to do is to eat a bowl of oats three hours before your dive session, you can eat other grains if you do like. But personally I prefer oats, they’re fast digesting and the energy release is very slow. Also because I’ve been eating them every morning for breakfast for years, I love oats. It does mean that my body has gotten good at using them for energy so that’s also a benefit. If you’d prefer to eat fruits, then have some fruits 45 minutes to an hour before you dive and if I could choose any fruit to be eating for breakfast before I dive, I would choose bananas, potassium.
Number two: Don’t eat a lot of fats.
In your bloodstreams fat molecules will actually bond with red blood cells more easily than an oxygen molecule can, so if you’re eating a lot of fats, your body is going to be carrying around a lot of fat molecules in your bloodstreams instead of oxygen. So, try not to eat a lot of bad fats, saturated fats, trans fats, healthy fats from things like avocado and nuts, those are great as long as it’s not done to excess .
And number three: Eat all of the iron, all of it.
Your body uses iron to create hemoglobin and hemoglobin is what makes the bond with the oxygen molecule on your red blood cell. Now, when you are training breath holds your body will use or put more stress or strain on hemoglobin than usual, and so your body will need more iron to keep creating and replenishing the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. So we need to make sure that we are keeping our iron levels up. When I’m diving intensively in the lead up to a competition or during a competition, I take one iron supplement pill every second day and that’s on top of eating a lot of iron-rich foods. Now, unless you’re training a lot or you’re training intensively, you will not need to do this. Men in general shouldn’t really be taking iron supplements unless you’ve been told to do so by a doctor or something along those lines or clear it with a doctor, it’s probably best not to do so, just eat alot of iron-rich foods.
Now this also doesn’t mean just eating lots of meat, there are actually a lot of very high performing vegan and vegetarian freedivers out there. I mean, I’m not one of them! But they’re out there. For example, Kate Middleton, who is one of the deepest female freedivers of all time, she dives to 97 metres. She’s actually gonna be teaching on the next deep week in April, so you can see her there if you’re coming . She’s a vegan, she just makes sure that she eat a lot of iron-rich food sources which in her case come from plants. I just feel like there are a lot of people out there that are preaching different kinds of diets or specific kinds of diet, and honestly I find it quite unethical only because I think the only universal truth that I have found in all my explorations of diet, is that different diet, different foods work for different people’s body and there’s no one size fits all. I’m also gonna include links in the description below to some other videos here on youtube that will give you a better idea of some of the key points I’ve been talking about. For example, good carbohydrate you could be eating, iron-rich food sources that you could try out, you know just things like that, things that I don’t have time to lump into this video.
So, if there are things that I’m not covering in this video, or things that I’ve gotten wrong feel free to let me know in the comments below. I am not a dietician. I am not a diet guru. I genuinely like to know if you have different opinion than I do because I learn more. So, in saying all of that, this is my own personal diet when I’m training, every morning for breakfast I have a big bowl of oats, berries, and honey. Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum It sounds yum but when you’ve been eating it everyday for five years, it’s not. Now, this is a big bowl of oats, I eat until I am completely full and actually if I do have things like cinnamon with me, I’ll put cinnamon in there as well because cinnamon acts as a digestive enzyme in your stomach and it helps you to digest that meal faster, so that’s a good thing to include.
So immediately after my training session or my dive session after that, I won’t drink a protein shake, a carbohydrate heavy protein shake. I personally prefer a plant-based protein over a whey protein, my body seems to deal with it better. I’m not lactose intolerant but I don’t deal with milk very well, my body doesn’t seem to like it. So, my body doesn’t really like whey protein. After I dive I’ll also eat something that is incredibly high in antioxidants, for example, berries. These antioxidants will help your body deal with all the free radicals that were created in your body during the stress of the dive and keep in mind, when I say stress I don’t mean stress in a bad way, I mean stress as in when you go for a walk you stress your body in to some extent, when you go for a run you stress your body, right? that’s how I mean stress.
Then for lunch I’ll have a huge meal of some good complex carbohydrates, protein, and some good fats. What carbohydrates? I think when I say carbohydrates people would tend to assume that I mean like whips or rice like grains, but personally I prefer to get my carbohydrates in the form of vegetables. I eat a lot of sweet potato, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, different kinds of root vegetable like beetroot, those are the kind of carbohydrates that my body just loves. What proteins? I eat a lot of eggs, I mean I eat a lot of eggs, my body loves eggs. Eggs and fish, I do also eat red meat, but personally I do prefer to get the majority of my protein through eggs and fish and I do mean chicken eggs.
So, what fats? So pretty much, I’ll try to have some avocados with like all of my meals but if I don’t have avocado on hand, I’ll have a handful of mixed nuts or some chia seeds, there’s also some really good fats in chia seeds. I always travel with chia seeds actually, I find them to be really great , like versatile food source in general. Now, obviously there are also fats in meat and in eggs as well, right? So, you know these categories bleed over into each other, they’re not very definitive but they are just sort of setup to give you an idea. Now, after that post-sort-of-workout lunch meal, I will snack on fruit throughout the day to keep those fast digesting sugars going through my body to keep my energy levels high, especially so I have some energy later on the afternoon to do another workout. And then after that my dinner would be quite similar, you know a big, big plate of some good complex carbs, protein, and some fats. And like if I had some sweet potato for lunch, I’ll mix it up and I’ll have rice for dinner or something else for dinner, do you know what I mean? Just to keep life interesting so I don’t go crazy. And in amongst all of these little schedule meals is time and space for chocolate, because if you deny yourself chocolates I promise you that you’re gonna crack one day and you’re gonna just binge.
