a couple in blue water close to shore

What Should I Eat Before (and During) Snorkeling?

If you’ve ever performed physical sports before, everyone has had a meal a ‘bit too close’ to the exercising time, and pretty much regretted it.

If you’ve ever eaten a meal and then gone running you certainly know what I’m talking about. Closer to home it’s recommended you don’t eat certain things before scuba diving or swimming.

But what about snorkeling? That’s all a bit more leisurely, isn’t it? Should I eat anything before snorkeling?

Before snorkeling the best foods to consume are bland, non greasy, and non acidic. Foods like scrambled eggs on toast, muffins, bagels, fruits, eggs, muesli, and granola. Avoid greasy and acidic foods while keeping hydrated for the coming day. Eating a few hours before going into the water allows adequate time to digest food.

Snorkeling is a sport, or at least an activity that’s meant to be enjoyable. Eating properly and dealing with the sea is something any water based activity adventurer needs to master,

a close up of a female snorkeler

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Heavy Meals Before Snorkeling

There’s quite a lot of ambiguity concerning eating meals and going snorkeling. Everyone has different tolerances, preferences, and levels of exertions.

While some people may be fine, in general, it’s not a good idea to eat a very heavy meal right before you go snorkeling. The fact that it causes cramps has been somewhat debunked, but it’s a good idea to allow for adequate digestion of the food.

A big meal might take a few hours, and a small light one maybe 30 minutes, but a lot depends on the type of foods you are consuming.

Heavy meals before any type of exercise, but particularly long distance running, are known to cause a side stitch. A stitch is that stabbing pain that occurs under the ribcage when exercising and is exacerbated by heavy breathing.

No one can quite explain exactly why it happens but it’s connected to a blood loss around the diaphragm, which eating heavy complex meals will both increase the likelihood and prolong the experience.

It’s not particularly pleasant so it’s best avoided.

If snorkeling is going to be either intensive, require exertion, or be prolonged them a stitch becomes more likely.

Even the most inert snorkeler will also change their body dynamic while swimming, and occasionally not be upright. If you duck dive frequently to explore the seabed, then having a heavy meal in your stomach isn’t the greatest idea.

It’s not just a question of having these problems from a beach either. A boat trip can cause minor ear imbalances that cause sea sickness, so again, a heavy meal isn’t the best plan.

One of the hardest groups of foods to break down is dairy. So large bowls of cereal or drinks of milk can be problematic with a lot of people.

Perhaps the obvious one is fast food. It’s heavy food with very little nutritional value so is pretty much entirely unsuitable but for making you feel more full. Something that the continual inversion needed for diving may cure.

a man snorkeling in clear water off an island alone

What You Should Eat Before Snorkeling

So, enough about what you can’t eat. What about what you can.

I say can. It’s not a requirement or anything, just advice.

Some of the most ideal things to eat before any swimming activity are foodstuffs that give you long lasting energy but aren’t highly complex

Foods like muesli, granola, fruits, fruit yogurts, toast with jams, muffins, bagels, or scrambled eggs.

These sorts of foods are light and give you the energy that slow burns. It should be a good base to eat before you go out into the water, making sure you leave adequate time for digestion.

Don’t overface yourself either. Eat just enough to satiate the hunger, but keep some foods to consume during the day.

I’ll make no apologies for mentioning that you should make sure you are well hydrated. Coffee or tea in the morning is a good idea. With the physical exertion of the day that lies ahead, you will be glad you prepared.

Although lots of orange juice seems a good idea it is very acidic, which in excessive quantities can cause heartburn.

They say excessive coffee is a diuretic, but I drink quite a bit of coffee and I’ve never had an issue. I don’t find it a problem, mainly as you consume a lot of water with the caffeine to compensate, so I’m not sure that’s as much of an issue as everyone thinks it is.

Nevertheless, dehydration is serious at any time, add the complexities of being in an ocean, and it’s a situation that exemplifies the axiom that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

How To Eat On Snorkeling Day

There does seem to be a consensus forming that eating then directly swimming doesn’t induce cramps, so that’s not something you need to worry about unduly.

