Bad Air Consumption: How do I make sure I am not an Air Guzzler?

How do I know that I have bad air consumption? Ever had to signal low on air after 18 minutes of dive time? Ever been on an alternate air source? Ever hear other divers exclaim that they still have 120 bar in their tanks afte the dive? Then, the answer is, Yes! You have a faster than normal air consumption rate. So how do you avoid bad air consumption for your next live aboard dive trip? Here are some of our own tips & tricks and industry standard recommendations to improve your air consummption.

How to improve your bad air consumption

Wish you could carry this many tanks on your next dive?

Psychological

Fear of the Unknown
This affects new divers. The number one fear is depth and number two ears and inability to equalize. Negative thoughts and stress before a dive can negatively impact your air consumption rate. Try to relax and speak to your instructor about it before the dive. This helps to eliminate any fears and worries that you might have about the dive you are about to do.

Fear of being an Air Guzzler
So you know you are bad on air. Then you get paired up with a group that seem more experienced than yourself. Maybe you now try to really focus on not using your air. This often results in increased stress before and during a dive and also irregular breathing which can actually make your air consumption worse. Talk to the divers you are with. Let them know you like your air. Most divers are very nice and often thrive on assisting a diver that is less experienced than themselves. This makes them feel good.

Unsure about rough conditions & difficult dives
There will be times when you are trying to dive and the weather turns bad. The sea starts to get really rough. Dive guides are trying to hurry everyone off the boat to get “in the water quicker”. This creates stress and you might not actually miss any safety checks, but might think that you did due to the increased speed you are getting ready to dive. Slow right down and go at your own pace. Remember to take deep breaths and remember your training. Never skip safety procedures in order to keep up with more experienced divers.

How to relax and deal with psychological problems before a dive?

  1. Ensure deep, relaxed abdominal breathing before entering the water
  2. Do not descend until you have caught your breath
  3. During the descent, stop at 6m and relax your breathing, check your SPG and buddy’s whereabouts
  4. Every now and then, close your eyes for 10 seconds and relax

Physical

Uncertainty about your equipment and its condition
Often considered the most common cause for diver stress is ill-fitted equipment or malfunctioning equipment. Would you sky dive with the cheapest company? Probably not. So don’t just shop for the cheapest price when you are taking a diving course! Ensure the best diving facilities.

Here are some popular equipment considerations:

  • Invest in a properly fitting mask. This is the number one piece of equipment to cause stress if ill-fitted.
  • Do not dive with excess weight. Make sure you are properly weighted
  • Do not try to chew through your mouthpiece. Relax your jaw and make sure the mouthpiece is intact.
  • Wear the correct exposure protection. Too hot? Too cold? Either is no good. Make sure it is not chocking you either!
  • Not too experienced? Leave the camera at home for now.
    • Fitness level
      Diving is a very easy sport, however an adequate fitness level is advised. This reduces the amount of Nitrogen your body absorbs and makes it in general safer to dive. If you don’t feel that you are the most physically fit person, make your dive even easier. You can set your computer to conservative mode, dive shallower and avoid finning in strong currents. Match the dive to your physical ability.

      Bad air consumption due to the wrong pre-dive behaviour

      What should I eat before a dive?
      It is generally recommended that you eat a light meal about 1-1.5 hours before your dive. A heavy meal can cause heartburn, nausea and make it harder to breathe with your belly. It can also make you sleepy and less aware during your dive.

      What should I drink before a dive?
      An ice cold pint of beer? That is a bad idea. Alcohol dehydrates and impairs your judgement. Diving already dehydrates you due to the compressed, dry air that you breathe and the mammalian diving reflex causes you to loose more liquid than you can take in. This is called immersion diuresis. Stimulants such as caffeine increase your heart rate and therefore your air consumption. Soda can alter your blood’s PH levels and make your body work harder than it needs to during your dive. Water on the other hand you can drink lots of. Early onsets of DCS can have very similar symptoms to severe dehydration. So drink lots of water to avoid this. Water thins your blood, which makes it easier for your heart to pump through your body.

      What about smoking? I love my cigarettes.
      If you love smoking, just avoid smoking right before diving. Save that cigarette for after your day of diving. The reason for this is the carbon monoxide that binds much more effectively to your blood’s haemoglobin than oxygen does. This CO2 lingers after smoking, depriving your body of oxygen. Natrually this leads to increased air consumption in order to supply your body with enough oxygen to sustain life.

      How do I breathe properly

      Yes, a valid question! How do you describe the proper way to breathe during scuba diving.

      • You can count while inhaling and extend your exhale
      • Breathe deeply with your abdomen, this is called belly breathing
      • Gentle and slow breaths, no need to suck the air from the tank
      • Keep the breaths calm and controlled. Find a rhythm with your finning. Breathe consciously.
      • Relax to keep your breathing passive. Thinking too much about your breathing leads to faster air consumption
      • Think about your lung volume. New divers tend to fill their lungs on each breath. Not something you do on the surface, so there is no need to do it underwater. This also messes with your buoyancy as a full lung can provide a decent amount of lift. Empty your lung and let your diaphragm gently pull the required volume of air into your lung.
      • So, there you go. Every dive, try to focus on one particular area and see whether your air consumption improves over time. There is no need to keep diving with bad air consumption if you follow some of these tips & tricks. You will get longer dives and your dive buddies will want to go diving with you again!

        By Lionel

        How is your air consumption? Got any other tips? Let us know in the comments below.

2 Comments
  1. Always i have tecomended to stay more swallow (like 5 10 m with good visibility)to the people spend more air than the rest of the group

  2. Bloody brill Lionel ! Great article

    I have one other for my students…I put the tip of my tongue between my teeth…whilst I inhale and exhale

Leave a Reply