What you eat and drink before scuba diving is important for giving you the energy to perform the dive. Dehydration is a major issue because it leads to an increased risk of decompression sickness and muscle cramps. If you will be performing multiple dives in a day, what you eat and drink after a dive is equally important to help you recover and fuel you for the next dive. However, what if you were doing a single, long dive where you think you might get thirsty or hungry during it?
The answer is that you can eat and drink underwater. Fish do it, so why can’t we? Eating is straightforward – you can eat a light snack, such as a chocolate bar, underwater. Just be prepared for the extra saltiness and also to thoroughly clean your regulator afterwards. Drinking water is also straightforward depending on your setup. You can have a water container connected to a hose and an outlet that only opens when you suck on it. You can drink from a juice box using a straw. You can also have a carbonated bottle drink by opening it upside down, covering the opening with your thumb, shaking it, and letting it squirt into your mouth.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can eat and drink while underwater. For particularly long dives, you might get thirsty from the physical exertion, breathing dry air, and from sweating. In this article, we’ll go over the best ways to eat and drink while underwater so you can replenish yourself during a long and tiring dive.
Why might someone want to eat and drink during the dive?
For the average diver, their dives are not long enough such that they need to refuel themselves in the middle of their dive. Assuming a dive lasts 45-60 minutes, that’s a short enough period of time that one could simply eat and drink sometime before their dive and have that meal sustain them for the dive.
Even if one were doing repetitive dives, the surface interval between dives gives a diver enough time to eat and drink before their next one. Even longer open circuit dives are generally short enough that divers don’t need to bring food and drink with them. Indeed, for the average diver using a regulator and standard air tank, there is simply no need to bother with eating and drinking during their dives.
So then who can actually dive for long enough that they’d want to have a drink and a snack in the middle of their dive? Why, technical divers, of course. With CCR rebreather diving, dives can last much longer, often several hours long. This means that dehydration and hunger are a realistic consideration.
The concept of “refuelling” during an activity is not new. For instance, long distance runners have been doing this for ages. They even have specific gels that they can carry and easily consume without ever stopping for a break. Even on shorter runs, runners will often carry water or electrolyte drinks (e.g. Gatorade) to rehydrate on the go. Scuba divers can also do this quite effectively.
Is it possible to drink underwater?
As we’ve mentioned, yes, it is indeed possible to drink water (or any other drink) underwater while you’re scuba diving.
For most people, the challenge to drinking underwater is doing so while simultaneously maintaining control of their airway.
Typically, scuba divers keep the regulator in their mouth for the entirety of the dive and they don’t take it out unless there’s a good reason. Sometimes that reason is to take a silly photo, but generally they don’t. Even if a dive buddy’s regulator malfunctions, they’d just let them use the octopus and not remove their own regulator. It’s literally trained and conditioned into them.
Now this way of doing things might create a problem when it comes to drinking underwater. Divers need to condition themselves to take a deep breath and hold it, take off the regulator, take a sip of their drink and swallow it without swallowing too much saltwater, and then place the regulator back and resume breathing. This the process in a nutshell, however we skipped an important detail.
The problem with drinking underwater is that hard and even soft bottles are difficult to drink out of underwater.
When we drink from a hard bottle (e.g. glass) at the surface, air enters the bottle to replace the liquid that escaped. This won’t happen underwater because there’s no air to enter the bottle; the liquid inside will be stuck inside.
The only way to get the liquid out of the bottle, if you have no other tools, is to squeeze the bottle and force the water into your mouth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work on hard bottles. Also, for soft bottles, the now empty space in the bottle will be filled up by the surrounding saltwater.
Thus, in order to drink underwater, you need to solve the problem above and get something that is comfortable to drink from, closed off from the surrounding water, and won’t negatively affect our airway.
Ways to drink underwater
We’ve outlined some of the impediments to drinking underwater, so what are the solutions?
The container holding the water should probably be soft so that we can squeeze out the water, and it should be sealed off so that saltwater won’t rush in as soon as you take a sip from it.
The first type of device that allowed you to drink underwater was the SCUDA, which stands for Self-Contained Underwater Drinking Apparatus. Hmm, that name sounds eerily familiar, almost like it was named after something that already exists. Oh well, it will forever be a mystery.
This device was essentially a flexible bag that you can fill with water, juice, or electrolytes. There was a hose attachment that connected to the side of the bag, and the other end of the hose was a mouthpiece. The ideal was that you would remove your regulator, place the SCUDA mouthpiece in your mouth, take a sip, and put the regulator back in.
Despite no longer being sold, the basic principle of how the SCUDA works is very similar to how the current products like the Platypus or Camelbak work.