Allowing your system to digest anything that you’ve eaten before snorkeling does seem sensible though. There’s nothing worse than feeling sick while still having undigested food. If you’ve snorkeled before, you may have an idea of what you can get away with.

If you haven’t I’d recommend playing it safe.

With popular tourist destinations they recommend getting there early, so eating a few hours beforehand can be challenging. The temptation may be to get out the door and eat ‘en route’.

Still, it’s worth making the effort.

Snorkeling, much like freediving or scuba, involves not only a horizontal body position but may also involve an inverted one. Having partially digested food isn’t something you want to experience if you do this often.

If you are particularly prone to gastric influx then eating fast food on the way to dive and snorkel produces a very physical reaction. Luckily you’re in the sea and people might not notice.

Despite the problems, you should have something to eat, even if you’re not used to it. I’m not a big breakfast eater, preferring a better evening meal, but on days I go snorkeling, I will make an effort to have a good breakfast.

Being in the water not only burns calories quite well as you move through the increased resistance but water is much more efficient at taking warmth away from the body. You will need the energy to stay warm sometimes.

Depending upon where you’re going obviously.

Getting yourself properly fuelled up gives you the ammunition you need to successfully enjoy your day in the water finning around.

Some general advice might be

  • Small and often is better
  • Non greasy, bland, and not overly acidic foods are best
  • Eat a few hours before donning the fins
  • Keep hydrated (take plenty of water with you)
  • No alcohol
  • Energy bars, power bars, energy drinks, bananas during the snorkeling

As everyone has different tolerances though, it is difficult to quantify and the best advice is still only guidelines. Your body may perform differently.

To complicate matters is the issue that most snorkeling is done in some of the most amazing places around the planet.

You are not only experiencing the wonders of the natural world but often a different culture. Which obviously has different culinary delights.

Sticking to what you are usually good with is the best advice here. That new breakfast at the hotel may look great, but most hotels in snorkeling locations will at least serve appropriate foodstuffs.

Best to take advantage of that.

a female snorkeler admiring a turtle

Foods To Snack On While Snorkeling

Before moving onto foods to eat if you are snorkeling for any period of time, it’s perhaps best to mention water intake.

To prevent dehydration while snorkeling you should drink water in small amounts but often. It’s perhaps ironic that being surrounded by water you need to keep drinking.

The combination of aerobic exercise, elongated periods, and the hot sun can dehydrate people quickly. It’s a real danger and can cause cramps. The fluids and minerals lost during snorkeling need to be replaced.

So a combination of water and energy drinks are a good idea for both fluid intake and energy restoration. Keep your fluids and energy levels up, even if you’re not feeling thirsty, as dehydration can creep up on you.

As you won’t be in the water all the time if you decide to spend a day snorkeling, I’d recommend taking some snacks with you designed to work with your body as you continue swimming in the water.

What you can take is a combination of bananas, apples, raisins, power bars, energy bars, or cookies. All these replace minerals lost and keep your energy topped up during the day.

Coupled with energy drinks, it is light on your body to digest, and most people involved in water sports always seem to have bananas tucked away somewhere. They replace a lot of potassium lost during activity, and as I quite like them, I’ve never had an issue.

Final Thoughts – Parting Waves

I will reiterate, here again, the best thing you can do is to keep yourself hydrated. Plenty of water, at all times.

Don’t let yourself dehydrate, as it will happen quite easily and isn’t immediately obvious it’s happening. If your urine isn’t pale colored, then you need more water.

The combination of dehydration, physical exertion over a prolonged period, and sweating profusely in the tropical heat isn’t recommended.

That way lies cramps, which aren’t great as snorkeling is hard on the thigh and calf muscles if you’re not used to it.

You don’t want cramps in water anything beyond shallow.

Don’t let fear rule you. You will gradually learn how your body copes with eating and snorkeling as a combination. Hydrate and have simple food is the best way to start.

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