Diving is a competitive sport whereby both male and female athletes dive from a board or platform into a pool while completing acrobatic moves such as twists and somersaults. Divers are required to be strong and flexible, as well as have a high level of skill and co-ordination. Many of these characteristics are similar to dance and gymnastics and in some athletes from these sports become divers.
Diving is separated into many events, including:
- Springboard (1m and 3m)
- Platform (5m, 7m and 10m)
- Synchronised events
Competitions may last for up to 6 days with preliminary rounds typically held in the morning with finals the same night. Up to 11 dives may be required which include numerous combinations of starting positions, movements and twists which determine the degree of difficulty. Diving is scored out of 10 points – this is calculated from a score for take-off, flight/dive and entry. In synchronised diving events, scoring also includes scores for synchronicity.
Most divers start at a young age. Depending on the level of the athlete training sessions may range from one session per week to multiple sessions in a day. Elite divers train in excess of 20-30 hours per week. These may cover repetition of dives, dry land training and weight training. The majority of training focuses on skill and technique rather then aerobic exercise.
Divers train on dry land as well as in the pool. During training sessions, divers repeatedly practice a new skill or sequence of skills within a dive and work on strength and flexibility. Training usually starts at an early age as years of skill and strength development are required.
Diving requires the athlete to be small, lean and well-muscled. This body composition provides physical advantages including better mechanical efficiency and increased power-to-weight ratio for performing acrobatic moves.
Day to day nutrition will play an important role in the success of diving athletes. Nutrition is often based around appropriately timed carbohydrate for fuel and lean proteins for muscle recovery, growth and repair. In addition, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains provide important vitamins and minerals, along with some healthy fats.
Some divers may with concerns about stomach issues may miss breakfast before early morning training sessions. However, to maximise performance, having a carbohydrate rich liquid such as flavoured milk or smoothies can be ideal for fuel and stomach comfort as liquids empty more quickly from the stomach than solid foods. Busy schedules (e.g. school, etc) means that meals and snacks may have to be organised for eating ‘on the run’.
Body composition has an important role in the success of divers (for agility, dynamic power and technique). As nutrition has a key role in managing body composition and performance, any athlete wishing to change their body composition should consult with an Accredited Sports Dietitian for best outcomes.
A diver’s training and competition environment on the pool deck is often warm and humid. This can increase fluid loss from the body. As excessive fluid loss can lead to dehydration, divers should sip on water regularly during competition and training since dehydration can be detrimental to a diver’s performance as it affects concentration and skill.
To maintain good hydration levels, divers should drink fluids before, during and after training and competition. However, the amount of fluid needed will depend on individual fluid losses and sweat rates.
In most circumstances, water will be sufficient to meet hydration needs during training. However, sports drinks may be beneficial during long training sessions (those lasting more than ~90 minutes) or during competition as they also provide electrolytes and carbohydrate along with fluid. This combination of fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrate can help to maximise performance in these situations.
Eating before competition
As dives consist of twists, turns and somersaults, stomach comfort can be a challenge for some athletes. In order to maximise digestion and minimise the risk of gut upset, foods chosen should be light and easy to digest. Reducing the fat and fibre content of the meals, as well as avoiding spicy foods can help to avoid stomach upset.
Each athlete is different, and the timing of pre-competition nutrition will depend on the timing of the first round of competition. In general, most divers will often eat a pre-competition meal around 3 to 4 hours before the start. To optimise performance meal and snacks should contain some carbohydrate for fuel as well as fluids for hydration
Some examples of suitable pre-competition meals include:
- Breakfast cereal with milk
- Fruit salad with yoghurt
- English muffin or crumpet with jam/peanut butter
- Sandwich with simple fillings (e.g. ham & cheese)
Divers may also have a light snack around 1 to 2 hours before the start as a final top up of energy stores.
Some suitable pre-competition snack ideas include:
- Fruit yoghurt
- Tinned fruit snack packs
- Rice cakes with avocado or peanut butter
- Dried fruit and nut mix
For athletes who feel nervous before the event, or who have a poor appetite, carbohydrate-rich fluids can be an suitable alternative, such as:
- Fruit based smoothies
- Liquid meal replacement (e.g. Sustagen Sport)
- Flavoured milk tetra packs
- Thick soups (e.g. pumpkin soup)
Competition nutrition strategies should be trialled during training to find the nutrition plan that works best for each individual. An Accredited Sports Dietitian can work closely with divers to develop a plan to suit their individual nutrition needs to maximise competition day performance.
Eating and drinking during competition
Divers should take advantage of opportunities to eat and drink between dives to keep energy levels up, especially on long days. Divers should develop an eating plan that fits in with their competition schedule and includes familiar foods that will benefit their performance. Practising competition eating during training sessions will help to identify food choices that will suit them best. Light or liquid based options can help avoid stomach upset from flips and turns.
Suitable examples include:
- Sandwiches with light fillings (honey & banana)
- Yoghurt tubs or squeeze pouches
- Fresh fruit or tinned fruit snack packs
- Muesli bars
- Tetra packs of flavoured milk
- Dried fruit (e.g. banana chips)
Recovery meals and snacks should contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and development) and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses. This is especially important during a competition that is held over a few days or during heavy training blocks.
Some recovery food suggestions include:
- Tuna or cheese on crackers
- Wrap with ham or egg, avocado & salad
- Baked potato with mince beef topping
- Homemade pizzas with chicken, veggies & cheese
Other Nutrition Tips
- Be organised Divers should have snacks ready to go as it can be difficult to rely on competition venues to provide appropriate choices.
- Adjust energy needs During competition periods, energy needs are usually less than during training so adjust your eating to match this.
- Small & often Small, regular meals and snacks can be better tolerated than large meals in athletes that struggle with gut issues due to twists and turns.