So always give yourself some room for treats. So much of my own dietary knowledge has really just come from trial and error over the years, trying different things, seeing what feels good, but one person who I’ve learnt a lot from is Dean Chaouche. He is a British freediver who hold the record for no fins, I’ve trained with him a lot over the years and learned a lot about diet from him.
So, what should you be doing with your diet? Well, experiment. Try different food sources, see what your body likes, see what you perform best on. I will say that an overwhelming amount of the world’s top freedivers have oats for their breakfast, so it’s a pretty good place to start then just make sure that you are eating straight away after your workout, after your training, after your dive. It’s super important to give your body the fuel it needs to recover as quickly as possible after stressing it. Play with what proportions of carbohydrates, protein, and fats that you’re eating, find out what works the best for you.
A lot of my friends eat a lot more protein, for example, than I will. I’m a carbohydrate machine, I’m a sugar machine, my meal breakdown is kind of like 65% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and about 10% fats. And I think that’s a pretty good baseline for you to try. Now because we don’t move around a lot when we’re freediving, I think it’s really natural to assume that the dives are not demanding a lot from the body. But dives are really taxing, dives are very demanding and you do need to make sure that you replenished and refuel your body as well as you can. You will find that taking care of your diet will improve your actual performance over a training period and stay away from foods that stimulate mucus production, nobody needs extra mucus when they’re diving. Stay away from fatty foods, sugary foods, lactose, if you are lactose intolerant which is most of the world is, stay away from those food sources because it’s just gonna stimulate mucus production. Animal products, all animal products will increase mucus production. Alcohol! Alcohol will dramatically increase mucus production, don’t drink alcohol.
Now, I know that a lot of the people that are watching this video are spearers, people who spearfish, and most of the time spearers will either go diving all day off shore or they’ll hop on a boat for the day and just go diving, a whole day of diving with this spearing all day. All I can say is that, if you eat fruit all day especially fruits that is rich in electrolytes, you will stay more hydrated and you’ll be less prone to cramps.
Okay, let’s talk about supplements. I take supplements. I take some supplements to increase my performance and I take some supplements to maintain my vitamin and mineral levels while I’m training and just for general health. To increase my performance I take protein, creatine, and amino acids. I’m not gonna talk about which types of proteins to weight out the pros and the cons of protein sources of different brands of protein, but I have a high carbohydrate protein shake after every workout and after every dive. Let me clarify, after every dive session not after every individual dive when I’m out there in the water.
Protein helps my body to recover so that I can train more, it also stops me from losing weight because most of the time I’m not able to just eat a huge meal straight after my dive. So it is really good to get proteins and carbohydrates in my system so I’ll maintain my weight and my muscle mass. Before I dive I take creatine monohydrate. There are two main types of creatine: creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester. There’s a lot of debate and discussion about which one is better and the pros and cons; personally I’ve tried them both in different training cycles and I found that creatine monohydrate is best for me; I noticed the genuine improvement when I take it.
Now both before or after a dive or workout, I’ll take branched chain amino acids. Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs do a whole lot in the body, and instead of me just giving a really poor explanation of it right now; I’m gonna link to a video in the description below and you can check that out if you’re interested. But they do a whole lot in the body for performance and recovery. Besides that you’re gonna want to make sure that your iron levels are always super high. But you are gonna want to be really careful with this, having too much iron in the body can be flat out dangerous. And probably the best sign that you do have too much iron in your body, if you try to stay on top of this is that you’ll become constipated.
I take one iron supplement pill on every second day when I’m training intensively doing breath holds, when I’m pushing myself to my own limits; and besides that throughout the rest of my life I just get through it my diet. So I only suggest that you look into taking an iron supplement if you are training intensively for a long period of time; but then if you are taking an iron supplement, you’ll also want to make sure that you take a vitamin C and a folic acid supplement with it to make sure that your body can properly absorb the iron. Iron needs vitamin C and folic acid to work well. At night it’s really good to have a magnesium supplement it helps you sleep, it helps your muscles recover. Now, the only issue with this is that magnesium inhibits the uptake of iron, it inhibits your body from absorbing iron so you can’t have those together or it’s best not to have your magnesium supplement that evening if you’ve also had your iron supplement that evening as well.
Other supplements that are really good for sustaining health are things like: spirulina pills or powder, chlorella powder or pills, maca powder, raw cacao, like just good superfoods that are vitamin and mineral-rich for your body to take from. And you can take these before dives, after dive, during meals, just anytime; your body will love you for it.
I hope this video answered some of your questions; if it did, make sure you share it around, make sure your dive buddies see it, make sure that your diving community can benefit. If I didn’t answer any questions make sure you ask some more in the comments. And if you’re not a member of the freediving family, you should probably subscribe and join the world’s friendliest and largest community of knowledge sharing freedivers; and as always I’ll see you in the water somewhere.