Updated: Sep 25
Imagine this, it’s a cold but sunny spring day and as it’s the weekend you treat your family to a good old fashion English breakfast. The kids tuck in with relish and add as much tomato ketchup as they can to the fried sausage and pool of baked beans. Only later when you are out on a choppy dive boat with stomachs in mouths do you realise that perhaps a greasy spoon breakfast was not such a go
od idea. You try to calm the groans from the kids by offering water, only to find that as they try and hoist up their 8mm wetsuits the rocking motion proves too much and yes, they throw up, one in sea and one all over the deck of the dive boat. You apologise profusely to the captain of the boat and to all the other divers on board, while mopping up and comforting mortified children. It’s not a pretty picture and literally starts the dive off in ‘bad taste’. To make matters worse during the dive, you curse yourself for eating those baked beans, as the bubbles from your reg are not the only bubbles emerging . While this may be extreme (albeit an unfortunate true story), the timing of when and what you and your family eat before a dive needs to be considered and carefully planned! So, what should you take into account when planning meals around a day’s diving with your family to avoid such unpleasant scenarios.
I have sought the wisdom and experience of other families at Scuba4families and come up with a few hints and tips on meal and dive planning to optimise everyone’s energy levels and make your dives safe and enjoyable.
Energy and Diving
Not eating enough before a dive can lead to disastrous consequences. Mood swings and tantrums can prevail completely spoiling a family day out diving. Did you know, a young person, burns energy at a significantly higher rate than an adult and therefore must be refuelled continuously? If they are not eating sufficiently tiredness can creep in resulting in a lack of concentration, or physical impediments such as leg cramps. So, it’s important for everyone who is going to dive to have enough energy on board before they dive but particularly for young people as they run out of energy more quickly.
During a dive your body keeps itself warm by burning the energy (calories) from the food you have eaten. Several factors influence how many calories you will burn during a dive: the water temperature, (the colder the water the greater the loss), the type of dive (the more strenuous the dive the greater the loss) and a person’s body size, height and age. Research has shown that for adults an average shore-dive in temperate water burns as much as 600 calories per hour (similar to running). A leisurely boat dive in warm, tropical waters burns about 300 calories an hour, equivalent to hiking or a brisk walk. For children and adolescents this calorie burn rate is even higher.
It’s easier when planning your meals on dive days to break it down into eating before, during and after your dives.
1) Eat before the dive
A days diving requires a lot of energy and it is important to start the day well. A healthy, high-carbohydrate breakfast is a good family choice before morning dives. We tend to go for porridge, honey and non-citrus fruit like bananas. This provides the body with calories that are easily digested and can be released slowly over several hours. We try to avoid greasy foods, citrus fruits or orange juice because of its acidity which can lead to upset stomachs and increase the chances of becoming seasick. What is essential is drinking plenty of water so that the body is hydrated. If you follow this advice, you should have a happy group of dive buddies!
2) Eat while you dive
Eat ‘while’ you dive? Okay, maybe ‘between’ dives is better, although our family did enjoy a rather unique underwater restaurant experience ‘while’ we dived: we called it “Deep Dining” So, yes, it is possible to eat while diving! Check our video at https://youtu.be/WPK8T-LTsIU
After your first dive, and during the surface interval it is important to take the opportunity to eat properly. Good dive centers usually provide snacks and drinks to share between dives which is an excellent way to keep their customers happy, but the food they provide can be a bit hit or miss. Non-acidic fruit and vegetables are great as they provide hydration as well as natural energy. Bananas are full of potassium that helps to avoid cramps while diving. Try to avoid:
· salty foods like crisps, as this will make your mouth dry and increases your thirst
· anything stodgy that will cause your digestive track to work hard
· items that can cause heartburn
3) Eat after you dive
Most people come up from a dive famished, and this is certainly the case with young divers. After a strenuous workout your metabolism doesn’t return to normal immediately. Your body can continue burning calories at this increased rate anywhere from a few hours to well beyond 24 hours after exercise, depending on the person.
While de-kitting the gear and getting out of those tight wetsuits is still a workout and a time to indulge in guilt free sugary snacks – you’ve earned them! As soon as possible at the end of your dive day, find a restaurant and order pasta and rice dishes that offer immediate satisfaction due to their high carbohydrate content. Add in some vegetables and protein and you have a balanced meal for all the family. Remember to remind all the young people to drink an extra couple of glasses of water so their bodies can hydrate properly and help off-gas any excess nitrogen left over.
To conclude we recommend when diving with young people to eat before, while and after the dive, so that high energy and concentration levels can be maintained, and full enjoyment can be experienced by all the family. Happy Diving and Dining.