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Diet for freediving – What to eat and what to avoid when freediving?

If you are a freediver you might be thinking about what you should and shouldn’t be eating to make your dives feel nice and to perform your best. There are many foods that are beneficial to us as freedivers because they contain certain vitamins and minerals that boost performance. There are also many foods that freedivers might choose to cut out if they want to take their training seriously. In this article, we are going to look at the recommended diet for freediving, giving you tips on what foods to choose and what to avoid as well as go over some popular supplements that can boost your performance.

Best foods for freediving

Eating healthy is crucial when picking up a demanding sport like freediving. The right foods can help make your body and mind function better, so let’s have a look at some of the best types of food for freedivers to consume.

Foods high in iron

Iron is essential for transporting oxygen around the body. It is important that freedivers have enough iron in their diet as regular breath holds can lead to an iron deficiency.

Here are some foods that are high in iron that you can include in your diet as a freediver:

  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Broccoli
  • Tofu
  • Dark chocolate

Healthy fats

Not all fats are bad, some healthy fats help to absorb vitamins and minerals, reduce your risk of heart disease, fight inflammation, and do lots more to help you stay healthy.

Avocados and nuts

Examples of healthy fats that can benefit you as a freediver:

  • Avocado: High in protein, vitamin E, and helps boost immunity
  • Butter/ghee: High in omega-6 and omega-3 which help brain function
  • Coconut oil: Increases good cholesterol, improves brain function, and reduces inflammation
  • Nuts and seeds: Improve heart health mood, and are high in vitamin E
  • Fatty fish (eg mackerel): High in omega-3, fights inflammation, improves brain function
  • Eggs: High in protein, improve heart health, lowers bad cholesterol
  • Grass-fed beef: No/fewer hormones and antibiotics are used than there are in grain-fed beef. High in antioxidants and promotes muscle strength.

High protein foods

Protein is essential for repairing muscles and staying strong. The recommended amount of protein is around 0.8-1g of protein per 1kg of body weight. However, athletes might need up to 1.6-2g per 1kg.

Consider adding these high-protein foods to your diet for freediving:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Soya
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Pork
  • Beans and pulses
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wild rice
  • Oats
  • Hemp seeds

Organic fruit and vegetables

Organic food is better because it uses less synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals to be grown. These chemicals are bad for us to eat and bad for the environment too.

Fruit and vegetables have so many benefits for our bodies and brains, they help give us energy, they are high in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber, and are generally low in calories. It is good to get a mix of different colors when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Many fruits have a high water content which helps keep you hydrated.

Healthy foods and veggies

Some of the healthiest fruits and vegetables:

  • Plums: High in antioxidants and vitamin C, can reduce inflammation
  • Grapes: Can reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, high in antioxidants
  • Peaches: Good source of fiber and reduces inflammation.
  • Blueberries: Contain several antioxidants, support healthy brain function
  • Grapefruit: Contains magnesium, vitamin C, fiber and potassium
  • Figs: high in antioxidants, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B6
  • Goji berries: High in antioxidants, can protect vision, high in fiber
  • Bell peppers: Rich in nutrients, high in vitamin C
  • Dark, leafy greens: High in potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamin C
  • Sweet potatoes: High in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and fiber
  • Broccoli: Very high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K
  • Eggplant: Beneficial to central nervous system and high in antioxidants
  • Asparagus: Great source of folic acid as well as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C
  • Squash: Contains powerful anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants

Water

Water is essential for the human body for so many reasons:

  • Helps the blood system to carry glucose, oxygen, and nutrients to cells
  • Helps the kidneys to get rid of waste
  • Lubricates joints and eyes
  • Helps the digestive system to function
  • Keeps skin healthy
  • Enhances mental function
woman drinking water from reusable bottle

Becoming dehydrated can cause dizziness, fatigue, and poor concentration, which are all detrimental for freediving training. The recommended daily intake of water is between 2.7-3.7L. If you do a lot of exercises or live in a hot climate country, you should have more.

Foods to avoid for freediving

Certain food can cause congestion, inflammation or make you bloated which are not ideal when you are about to freedive. If you want to take your training seriously, avoid such foods or minimize consuming them.

