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The Most Important “Meal” Of The Day For A Freediver

How often do you - after any diving session whether on the line or spearfishing (or any other workout) - consume the much needed nutrients your body needs within 45 minutes of that session ending? Probably never, right? Are you even aware of specifically what your body needs to recover well? Our bodies actually have optimal nutrients needed immediately after any exercise, and depending on what type of exercise you do what your body’s needs can change. But let’s go a little deeper into what those things are for freedivers and why. After reading this article you should be fully informed of the one thing that can take your freediving training to the next level, and I will leave you with a tasty (at least the Focus Freedive team thinks so) recommendation at the end.

Manatees chow down WHILE they dive. They’re pretty cool.

Manatees chow down WHILE they dive. They’re pretty cool.


 

What Kind Of Energy Do We Use During A Freedive? And Where Does Our Energy For Freediving Come From?


Freediving might just be the most holistic sport on the planet. With the physical aspect we need strength, endurance, flexibility, physiological adaptations, and proper nutrition. From the mental aspect we need mental strength and focus. Now, most sports require all of these things also, but the difference is they aren’t always equal in importance. In freediving all of the physical and mental things are EQUALLY important. And they are all VERY important. Our energy systems which our bodies use for everyday functions are no different.


There are two types of energy systems our body uses to function - aerobic and anaerobic. Essentially, one energy system burns oxygen for energy (aerobic), and one does not (anaerobic). It would seem then that anaerobic should be much better for freediving, right? But reality is we will use both systems while diving on a breath hold. So let’s take a quick look at each system.


The aerobic system is utilized when doing sustained moderate-intensity exercise. Things like jogging, running, swimming, cycling, dancing, rowing, etc.. Since the aerobic system relies on oxygen for energy, as long as the body’s oxygen demands are within the limit of the current supply being given (usually through breathing) your body will stay in the aerobic state.


Rowing is a great aerobic workout, if you’re ever looking to improve your aerobic base.

Rowing is a great aerobic workout, if you’re ever looking to improve your aerobic base.


The anaerobic system is utilized during high-intensity, short duration exercise. Basically, when the energy demand is too high for the aerobic system to keep up. Think about things like sprinting, weight lifting, power lifting, high-intensity interval training, or plyometrics. The energy needs to be produced quickly to meet the very high demand activities like that create, and burning oxygen isn’t quite quick enough. The body then turns to burning glycogen instead to produce the energy needed, and it’s much quicker.


Weight lifting is a great way to build and train your anaerobic base.

Weight lifting is a great way to build and train your anaerobic base.


During a freedive you will utilize BOTH systems, and they are equally important to train. Imagine you are about to dive - while you are on the surface breathing you are using your aerobic system. You take a deep breath, and begin your descent. Technique is critical here as to not burn too much of your oxygen in the beginning of your descent. The longer you have enough oxygen for your body to rely on your aerobic system, the longer you go before your body turns to the anaerobic system. What difference will that make on the dive? The longer you go without utilizing your anaerobic system the more potential energy you will have for the return journey (which is the most energy-demanding part of the dive). Once the oxygen level in your body hits a certain threshold during the dive your anaerobic system takes over so your body can conserve oxygen, and begins burning glycogen for the energy instead. So cool, right?


A diver returning to the surface will be fully utilizing their anaerobic system in order to save oxygen for other vital functions.

A diver returning to the surface will be fully utilizing their anaerobic system in order to save oxygen for other vital functions.


 

What Is Glycogen? And Why Should I Care?


Without getting too scientific we should now know that the body will either use oxygen for energy, or break down glycogen for energy. So what exactly IS glycogen? Glycogen is the stored form of glucose in the body. If you have hay or straw the stored form would be a bale, so glucose is the hay and glycogen the bale. The body will keep that glycogen primarily in skeletal muscles and the liver. The muscles can store about 400g of glycogen in the body for the average person, where the liver can only store about 100-200g.


So where does glucose come from? Glucose comes primarily from breaking down carbohydrates! Oh yeah, I’m talking bread, pasta, rice, all the good stuff! What’s even better is that our brain will use about 20-25% of our entire body’s glucose needs to stay functioning! So eat those carbs! Once those carbs are broken down, the glucose will either get used immediately or it will turn to glycogen for the body to store and use later.


Who doesn’t love carbs?!

Who doesn’t love carbs?!


The bigger question is why do we care about glycogen stores in our body? Well, let’s go back to the anaerobic energy system. It uses glycogen for energy so the oxygen available can be focused on other important functions. You need the glycogen for energy in intense workouts (or outdoors), or in our case during extended breath holds.


Now we can get to the whole point of all of this! After a workout, or a dive training session, or spearfishing session, you need to refuel your glycogen stores! They have been greatly depleted during your session because you have been tapping into your glycogen via your anaerobic system on every dive! Studies have shown that after your training session concludes your body has about 30-45 minutes for optimal protein synthesis and glycogen replenishment.

We haven’t touched on protein at all, maybe we can dive into that a little more in another post. However, the gist of it is that protein after a workout helps with muscle recovery, restoration, and adaptation to the demand that was just put on it. To say the least, it’s also a very important component.


