Diabetes and Paddling

So, I’ve recently found out I have Adult Type 2 Diabetes. I’ve limited my exercise to just walking the past month, but I’m being told to go ahead get back into paddling and bike riding.

Any other diabetics out there who can offer some advice? I’m guessing I’ll need to test myself after a half hour or so (I usually drop to around 85 after 45 minute walk). And I assume I’ll need to take something that will get the levels up again if I go lower than 50.

Just checking to see if there is anything else I need to watch out for.

As info, I’ll be paddling on a calm lake, however I will be going solo.

Thanks. Jay

I take diabetics all the time
and stop the group when they need to check their blood. I carry cheese crackers, stay close to them and even carry medicine for some in a small cooler.

I inform all paddlers on anyone’s medical condition and they always accomodate. This saves questions on the river and it is OK

Paddlin’ on


I was diagnosed 2 years ago with type 2. Exercise and diet control are key. I bike, paddle and ski. I eat no simple carbs and limit my complex carb intake to 60-75 grams per meal. Snacks 15-30 grams. I use nuts and jerky for on water energy replacements with an occassional Lara bar. No Gatorade, plain water or sugar free iced tea and flavored waters. My blood sugar never drops below 70 and rarely cimbs above 140 2 hours post meal. My last 2 A1C were under 5.8. E-mail me if you want more info on some things to do to keep you in control of you diabetes and not the other way around.

Type 1 here

– Last Updated: May-23-08 7:34 AM EST –

I am an insulin dependent diabetic. I paddle canoes and occaisionaly a kayak on anything from open ocean to class III whitewater. I wear a Lotus Rio Grande pfd which has 2 large pockets on the front. I keep snacks in the pockets, candy bars when it's cool enough, granola bars when it's too warm for chocolate and a waterproof can of canada mints for fast sugar. I also carry sandwiches in a dry bag as needed.
I tend to eat a lot while I'm paddling so my sugar rarely goes low. If anything I tend to run high.
I have gotten into trouble a few times on long hard days. I think for me there likely is a limit to how much I can do without cutting way back on my insulin.

You want to stay well above 50 if you can. The more your body gets used to being down there the harder it is to feel it.
If you can, paddle with someone who knows you and will watch out for you. I'm not proactive enough at recruiting folks that way but when I've got into trouble it's been fellow paddlers (Sing, Fluke & Carp) who got me going again.
If you are out alone use your meter regularly and if in doubt eat.

The most dangerous time IMO is the drive home. I have to test before I get in the truck and every hour after until I'm stopped.

I think, as a type 2, you have less to worry about lows but I could be wrong. The best way to know is to use your meter often at least until you have a good idea of how different exercise and eating affects you. In general all exercise is good for diabetics. No reason not to paddle!

Good luck,

I’m type II, diagnosed 15 yrs ago…
…once you get to know how your body reacts to various conditions & eating patterns, it will not really limit your activities, as long as you are prepared. Generally, the more excersize, the better, particularly if you need to shed some pounds (weight control is ever-important).

I don’t take my testing stuff along when paddling because I pretty much know where my levels are (or at least when they’re out of range). Always have some snacks in the hatch.

There is no reason why “in-control” diabetics can’t live a normal active life…there is a lot of support out there, more now than ever before. One in ten of us have this condition but most don;t know it…everyone should have their blood-glucose levels checked occasionally.

Take it serious & it won’t get serious.

Also a Type II …
… We usually have to be more concerned about elevated glucose levels (hyper) vs low (hypo). Exercise is a good thing and a great way to control Type II. Everyday, as much as you can do. Diet and exercise is what it’s all about!

Dropping to 85 is a good thing … do you know where you typically start? Did you eat first? You don’t want to go anywhere near 50 … anything below 70 is a concern. Typically Type II’s go low if we exercise a lot before we eat, and sometimes in the early am when we’re sleeping. Our bodies don’t use insulin as well, so using our muscles burns up carbs directly. More muscles and more use of them!

Your doc probably recommended testing first thing in the morning before you eat (fasting), and 2 hours post-meals. Probably gave you some target levels as well. If you follow this, take notes on your results, and what you are eating (especially carb grams), you’ll get a pretty good idea over time of how your body reacts to various foods. Test a lot at first until you get your diet down and know how you react to foods and exercise.

If you have not already, I’d recommend talking with a Certified Diabetes Educator if you can. Another good resource starting out is a nutritionist that specializes in diabetes.

I find the “Doctor’s Calorie fat & carbohydraye counter” indespensible since it gives you carbs of just about anything, including the menu at many chain resturants. “The first year Type 2 Diabetes” by Gretchen Becker was also very helpfull, as well as ADA’s “Complete Guide to Diabetes” as a reference.

For me, I’m targeting “normal” levels … under 100 two hours after meals and fasting. My average is around mid to high 80’s. I don’t exercise before meals … only after. When I plan to exercise, I’ll eat a higher carb meal. My diet is low carb: under 50 grams per meal, 3 snacks 2 hours after meals of around 20 grams or less. Typically my meals are around 30 grams or less, but I’ll go higher if I know I’m gonna be able to exercise after.

I kayak - solo as well - for exercise … 2 hours pretty steady paddling, with a few short breaks. Always after eating. I know from experience that I’ll be in the high 70’s to low 80’s after a good paddle. I have a snack after … low carb. Nuts are great.

Diabetes won’t limit you if you take control of it.

