Last nights freediving club session brought up an interesting topic. Should we / can we use supplements to assist our sport?
Lets start from a very simple standpoint…. NOTHING WILL EVER take the place of rigorous and intelligent training combined with an all round healthy lifestyle. However….
There are some foods and supplements which in my opinion can help you along a little bit. Just like a professional skier might take Glucosamine Sulphate and fish oils to help with their joints – a weight lifter may take Creatine to assist muscle growth – a footballer may drink a sugary caffeine laced energy drink at half time to push their performance in the 2nd half….. Cant we do the same?
Some people say no….. that a healthy diet is all that you need. These also tend to be the people who regularly have wheatgrass shots and always have a supply of Goji berries in the cupboard…. two examples of superfoods.
‘Superfoods’ is a marketing term for any food stuff that is particularly high in a specific vitamin or mineral. Many of these superfoods could help the freediver. Concentrating on one specifically (the one we talked about last night), lets look at Sea Buckthorn!
Sea Buckthorn is a bright orange berry which grows on a silvery grey bush very close to the coastline. Often found behind sand dunes and tucked in to dips in the landscape, sea buckthorn is a very hardy evergreen bush with a very effective defense! Massive spines all over the thing. Its easy enough to harvest though as you don’t actually need to pick the berries… explanation to follow…. lets not ahead of ourselves….. what does it do for you?
The fruit of the plant has a high vitamin C content – in a range of 114 to 1550 mg per 100 grams with an average content (695 mg per 100 grams) about 15 times greater than oranges (45 mg per 100 grams)– placing sea-buckthorn fruit among the most enriched plant sources of vitamin C. The fruit also contains dense contents of carotenoids, vitamin E, amino acids, dietary minerals, β-sitosterol and polyphenols. Flavonols were found to be the predominating polyphenols while phenolic acids and flavan-3-ols (catechins) represent minor components. Of the seven flavonols identified, isorhamnetin 3-O-glycosides were highest quantitatively.
So…. that sounds good doesn’t it? In basic terms its a very powerful anti-oxidant and has loads of oils for heart / blood health. It does a great job as a daily mixer for smoothies and can be concentrated without loosing its health benefits. Will it make you a better freediver? Probably not particularly, but it may assist your recovery after diving and it may stave off general illness by boosting the immune system. The benefits to heart health i suppose will help long term, but as with anything… not as much as a good work out! I still recommend it though! Especially if you can pick it fresh….
So how do you pick it? First check its the right stuff. Its a bright orange berry, which hangs in dense bunches along the plants stems. When you pinch a berry it will burst easily, releasing its oily orange juice. The juice smells a little like orange juice crossed with mango juice, and is really bitter. After a few hours the juice will smell a little rotten though, still good to consume, but with a slight smell of sick!
Don’t bother picking the individual berries, just grab the plant tightly at the base of the stems and move your hand up to the tip…. squishing all the berries on the way. Make sure you put a bucket underneath to collect the juice. By picking it this way you will avoid getting too pricked by the spines. I have collected an entire bucket of juice in less than an hour by using this method.
Ok so thats a superfood dealt with….
What about manufactured Vitamins?
In the past I have been a bit of a sucker for vitamins. I have in the past year or so somewhat changed my ways though, now concentrating on a good diet more than anything. There is one supplement though which I am convinced helps my freediving.
Feroglobin by Vitabiotics. First of all can I just state that I am in know way commercially linked to this product… its just good, and I thought you should know.
Basically an Iron supplement, the liquid form of this product is cheap and effective. Now I don’t have any kind of Iron deficiency, so I tried this really as a test to see if it could boost things a bit. Im now pretty sure that it does help. I have done a few vaguely controlled tests of the product and I can conclude that my breath hold times may slightly increase when using it.
It makes sense when you think about it. This product is designed to help in the production of Hemoglobin for red blood cells…. something which we as freedivers could always use a boost in. The best freedivers on the planet have naturally very high hematocrit levels, so ingesting a supplement which helps in that respect could certainly help your performance in the sport.
Im not saying it will work for everybody….. but it may help some people.
So to conclude…
All supplements can ever be is a little boost, and in a sport where seconds and meters really count, arent we all looking for that little boost? Nonetheless, never rely on anything other than yourself. Training is the key, there are no shortcuts, nothing could ever take the place of true dedication… Except perhaps Steve Austin style bionic lung and heart implants….
PLEASE NOTE …. I am not a doctor, a chemist or in ANY way qualified in the field of medicine. All I am doing is passing on a couple of suggestions that I incorporate in to my life. Please also note the consistant use of the words…. Could…. May…. Perhaps…. Might…. Supplements effect people in different ways and nothing is guaranteed.