Significance of Hydration for Divers
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The consumption of water helps maintain body temperature and blood volume, but water is absorbed relatively slowly and this type of hydration or fluid replenishment is really only extracellular. Extracellular means it is outside of the cells.

To fully understand the science of hydration, you must first understand that there are two levels of hydration. Level One: Extracellular Hydration - extracellular hydration occurs outside of the cells. Extracellular refers to the fluid outside of the cells, which is found in three compartments that collectively equate to 20% of the body’s water. Water and high sugar sports drinks like Gatorade® fall under extracellular hydration. Water will cool your core temperature but is slow to actually migrate into the cells. Sports drinks replenish some electrolytes, but usually not in proper balance; therefore do not stimulate migration into the cells. Also most sports drinks are very high in sugar – which too impedes actual cellular hydration, as well as creating other undesirable side effects such as insulin spikes, etc. Level Two: Intracellular Hydration – intracellular occurs actually inside the cells and refers to the fluid inside the cells which equates to over 70% of the body’s water and represents 40% of our total body weight. True intracellular hydration is far more complicated than drinking water or a sports hydration beverage that is simply some electrolytes and possibly some carbohydrates.

Drinking water will improve your overall hydration status, but it will not significantly alter the ratio of intracellular to extracellular fluid. Drinking most sports hydration drinks will do little to nothing to improve your intracellular hydration and in fact could actually hinder your performance due to high levels of sugar and incomplete or unbalanced electrolytes.


HYDRATION: Water - Water Everywhere. By Terry Giles, IFPA Certified Master Trainer / Certified Performance Nutrition Specialist
Understanding the advantage of hydration begins with understanding the science behind hydration and what hydration really is. Real hydration is complex and much more than just “simply drinking water”. Athletes and active lifestyle individuals have long tried to counteract the adverse and damaging effects of high intensity training, rigorous competition and strenuous activity. People that engage in sports such as diving also need to realize that diving is similar in muscle demand to that of intensive training or competitive sports. The added element of being “pressurized to several atmospheres” – also has a pharmacological effect you may remember from school chemistry; Remember how chemical reactions occur with the effects of Standard Temperature and Pressure? Increasing pressure will typically accelerate and change many of the body’s metabolic reactions. Imbalances at depth due to dehydration or electrolyte depletion can create output issues for a diver just when they want no new issues to deal with. At depth, we know CO2 Buildup is a dramatic problem compared to on land. We know that heat loss in cooler water creates huge thermal demands on the body. Just these 2 issues alone should be enough for most divers to consider that if a better way exists, they should be using it!

Muscles require proper hydration to perform at their optimal level.
Muscles engaged in “sprint” and sudden burst motion require specific nutrients to recover fast enough to perform repeated bouts of explosive activity.
Muscle Performance is optimized with mineral support of the sodium/potassium pump.
Muscles require specific nutrients to maintain stamina and increase speed of “during exercise” recovery (glycogen resynthesis) for repeated performance and sustained performance.
Muscles require specific nutrition for post-performance recovery.


The evaporation of sweat from the skin and water from the respiratory system is our body’s primary defense against overheating. Without adequate fluids, sweat production becomes limited and temperature regulation is impaired: sports performance declines as a result. Divers tend to think that since they are surrounded by water – that dehydration is not an issue. They believe that since they are not “overheated” that dehydration is not possible. This is false, the body has to work overtime to keep your body’s vital organs warm. Same holds true for diving, just because you don’t “feel” dehydrated – doesn’t mean that proper hydration is any less important.

Inadequate hydration impairs performance and incurs health risks. As dehydration worsens, performance declines and health risks rise; as little as 1% to 2% loss of body water harms performance. Dehydration distresses regulatory systems that control temperature and blood volume, resulting in decreased blood flow to muscles, skin and the kidneys. A diver in cold water needs maximum blood flow and ability to generate body heat. The correct hydration beverage for the diver, should also assist in supplying the slow release of energy that the body needs to generate heat. Sugar drinks do a poor job of this, as they offer a quick spike of energy, then typically the diver’s system will release a large amount of insulin to counteract the dangerously high and increasing blood sugar levels, with the net effect of decreasing the amount of energy immediately available for maintaining normal body temperature levels.
In the heat of summer, with full wetsuit on and considerable heat based discomfort prior to getting in the water, heat illness can develop and progress to heat exhaustion and eventual heat stroke, which can be fatal, though normally it would take seasickness and a number of other stressors to push a diver this far from balance. Reduced work capacity of muscles will occur at around 5% - 10% loss of body water, often accompanied by spasms and cramping. This is too late.