You can squeeze or suck the water out of these products without worrying about the surrounding water flooding in and mixing with your drinking water.
Even a soft packaged drink, such as a juice box, can be drunk underwater. By using a straw, you don’t necessarily need to squeeze the container as much. However, the problem is that as you drink the juice, water will be replacing the empty space. You might only be able to enjoy about 3/4 of the drink before too much water enters and ruins it.
How to drink underwater while scuba diving
We highly recommend practicing how to drink from your preferred SCUDA in a safe environment before the real thing.
This is important not just for ensuring you’re getting clean drinking water, but so that you know how to do it without choking. Choking underwater can be panic inducing, so you want to be very calm and deliberate with your actions.
First, take the drinking bottle or hose out before you reach for your regulator. Time is of the essence here, so only remove your regulator after you’ve taken a deep breath and you have the drink ready.
Second, always be exhaling slightly so that you’re not holding your breath. One of the golden rules of scuba diving is to never hold your breath, and we want to avoid a lung injury at all times. Take a small drink by squeezing the bottle or sucking from the straw.
Third, put the regulator back in your mouth and take some breaths to recuperate. Repeat as needed until your thirst has been quenched.
Are there specialized scuba drinking bottles?
Currently, there are no specialized scuba drinking bottles, perhaps due to the failure of the original SCUDA. The demand for it simply isn’t there.
Perhaps the reason is because scuba divers are such cunning people that they have found many improvisations that work.
Whether that means soft, flexible drinking bottles, foil drink pouches with straws, Camelbaks, divers have already figured out a way to drink underwater in a satisfactory manner.
Why do divers need to drink water during long dives?
Think of scuba diving as exercising. An hour of scuba diving is about the same as an hour of jogging. You may not realize it, but you’ve probably burned anywhere from 300-450 calories. Since you’re constantly surrounded by water, you probably didn’t realize that you were sweating.
The body needs to replace the fluid it lost from sweating and normal metabolism. Plus, depending on how long the dive is, sometimes a dive is simply too long and some rehydration is needed.
There’s another factor to consider that you might not like to talk about. There is a phenomenon that occurs to all divers called immersion diuresis. Essentially, the cold water causes our body to pee more. Yep, right in our wetsuits.
Specifically, the water pressure is causing the blood in one’s body to concentrate around the central organs. To decrease the pressure on our hearts, the kidneys will excrete water (read: urine) more than usual. Thus, we pee a lot when we’re in water. That fluid being lost causes us to dehydrate rapidly, so we need to replenish it at some point.
During an especially long dive, a technical diver will probably pee in their wetsuit a bunch of times and need to rehydrate by drinking water. They may rehydrate with sports drinks like Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes.
How to eat underwater
Eating underwater is quite straightforward in concept, but difficult to do in practice. First things first, you should probably hold off on eating for as long as possible, especially eating anything “substantial.”
It would actually be quite amazing if you could somehow eat a piece of steak or a heavy meal underwater. Maybe make a video of it and upload it to YouTube – a channel dedicated to just eating stuff underwater. You’d have a million subscribers and a second career where you get to do things in front of a camera for a living. We’re totally not jealous or anything.
But no, really, you probably want a small snack in a wrapper. Something like, say, a chocolate bar? Hopefully you don’t mind if it tastes a little salty.
The idea is to eat a chocolate bar in the late stages of the dive, like when you’re decompressing in 6 m of water or shallower. At this point, the pressure is drastically decreased, and you can start breathing from your open circuit regulator again.
Obviously, you don’t have to eat the whole chocolate bar in one breath. Take a bite, chew it, swallow it, and take a breath before taking another bite. You might get some bits of food on your regulator, so clean it extremely well afterwards.
If you’re just an average, non-technical diver, then you probably never have to worry about eating and drinking during the dive. It’s not as cool or as interesting as it sounds. Wouldn’t you rather sit down somewhere nice and actually be able to enjoy your food without worrying about suffocating or swallowing a bunch of water?
For average folks, this isn’t something to concern yourself with. Only when you’re a technical diver who’s diving CCR do you have to consider ways to replenish yourself during your hours long dive.
With that said, the average diver could probably stand to hydrate themselves even more before a dive. Too many divers are not drinking enough for fear of peeing themselves during the dive, which is a perfectly normal thing to do.
Some divers might eat too heavy of a meal, or a meal with too many spices that irritate their stomach, and feel like they’re suffering heartburn during their dive. You should eat a light meal consisting mostly of fruits and fibrous veggies a couple of hours before a dive.
For those who have never tried eating or drinking underwater before, don’t let your first attempt be a disaster. Do a few trial runs in shallow water first before doing the real thing. Trust us, you don’t want to find out the hard way.