Diabetes + paddling

Hi fellas,

Anyone on this board has any good tips for paddlers with diabetes? As someone who has recently been “blessed” with it, I’m curious as to tips and tricks that might come in useful in the future. Minus the usual “do not paddle alone” that is - I’m sick of people telling me that (and THEY never want to join me out on a paddle!) :wink:

Question for your doctor?
I don’t know what special considerations would apply to water sports. Could you be more specific about your concerns? My wife has diabetes and she doesn’t worry about getting on a canoe or kayak and taking off.

The one thing we can be sure of is that exercise is good for diabetes, so paddling can only improve your health. Carry your glucose pills along if you’re worried about low sugar, I guess, and take your medication as prescribed.

google Sage Donnelly
She should be inspirational to your friend, given what she can do with diabetes and other health issues.

Insulin dependent or not?

– Last Updated: Feb-24-14 9:59 AM EST –

If you are insulin-dependent, there may be issues related to carrying and preserving supplies that you need to handle and share with others.

As far as I am aware from people with sugar issues, the basics come down to a couple of things. Make sure you have a good supply of the right kind of snacks to regulate your levels easily available, like a snack bar. You may have to review whether you want a vest with better pockets than now to make sure the stuff is truly readily available.

You will also have to stop, probably more often at first, to test your level and learn what and when you have to ingest something to keep sugar levels steady. Maybe need an Otter box at the ready to hold the monitor and discarded needles while on the water.

If you paddle in a regular group of friends, they should accept this or maybe they are not friends. And it is for their own good too. It is a lot safer to wait a bit at first so that you can figure out your patterns than to risk an event on the water because they insisted on pushing too much.

Just get used to managing it
then go paddling. A friend of mine, Lisa Lisius has insulin dependent diabetes and along with her husband, crossed the US via canoe in 1993-4 including much upstream travel and a 24 mile portage.

Agree with Celia and Kayamedic
I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes about 10 years ago. I am not insulin dependent but do take a “cocktail” of medications daily.

I pretty much do everything Celia says. I carry all my diabetes supplies (medication, glucose meter, variety of snacks,etc.) in a dry bag along with other necessaries: eyeglasses, TP, binoculars, camera stuff etc. On overnight down river camping trips I use a separate dry bag for all my meds both diabetes and otherwise.

It’s also wise to let your all your friends, paddling and otherwise, know you have diabetes in case of emergencies.

Then, as Kayamedic said get used to managing it and then go paddling. I’ve done more canoeing in the last 10 years I’ve had diabetes than I did in my previous 56 years.

Have fun.

Type 2 here
I have had Type 2 for about 6 years following a heart attack. I paddle almost every night in season and pretty much by myself. I check my blood sugar level before I go out but I have never been low but I do have a sack with some stuff should I be low. I have a 27 year old who has had type one since she was a year old and she does not let it get in her way either. She runs 1/2 marathons and does pretty much anything she wants. She takes care of herself but does not let it stop her from doing what she wants. When she was a teenager we did a number of multi day canoe trips.

some clarification
Type I. No problem managing it on dry land even with exercise, but…

The problem I have with kayaking is that checking your blood is damn difficult on the water and unlike biking I don’t seem to get the “feeling” for the values - being more energy-intensive biking gives me plenty of warning when I’m about to go hypo - I just start to feel like I’m going uphill on a flat stretch - and it’s just not happening in a boat…

I was more after some tips on what you might take with you as a snack - low “instant” sugar/slow release, any good tips/contraptions for using BG meter on the water? That sort of thing. People been there before me, surely. Should ask before I start re-inventing fire and stone hammer :).

My doctor is bloody useless on that sort of thing - one tells me to eat low-carb and count them, another says just eat anything and monitor BG, have yet to talk to a third one, but I’m sure he will disagree with the previous two!

It ain’t no big thing
I’m Type 1 insulin dependent for 18 years paddling with the big D. I paddle everything from open water to Class III and week long trips.

Exercise, including paddling, is the best thing there is for diabetics of all kinds. It will affect your blood sugar, mostly in a good way.

You may find that exercise raises your blood sugar short term. Talk to your Dr. and or Educator about that. But that should not stop you from getting out.

Most folks find that exercise lowers their blood sugar which is great up to a point.

If you think you might go hypo (dangerously low blood sugar)from exercise you should pay attention to your body, test your blood sugar as often as you reasonably can, and carry snacks to bring you back up if you need to.

Type II’s not on insulin usually don’t need to be as concerned about hypo’s. But it does happen on occasion.

I happen to have a set of doctors I like right now. The least useful is a specialist that I see once a year because he has rights inside the hospital I would use in an emergency, and he manages to approve my ostomy scripts each year without messing up. That’s really all he has to do normally.

But it took me nearly 3 years after I had a raft of my doctors retire to find this set. Now I have good docs who are comfortable with my being self-directed, and can comment intelligently re my being physically active. But getting that last attribute on top of the other two was not easy, and this is an area with a lot of medical professionals.

