SportMed Dietitian works with NASA astronauts and world-wide research team

It takes more than just pasta and sauce to keep this crew running. Even though all the personnel at Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) have high-energy days, as a dietitian I am most concerned with fueling the scuba divers and deep worker pilots.

To date, the caloric needs and metabolic demands of deep worker pilots have not been researched, but those of scuba divers have. The diving crew here is in the water for an average of 3-4 hours per day. It is imperative that they are well fed with a diet high in complex carbohydrate, moderate protein and adequate fluids to not only prevent an accumulated energy deficit, but to ensure they are mentally operating at their peak.

Scuba diving for many people is viewed as a ‘float and bloat’ lazy afternoon leisure activity, however the environmental and aerobic stresses of scuba diving can be quite physiologically demanding…especially when you are in cold water for up to 4 hrs a day for 2 weeks straight like the PLRP diving crew.

Some of the environmental stress which increase the diver’s energy needs include:
•    cold stresses from submersion in cold water
•    themoclimes
•    currents
•    increased ambient pressure
•    raised partial pressure of oxygen
•    increased resistance to movement
•    added weight and drag of diving equipment (my bike weighs 14 lbs, diving equipment is way too heavy if you ask me)
•    higher breathing resistance

Research estimates energy expenditure to be about 300 kcal per 30 minute dive in 30-60 feet of water. Energy needs are of course higher for recreational divers like myself who thrash around for 30 minutes just getting the flippers on. For the PLRP diving crew this may add up to an additional 1200 calories per day expended from the time in the water and working at heart rates that are estimated to be between 30-70% of maximal (Bell & Wright, 1997).

As mentioned, I do not know of any research has been conducted on the metabolic needs of the deep worker pilots, however they undergo some of the same physiological stresses as divers so it is a safe assumption that caloric needs are increased.

As for feeding a crew of 40-60 people from a residential kitchen with one cook (me), no grocery store within a 50-kilometer radius…stay tuned for details on organizing this kind of food service.
A key ingredient for this project: a 40 lb block of cheese.

Dana Lis is SportMedBC’s Sport Dietitian, working with the Pavilion Lake Research Project for the next two weeks.

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