The basic guidelines for eating will serve the recreational diver well. This is a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, starchy foods for carbohydrates, meat/fish/eggs or beans for protein, dairy and fat. The 'eatwell' plate to the left shows the recommended proportions. In conjunction with advice on limiting alcohol intake and staying well hydrated, this guidance is sufficient to maintain good dive performance.
My favourite protein powder is from www.nuzest.co.uk
For freedivers with performance in mind, optimal nutrition becomes an important aspect of training. A diver needs to consider fuel before diving to provide energy, and recovery for after diving or training to replace energy and protein. I've sought the help of a nutritionist (Renee McGregor at Bath University) to ensure I get the right balance for a heavy schedule. It's often a struggle to get the timing right when you're on the move between meetings, yoga classes or training sessions so I keep sachets of nutri-shakes in case I need to grab something healthy and easy to digest. As a vegetarian I have to be inventive with ways of getting enough protein into my diet, and often use supplements with pea or hemp protein.
The nature of freediving as a sport that puts the body under physiological stress, and generates lactic acid from anaerobic activity, means that divers should also consider supplements. Most commonly used are iron and antioxidants such as vitamin A and C. Supergreens are also popular including spirulina and wheatgrass as sources of iron, protein and other nutrients. These also help to create an alkaline environment in the body to counteract the acidity of diving and exercise. Many athletes have food products they 'swear by' for enhancing performance such as concentrated beetroot and cherry. I confess to being one of them!
My kitchen looks like a pharmacy with all the supplements and powders I like to take, and my juicer and blender are in daily action. Smoothies are the best way to take these products, many of which aren't palatable in water alone. My favourite smoothie is chocolate chip avocado:
1 small banana
1 cup almond milk
Handful spinach leaves
Wheatgrass, chlorella or spirulina
Raw cacao nibs
Naturya produce a number of 'supergreen' powders which you can add to juice, smoothies or soups. www.naturya.com
Yoga & Ayurveda
From a yoga perspective we consider food as prana, or energy. Clean, nutritious food is known as sattvic (pure) and stimulating foods such as chilli, alcohol and spices as rajasic. Yogis avoid tamasic foods such as meat, fungi and processed foods as they make the body lethargic and cause digestive problems. Yoga guidelines are to aim for the majority of your foods to be plant-based.
India also has its own science of food and wellbeing called Ayurveda. Foods are classed by their taste such as sweet, sour, pungent, spicy etc., and guidelines given as to when in the day and year its best to eat these. You also consider your own body type (dosha) in choosing foods that will keep your energy in balance. You can find our more about yoga nutrition and Ayurveda via the nutrition page.