Thanks for everyone’s replies and encouragement. It’s one thing to hear from your doctor to go out and exercise as normal, but even better to hear from diabetics who actually do.

I’m generally in the 100-135 range in the morning after fasting, and depending on if I snack or not between 115-145 in the evening before I eat.

Normally when I walk I’m dropping about 40-60 points in 30 to 40 minutes, which caused a little alarm for more strenouse exercise. However, I think testing and snacking is going to be the answer. I’m not going to stop doing the things I love to do, just do them a little differently.

I have been to a diabetic trainer in the past week. It was a good learning experience, but surprised to learn that I shouldn’t be snacking at all, but rather eat 3 large meals. Didn’t like that one, since I think that actually leads to putting on weight. Also they told me no more than 5 - 10 nuts a day depending on the variety, which seemed odd.

Kayakangler, I’ll take you up on some advice, email you later.

Thanks to everyone. I’ll send out a post paddle message over the weekend.


Found out in February
I’ve lost 30 lbs since Christmas and take metformin. My blood sugar levels are pretty much normal now, exercise and diet are the key. A lot will depend on what kind of medication you are taking about how low your blood sugar levels can drop. I have ended up needing to monitor a lot less than expected. There are several folks here who have type II diabetes and who go at it pretty hard.

*I think you pretty much nailed it …
Yeah and thank god for almonds .

Just like learning to kayak …
… It takes time and work to get to the level you want to be. It can take several months to get to the glucose levels you want … there’s diet, weight, medicine, etc.

I started out with levels in the high 200’s low 300’s. 50 pounds and 3 months later norman levels, and I’ve been there since.

You’ll find things that work for you … just like your boat, paddle, etc. Diet is one of those. Recommend you explore and not take just the advice of your current educator. The idea of no snacks and big meals is not something I’ve heard … might be interesting.

Good paddling!

Some silver linings …
I can now easily balance the best high performance surf kayaks and waveskis after losing the weight.

Lots of motivation to exercise … don’t want the eye, kidney and neuropathy problems.

Another Type II


I’m a Type II (approx. 16 yrs.) and am thankful to be able to completely control mine through diet and exercise. This might sound morbid but the disease is almost a blessing. With few exceptions, it is something that YOU have the power to control. It has forced me to take better care of my body and my overall health has never been better. Paddling, sailing, and walking are my main sources for exercise.

You mentioned that you would be paddling alone. Your elusive bio shows that you live in North Texas. We have several groups here in the D/FW area that regularly paddle and are always open to new participants. Send me a PM and I can will give you details.

Best to you in the control of your diabetes.

type 2
I have type 2, and when I exercise I keep a small jar of honey nearby just in case. I have pathetic control and know I need to do better. I take daily medicine but am overweight. I know I should lose a ton of weight, but it is easier said than done.

Type I and wear a pump
Have been a Type I since 1979. I carry a meter in a water-proof box and test before I go out and if I begin to feel “strange” when on the water. I carry a small can of OJ (or two) in a deck bag in case I get low. I also race a Hobie 17 catamaran and follow the same procedure (but I don’t take the meter out on the water.) The small individual cans of juice are good to use . . . They do not need to be kept cold, hot august temps to not effect them, and the cans are strong (can’t rip open) and they float if you drop them. When I paddle with a new group I always tell them about my condition and where I keep my “emergency ration of sugar”.

Hang in there. It is a pain to deal with but we all get used to it.

Another Type II here
I was diagnosed with it back in 2002 but had been what they now call “prediabetic” since 1990. Fasting blood sugar levels slowly rose all those years, and then the threshold for what’s considered “diabetic” was lowered. Voila, overnight I became a diabetic.

Back to the meat of your question, being diabetic has not (so far) hindered my athletic activities. I take metformin twice a day. Honestly, the few times I forget to take it I have not felt any different. But my doc says it has to be a lot worse diabetes to actually feel bad. He also says diabetes often does get worse with time.

I was diabetic when I did a one-month paddle camping trip from Ketchikan to Skagway. I have read of a man with Type I diabetes who bicycled cross-country. I know a paddler with Type I diabetes who wears an insulin pump under his wetsuit.

It’s not exactly the kiss of death, though sometimes I wonder if the other shoe will drop (becoming insulin-dependent: shots).

Team Type 1 …
… Team of professional cyclists that race all over the world… all have Type I Diabetes. There is an amateur component to this group as well. You can look up their web site … also on Dlife’s web site. Most current activity is Race Across America, starting the first week in June I believe … San Fran area to Annapolis, Maryland.

Type 2
I’m Type 2, I’ve lost enough weight to not take any medication on a regular basis and still have fasting levels in the 80’s.

Back when I was taking medication, my biggest problem was getting low blood sugar attacks from long periods of hiking or paddling. So, just BE SURE to carry FOOD and you BLOOD GLUCOSE MONITOR on you along with medications. I especially remember one episode that scared the crap out of me hiking on the Benton McKay trail, but a half cup of peanuts sorted that right out. Very low blood sugar is a scary feeling.

Like many of the others, I heavily recommend a lower carb diet for day to day control and of course, weight loss and exercise.

Also found low carb … not no carb …
… works well for me. I do tend to do smaller meals with snacks after 2 hours.

We’re all a little different, so figuring out what works and what doesn’t for you and your lifestyle is they key to control. That’s why testing is so important. Unfortunately many Type II’s don’t test as much as needed to really get to that level.