In order to get the most from your “anabolic window” (the best time for your body to absorb nutrients after a workout), you need the correct ratio of carbs to protein. And fast. I don’t know about you, but when we are freediving in San Diego I find myself about 1.5 to 2 hours away from my next meal. That’s only if I can get myself dry, pack my gear, and get through traffic in a timely manner. So how can I be sure my body gets what it needs in the optimal window? You may have guessed it, a recovery drink. It’s easy to have ready to go right when you get out of the water. Be sure your recovery drink has that 4:1 carb to protein ratio and you’ll be in tip top shape. And this, my friends, is what I consider to be the most important meal for a freediver.


Who doesn’t like a tasty treat after a good workout?

Who doesn’t like a tasty treat after a good workout?


 

What Can Timely Recovery Drinks Do For Me After A Dive Session?


Now you know the basics of our body’s energy systems and where it comes from, as well as what nutrients can supply our energy. But just how important is it to actually hit that 45 minute window right after a session ends?


During this window your body will break down those carbs and restore the glycogen more efficiently than it does later. Going back to our hay analogy, imagine we store the bales in a barn to feed our livestock later. When the barn gets low it turns into a little bit of an alarming situation, because the animals gotta eat! So you would do whatever you could, as quickly as you could to fill the barn back up, right?


Our body is doing the same thing with our glycogen stores, it wants to get the “barn” back to a more comfortable and sustainable supply level. If we wait too long, however, it would be like trying to replenish the supply in your barn at 1am. You’re tired, nobody else is awake and doing things, and you rely on things that normally you wouldn’t need to get the job done. Is it possible to get the barn full again in the middle of the night? Of course! But it won’t be as efficient as if you were doing it with natural sunlight, more people to help, and supply stores open.


The more efficiently we can “fill our barn” with glycogen, the more you have available for the next big demand on your supply.

The more efficiently we can “fill our barn” with glycogen, the more you have available for the next big demand on your supply.


How does hitting that window improve my training as a freediver? How about this… Did you know that “training” is actually considered focused exercises to improve technique, strength, endurance, etc. at least 3 days or more a week? Do you dive 3 days a week? Do you lift weights, go running, practice EQ, stretch, or anything else with the focused intention of improving your diving at least 3 times a week? Can you even imagine doing that much work for your diving?


Training, I believe if done correctly, should be demanding. Physically and mentally. That’s literally how our body adapts to be better. If you have ever tried to stick out a training program for several weeks, but give up because it’s too tiring or perhaps you plateau and you don’t see improvement you may want to consider if you’re giving your body what it needs RIGHT after EACH workout.


Maybe you don’t care about training much, but what about those spearfishing trips to cool places? What about Deep Week, or Fii’s Kona Camp? You want to have enough energy to participate 100% the whole time, right? I mean you took time off work, you paid a ton of money to get there, and likely its a place with better conditions or maybe it has fish you don’t get to see locally. You want to make the most of it!


By getting your nutrients in the body right after the session is over you are capitalizing on restoring what you need for tomorrow’s dives. Imagine what you could do after a week of diving and training, and on the last day you have just as much energy as you did the first day! This is why it’s so important! It’s usually the end of the week you perform your deepest dive because you have been progressing in your depth every day, or maybe have a shot at a fish of a lifetime because you have figured out the fishing spots and found your groove. You don’t want to bonk at the end of a great trip and potentially miss out on what really should be the best day of diving on the whole trip!


Don’t you want to have THIS much energy at the end of an epic week of diving?

Don’t you want to have THIS much energy at the end of an epic week of diving?


 

So I Told You I’d Have A Tasty Recommendation…


It certainly is possible to purchase all the elements you need in a good recovery drink separately and mix it yourself (I did that for years, and still do sometimes). But there is one thing that comes pre-made and has everything your body needs. It’s called Endurox R4. Not only does it hit that 4:1 carb to protein ratio beautifully, but the chocolate flavor is pretty reminisce of chocolate milk I had as a kid. Each serving has what you need for good recovery, so depending on how often you dive the 28 serving container can last 2-3 months.


Endurox R4 recovery drink mix

(Click the image)


Endurox is a product I’ve used for years, and I love it! It makes recovery drinks easy and accessible. It’s also great for traveling. If you are competing, doing a long trip, or whatever it may be, you only have to bring this ONE recovery mixture instead of all the individual parts to make your own. Most supplement companies don’t have the 4:1 ratio because they are focused on different goals for their customers (although they really should have something with the 4:1 in my opinion).


I also recommend using a shaker bottle to mix it in. There is an insulated shaker bottle I really like, which just makes the whole process way easier. You can mix before you walk out the door and the drink will stay cold (obviously depending on how long it is before you drink it). Personally, I like to mix the drink using almond milk. It boosts a few of the other vitamins and minerals your body needs for recovery. Water works fine though and doesn’t change the flavor.


Shaker bottle for blending drink mixes

(Click the image)


The great thing is that Endurox has a bunch of other things in it as well. This blog post isn’t really about THOSE things though. I’m sure I’ll do more posts about other key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals our body needs. For now though I think we can put this one to rest.


I hope this information was helpful and gets you on your way to better training days, dive trips, and overall experiences underwater!










*links in this post are affiliate links, and I may or may not receive a commission if you choose to purchase anything from those links. It will be no extra cost to you, and it is one way that I am able to keep Focus Freedive positively impacting the freediving community. Thank you in advance for your support!

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