Do you love Chocolate? Do you feel guilty pleasure in eating chocolate? Do you want a good reason to eat more chocolate? Well now you have it. Go Diving.
Eating dark chocolate before a dive can be good for you!
Let’s get serious for a moment, eating dark chocolate 90 minutes before a dive helps to reduce the risk of DCS (decompression sickness). This is how it works:
Six key benefits of chocolate for divers.
Scientific evidence shows there is a direct benefit to eating chocolate before a dive. Yup you read that right! Chow down on that 70% cocoa bar and enjoy it for all the diving benefits it brings - well ok maybe that’s not the only reason. The benefits are real though.
1. Reduces Blood Pressure
Chocolate contains flavonoids. These strange sounding “things” in chocolate have a positive effect on the body. One such effect is stimulating the lining of the arteries to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), which causes the arteries to relax, reduces resistance to blood flow and thus reduces blood pressure. Increases blood flow The same process that reduces blood pressure increases blood flow, so fresh oxygenated blood gets to your extremities quicker. Increased blood flow has been linked with many benefits, one of which is improved brain function. Some have gone as far as comparing chocolate to Viagra, when it comes to blood flow. Better blood flow may also have the added benefit of helping you reduce your air consumption on a dive.
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2. The ‘feel good’ factor
It has been long known that chocolate makes you feel good. Aside from the heavenly pleasure of consuming the bitter sweet snack, it also causes the body to release endorphins. These “feel good” (trytophan) hormones bind with receptors in the brain which leads to feelings of euphoria, similar to the high you get from exercise. You also find phenyl-ethylamine in chocolate, otherwise known as the “love drug”. It creates a similar brain buzz to being in love. We all love diving; now we can fall in love all over again, and again, and again!
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3. Reduces the effects of stress
I always get a little anxious before a dive, especially if it’s my first dive in a while. When we are stressed the body releases various chemicals. These chemicals are designed to help us deal with the thing that’s giving us stress, to make us more alert. In this example, however, the stress chemicals don’t help, they hinder. The fight or flight mechanism is triggered and I always end up using more air on my first dive. The muscles are over active. Flavenoids found in chocolate help to reduce these effects of stress, by reducing the amount of stress chemicals in our body. This in turn can make for a less tense and more enjoyable dive.
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4. Skin Protection
We have seen that flavenoids have various effects on the body; reduced stress, increased blood flow, and lower blood pressure. All of these factors also have an effect on the skin, by increasing skin density and hydration. It has also been shown that as a result the effect of the sun on the skin is reduced; in some cases by half. Chocolate is no substitute for sun screen but every little helps. It’s worth having a little dark chocolate everyday in the run up to your next dive trip, to build up the effects of the flavenoids in your body.
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5. Reduces risk of cramps
Cramping, usually in the calf muscles from fining can not only be painful but dangerous too. Magnesium is an essential electrolyte in muscle contraction and relaxation. Topping up your electrolytes before a dive is a good idea. These electrolytes include calcium, sodium and potassium. Chocolate contains a high level of Magnesium and can help reduce the risk of cramping.
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6. Reduced endothelial dysfunction
Endothelial Dysfunction is where the regulation of blood flow is impaired. The act of diving may decrease flow mediated dilation (FMD) which is a way of measuring endothelial dysfunction. Consumption of 30 grams of dark chocolate 90 minutes before a dive has been shown to prevent post-dive endothelial dysfunction. It is currently thought that antioxidants in dark chocolate scavenge free radicals resulting in the effect, which is techno babble for it does something really cool for divers.
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Most of us are pretty relaxed on a dive; we aren’t really exerting ourselves by fining wildly. However, don’t underestimate the effects of diving on the body. Diving puts stresses on various parts of our bodies, mostly internal; we may not feel it as would with exercise but its there. Maintaining good health reduces the risks of diving and now that guilty pleasure of ours “chocolate” gives us a helping hand.
It’s almost like having a third dive buddy with you on your next dive. Chow down on a couple squares of dark chocolate, 70% coco or more, take a nap in a hammock, and go diving.
Eat, Sleep Dive – Chocolate, Hammock, Dive. Is there anything better!