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A Freediving/Spearfishing diet from SA

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Jan 18, 2002
Here goes!!!!

"Nutrition could never create a champion but a potential champion can be withheld from peak performance through insufficient or unbalanced intake."
In the underwater environment where weather and water temperatures can expose a spearo to severe hypothermia and fatigue, your life may depend upon your body condition and available replenishment.

The ideal body fat for underwater sport is probably between 8 and 12% for males and 10 to 12% for females. Excess fat creates extra buoyancy and thus increase the effort of free diving. Too low body fat % and enhanced metabolic rate can make you more prone to hypothermia.

Some Physiology:

Your body utilises all three major fuel sources in varying quantities,according to the intensity of exercise.

95% of VO2 Max - Creatine Phosphate + Carbohydrates are burnt.
75% of VO2 Max - Muscle and Liver Glycogen are burnt.
50 - 60% VO2 Max - Free fatty acids are burnt (Free divers).

In free diving the aim is to keep the heart rate and exercise intensity very low to lengthen bottom time. Endurance is important and thus keeping your muscle glycogen stores replenished and with regular intake of fat.

Planning for a comp in 3 months time?

Plan 3 stages of training and change your body into an efficient machine by adding relevant nutrition.

Phase 1: Foundation training

Basic fitness is done and changes your body composition by taking in:

Protein 12-15%
Complex Carbohydrates 40-45%
Simple Carbohydrates 10%
Fats <30%
Protein can come from animal and veggie sources but include some red meat for iron sources.
Reduce fat.


Carbohydrate foods include fresh fruits, breads, cereals, grains and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates are in sugar-based foods, drinks and sweets. Carbohydrates are transported to your energy factory, the liver, and converted to glucose. This is stored as glycogen for use during exercise.
Intake per day should be: 4g/kg/day. Roughly 5-7 portions of carbohydrates per day.

Phase 2 Anabolic phase

Food is used as fuel and to build structures. The intake of vitamins and mineral is thus important. Breakfast and snacks are very important and a balanced sport shake may help.

Protein needs:
Endurance 1,5g/kg/day
Strength Athletes 1,7-2g/kg/day
Bodybuilders 3-4g/kg/day

Average 4g/kg/day
Intense training 7-10g/kg/day
Your carbohydrates are best absorbed immediately after training. Glucose and sucrose are faster in the replenishment of muscle glycogen than fructose but if you battle with low blood glucose fructose can help.

Phase 3: Fine tune/Competition phase

Here you should shed the excess fat and burn most food you take in. This stage is difficult to sustain and resistance to illness is low.

Replenish per hour of exercise -

300ml Water
50g Carbohydrates
These are all in fruit juice and commercial sport drinks.

Pre-competition diet

Carbohydrate contents in grams

Fruit yoghurt 1 bottle 150g
Flavoured Milk 1 cup 250ml
Ice Cream 1 scoop 120g
Raisins 4 table spoons
Banana 1 large 125g
Fruit Salad 1 cup
Bread 2 med. slices
Rice 1 cup
Orange 1 large
Orange Juice 1 cup 250ml
Potato 1 large

The week leading up to a major competition is especially important as far as diet is concerned. The aim at this stage is to store up as much carbohydrate as possible in the system. Given the right diet, it is possible to increase glycogen stores form the usual 300g up to 600-750g, which is enough to keep you going throughout the whole length of the tournament.

There are several ways of boosting glycogen stores - or carbohydrate loading, as it is called. But all these methods have one thing in common:

The diet in the last three days is high in carbohydrates but low in proteins and fat.



1 glass fruit juice (not tomato)
1 cup cereal
1 large banana
1 cup low fat milk
2 toast or English muffin

2 chicken vogal sandwiches
2 glass fruit juice
2 pieces fruit
1 muffin

2 cups spaghetti or rice
1 cup savoury tomato topping with grated cheese
*2 tablespoons parmesan or 4 tablespoons low fat cheese
2 slices bread or 4 French bread
1-2 cups fresh fruit salad or rice pudding
1/2 cup yoghurt or ice cream

2 fruit
1/2 cup raisins
3 biscuits
1 glass fruit juice

The night before
Be very careful of food choices provided at pasta parties. Often food is served with rich creamy sauces or swimming in oil. Choose baked instead of roast or fried chips, light spaghetti sauces, but take care with macaroni cheese and pizza which are often covered with cheese. Choose lean meats,such as chicken ( no skin), or fish ( no batter) and vegetables. Potatoes, pumpkin, kumera, peas, broad beans and parsnips are fine, Drink plenty of

For nervous stomachs the night before a tournament, use a carbohydrate supplement Drink.

2-3 slices of low fat pizza with salad ( oil or vinegar dressing ) or 2 cups spaghetti with tomato topping and 3 slices bread or 1 cup chicken with three baked potatoes, peas, and kumera or 2 cups of rice with 1/2 cup grilled diced meat or lean mince. Add: salad and other vegetables ( especially green leaf vegetables ).

Add : fruit, fruit salad, biscuit and yoghurt as required and drink
sufficient fluids.

During the competition

Have breakfast at least 2 portions of carbohydrates and 1 portion of protein.

Keep replenishment fluid ( 250 -300 ml/hour ) in the boat such as diluted liqui fruit or commercial sports drink. Carbohydrates: must be replenished every 2 hours through a day. Sports drinks or sweets ( wine gums ) kept on board. Slow fructose tablets can be very handy as well as energy bars.

Fatty foods such as cheese squares and chocolate are necessary when spending more than 4 hours in the water,

Protein during the day - you can snack on meat or biltong to ensure steady blood glucose levels ( 1g/kg/day).


- low fibre food

- not cold nor hot

- no "spoilable" food

- more high fat food in low temperature water

- keep food low in volume

- Remember the recovery meal after competition to reduce fatigue and replenish muscle glycogen.

These dietary recommendations have been compiled by Dr Philda de Jager MBChB who is qualified in Sports medicine and Diving Medicine. Philda was also the captain of the ladies SA Underwater Hockey team for a number of years.

Hope you can use this!
Thanks Hennie, that is a fantastic resource.
I realise that you are writing mainly about a long day of competition, which is different from a depth and time competition, but I believe your diet is still applicable.
The main difference I can see between, say a spearfishing tournament diet and a performance competition's requirements, is that those who have a static competition within 24 hours should not eat at all. Starving the body up to the point of the static test is beneficial within 24 hours. Most competitions are set up so that one can at least get a 12 hour fast in.
Also, a 3 hour window before a depth test tends to be good for us too....we can't afford to have any part of our blood supply wasting its time digesting food! I suspect that a longer fast for this test might also be beneficial, and am going to do some personal testing with it when I get a chance.
Erik Y.
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