Foods that can cause congestion

Some foods can promote mucus buildup, which can affect our ability to equalize the ears and sinuses while freediving.

eight mugs of coffee

The most common mucus-forming foods to avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, cream, butter)
  • Processed meats
  • Fermented products such as yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Fried foods

Foods that can cause inflammation

Inflammation can lead to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. On top of being unhealthy, such foods can also make it harder to equalize the ears.

people with cocktails

Foods that can cause inflammation:

  • Gluten (wheat)
  • Sugar
  • Aspartame
  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fats
  • Processed meats
  • Alcohol
  • MSG (Monosodium glutamate)
  • Refined carbohydrates

Foods that can raise the heart rate

It is important to stay as relaxed as possible for freediving. This is to make the breath hold feel nicer and to avoid having a blackout. Certain foods can raise our heart rate and make us less relaxed.

Before a dive, do not consume the following:

  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Food or drinks with high sugar content
  • Spicy food
spicy food with hot chilly

Foods that are high in fat

As we already talked about, there are some good fats that are beneficial to the body. However, there are also saturated fats and trans fats that can raise cholesterol, increase fat percentage of the body, and lead to various diseases, so the best is to eat less or fully skip products that contain such fats. Here are some examples:

  • Processed meat
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Pastries
  • Ice cream

Supplements for freediving

Many freediving athletes will add supplements to their healthy diet so that they can perform their best in freediving. It is important to consult with a doctor or a dietician before deciding which supplements you need. Everybody is different but here are some common supplements you might consider as part of a freediving diet:

person holding vitamins in hand

Protein

Protein helps to repair and restore muscle that is damaged during exercise and can help optimize carbohydrate storage. Many freedivers will have a workout plan in place alongside their freediving training, so protein can help them to stay strong for both wet and dry training.

Creatine

Creatine can help to boost energy, as well as increase muscle mass and strength. Many serious athletes consider creatine to be a must-have supplement for training.

Magnesium

Magnesium helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue, aids normal protein synthesis, increases energy, and supports electrolyte balance. Magnesium is vital in ensuring optimum health.

man holding box of magnesium

Iron

Iron is one of the most important things a freediver needs in their diet as it helps to replenish hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is what bonds oxygen with the blood. Breath holds put stress on hemoglobin and so freedivers who dive regularly are more prone to becoming anemic (iron deficiency).

If you struggle to get enough iron in your diet, it is a good idea to take an iron supplement. Iron requires vitamin C for the body to absorb it best, so taking a multivitamin that includes both iron and vitamin C could be a good idea.

Serrapeptase

Serrapeptase is a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down proteins into amino acids. It is excellent for speeding up recovery in sports and dissolving inflammation. British freediving record holder Gary McGrath takes serrapeptase because he believes it will prevent lung damage when doing lots of dives to extreme depths.

BCAA’s

BCAA’s are said to reduce fatigue, shorten recovery time in sports, and build and maintain muscle. It is under debate whether it is beneficial to freedivers specifically, but those who are training in the gym alongside their diving can benefit from taking BCAA’s.

Interesting questions about freediving diet

Organic fruits and vegetables (especially greens), healthy fats (avocado, nuts), and foods that are high in protein (meat, mushrooms, eggs) are all great for a freediving diet. It is best to avoid greasy, heavy foods that will make you feel tired and unenergized.

Some freedivers will fast (not eat at all) before diving, however this can lead to lightheadedness and a lack of energy. It is best to eat something light a couple of hours before going in the water, for example some fruit and oats. However, avoid eating a big meal in the few hours before freediving as you don’t want to feel full or bloated underwater, especially when you are upside down. If you have had a big meal it is best to wait around four hours.

After a freediving session, you will probably be feeling quite tired. It can be nice to eat a protein-packed meal to re-energize yourself. Try to avoid dairy and alcohol if you plan to dive the next day as these can cause congestion.

Many freedivers avoid heavy, greasy foods when they are training, simply because they do not make them feel good in the water. It can be unpleasant to turn your body upside down when you have a belly full of heavy food. They might also avoid dairy and alcohol because these can lead to congestion which makes equalization harder. Because of this diet and all the aerobic exercise involved in freediving, it is not uncommon for freedivers to be slim or to lose weight while training.

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