It is not easy to get doctors that are fully what you need, and in more rural areas it can be darned near impossible. So there are things the patient just has to figure out themselves.

Check in a good health food store
A good one these days is used to handling questions about the glycemic content of food and often has a section geared towards that concern. You don’t have a profile so I can’t tell what area of the country you are in. But if you live along either of seaboards near a population cluster, you will find that the health food stores have gotten very smart about this.

Insulin pump/monitor
A friend of mine has been Type I since early teens and he is ~ 55 and is an avid kayak surfer. He has an insulin pump / BG monitor that is hooked up nearly all the time. He does really well. I’m not sure that is something that insurance will pay for but it might be worth looking into, I know other atheletes use the system to keep BG levels in safe zones during exercise.

Type One 50 yrs. on Insulin
First off I don’t find sea kayaking a 16 X 22 kayak in moderate conditions that taxing. Having glucose tabs or a small orange juice handles low sugar events. When I first started kayaking 20 years ago at age 51. My 1st cocern was being skilled enough. I trained and became BCU certified and also a ACA Instructor for Coastal Kayaking. With 2 friends we have done several camping paddles on the ME Island Trail.

One pain I have yet to overcome is finding a glucometer that works in freezing conditions. I guess you could keep it in a insulated dry bag with a heat pack? That has seemed like too much of a nuisance. At 71 I find loading the kayak (47#) by myself the hardest part of the sport. ENOUGH

I paddle on trips with a diabetic
and the only comment I would make is that if you are traveling in a remote area on an extended trip where help is not easily available it makes sense to carry twice the normal supply of insulin and split it between two boats so if you lose one you have half a chance.

I’m from Sweden
:smiley: Reason I hang out here is that you guys are the friendliest bunch to strangers.

at 71
I think I might find staying alive a bit taxing, let alone loading kayaks! :slight_smile:


Snacks and testing on the water
I wear a pfd with two big pockets one of those pockets is dedicated to snacks. I love chocolate so in cooler weather I’ll have M&Ms and Milkyway bars and Snickers bars and almost any other chocolate covered something.

In warmer weather the chocolate gets messy so I’ll switch to hard candy, trail mix, Oreos and granola bars. Most of those come in waterproof packages so I just tuck them in the pocket and go.

Obviously you have to keep your meter dry. Mine only works when it is above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).

So my meter stays in a ziplock bag inside either a handy drybag, a dry bucket, or my dry suit when it’s cold.

I’m in a solo canoe so getting it out of the drybag or bucket and testing on the water is pretty easy. In calm conditions I would do the same in a kayak.

If it’s cold enough to keep it in the dry suit then I have to land before testing. I rarely paddle big open water when it’s that cold so it’s not a problem for me. If it was I would plan to run high and snack if I had any doubts between landings. I do the same any time conditions are rough enough that I can’t keep my meter dry while using it.

I figure running high for a few hours here and there is better than going hypo where that might kill me.

Almond butter
Just saw this in an article on the web, and I know that without worrying about its glycemic level I find that peanut butter bars with granola work great for me. Better yet if they have nuts. Waterproof wrapper, nice size to stash in a PFD pocket and they are a good boost. So maybe the nut butters are a place you should look in terms of snacks and/or sandwiches for a paddle.

“Almond butter

The nutty spread is a low-glycemic food, meaning it helps keep your blood sugar level stable. That’s crucial because regular blood sugar spikes and drops slow down your metabolism.”

Better invest in those almond bars
The drought in the central valley is going to do in a lot of the almond orchards. California grows something like 90% of the US supply of almonds, not going to be pretty. I too use almonds a lot as a snack without raising blood sugar too much.

Some of the nut-blend bars are good
Differs by flavor, but BeKind’s dark-chocolate-nuts-sea-salt one is a decent mix of some sweet but mostly nutty. Most so-called energy bars are too sweet for my taste. One exception is GoMacro’s “Protein Paradise” cashew caramel bar–if you can find it.

You could also hit the bulk nuts and unsweetened dried fruits section of your health food store and make your own mix. If you need to grab something quick, buy a 10-pack box of Planter’s Peanuts, which are parceled out in 1 oz. packets. Regular grocery stores sell it.

Deshelled pumpkin seeds (available in health food stores) are even better than almonds or nuts: 10 grams protein for a 1-oz serving, and they taste good. I sometimes eat them instead of meat.

I am a Type II diabetic; I was diagnosed about the same time I took up paddling. Basically, I just make sure to take in some protein and fat with the carbs, chew slowly, and drink water (not sweet liquids). Nobody would know I was diabetic if I did not say anything (which I generally do not). However, sometimes I feel uncomfortable because I do best eating “real food” after a paddle instead of high-carb treats that so many people gravitate toward. I should start toting around a bag of Mac’s Pork Rinds…