Great paper on energy use during kayaki

I was looking for data on caloric expenditure during paddling to plan for a trip and came across an excellent monograph by an exercise physiologist who is also a kayaker.

She estimates caloric expenditure for both long-distance racing and for more typical leisurely paddling on a long trip. Her analysis and estimates seem very reasonable and well-informed. Maybe others will also find it interesting and useful.

She referenced two real studies to the calorie expenditure during kayaking.

Her contribution is a whole bunch of conjecture and personal experiences.

BTW, I would recommend doing a quick search on how the calorie expenditure should be measured before starting flaming wars that include heart rate monitors and feelings

Ya know
I would think that her Ph.D. in excercise physiology from UT Austin and her postdoctoral work on cardiovascular research would probably suggest she is a card carrying expert in the subject.

Big big catch and error

– Last Updated: Apr-26-12 5:03 PM EST –

It's impossible to hook a kayaker up to a floatin'
barge of medical equipment for "actual" results.
.....sooooo its all estimated and guesstimated....

Power output for a kayaker isn't easy to figure

Any good kayaker will be using their entire body
to provide forward motion -toes,feet,legs,torso,back
and their arms; in a dynamic environment or wind/waves.

ONLY hardcore kayakers can paddle 5 mph for 15 hours
each day and do it for 4 consecutive days.
Flat water, for 50 miles, each day, pretty rare.

If your doing this you'll burn 4 to 5 thousand calories/day

A little tooo wordy, too much variability,
and written more for academia then outdoor folk.

Big Big catch and error
Might want to check out this site:

She kayaked 40-60 km a day for days in a row at times.

There is only 1 of her

– Last Updated: Apr-27-12 12:04 AM EST –

HARDLY representative of the general kayak community

Olympic sprint kayakers can hit 15 mph --but
it matters little to people reading that article.

Data gets a little skewed at the edges of a normal
statistical curve, lets shoot for near middle, okay

Most people are not blowing $3,000 - $4,000 on
carbon fiber, sleek 22 inch wide, 18ft kayaks.

metric conversion
The conversion on that is 24 - 36 miles a day, which is a far cry from 50 - 70, based on 5 mph x 14 hrs.

Expedition Paddling
While I wouldn’t want to bust anyone’s “Freya worship” :^) don’t sell yourself short.

50-65K for days or weeks is reachable for many paddlers in good shape, with excellent skills. Freya and I circumnavigated Iceland with a 65km (40 mile) daily average. Our longest day was 98km (68 miles). I put in similar mileage when I circumnavigated Newfoundland solo. Other expedition kayakers have similar mileage. It’s not easy, but it’s not super-human, either.

This kind of mileage is not beyond most kayakers IF you are mentally driven, are into pain, and don’t care to fish, sight-see and smell the roses. That said, most sane people choose to actually enjoy their vacations :slight_smile:

Realistically it’s done averaging only 3-4mph coupled with gruesomely long hours of “butt time” – at least 12 hours or more, usually without any stops on shore once you launch for the day.

If you look at some of the ultra-endurance races like watertribe, paddlers like Carter Johnson and Artie Olson have completed the 300 mile Everglades Challenge in three days or less. While they maintained good speed, the “secret ingredient” was paddling around 20-22 hours a day and fighting sleep deprivation and fatigue. This is as much mental as it is physical.

When in full expedition mode your body is a furnace, and you need frequent calorie intake. To make matters worse, at the end of insanely long hours, sometimes you aren’t hungry at all and it’s tough to force anything down, but you must eat something (ensure, etc). I ate every hour on my Iceland trip and lost 22 pounds (and was not fat to begin with). For my Newfoundland trip I maximized calories, ate a snicker’s bar / apple every hour and loaded my meals with olive oil, and only managed to lose 5 pounds. I’m currently experimenting with Hammer Perpetuem as a better endurance fuel source.

Greg Stamer

Cycling and Running = Kayak

– Last Updated: Apr-27-12 12:28 PM EST –

I'm seeing cycling/running NOT equaling kayaking
because of the use of different muscle groups
used in conjunction with one another.

I think the paper is flawed - others may disagree

If we compare Lance Armstrong to Joe Everyday
go for a ride on their bike on the weekend,
it's apple to rocks comparison

Go poll folks at your favorite local launch site
and I doubt you'll get many folks pulling big mileage
on their vacation excursions , day after day, consecutively.

Adventure racers, WaterTribe members, etc, aren't
the demographic I think she was shooting for
when she wrote that paper

I think the paper is flawed - others may disagree

What about the heart rate monitor method
It appears that all I need to enter is my weight and my age and it tells me exactly how many calories I burned. Isn’t this accurate?

For me I’ve learned it is about 70 to 120 calories per mile.

you asked for it
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I did notice your use of the word “estimated”. Good enough for me.

I’m the author

– Last Updated: Apr-27-12 10:22 PM EST –

Since that paper was written, much has been learned and lots of data have been collected. We now have a kayak ergometer in the lab and have measured energy expenditure directly. Before you go off on how an erg is quite different from the real thing, know that we are also collecting heart rate data during long distance paddling in various conditions. With that, we have seen energy expenditures well above the estimations from previous reports.

I have data from several watertribe paddlers, including mosquitomagnet (Wayne Albert) who just completed the1200-mile circumnavigation of Florida for the Ultimate Challenge. From our lab data, we can now get a very good estimate of his energy expenditure. It is all very exciting.

We are also collecting nutrition data and what we are seeing is in line with Greg Stamer's experiences. Paddlers, unlike cyclist and runners have challenges that preclude them from consuming adequate calories, especially on expedition style races, such as the Everglades challenge or ultimate challenge.

Updated info is already posted online at

but the latest is being compiled as we speak and will soon be shared.

Our lab is based in Miami BTW, if anyone is interested in being tested.

Thank you for the spirited debate, it's great to know that we are in the middle of something that is of interest to many of you. Finally, ultra distance paddling athletes are getting the attention they deserve.

Connie Mier

Intended audience of original paper ?

– Last Updated: Apr-28-12 12:07 AM EST –

When you originally wrote the paper,
who was it aimed at and was the intent of publication ?

Any pictures of the indoor lab rig hookup for VO2
while on the kayaker erg unit ?
Seems tough to do with upper body moving,
arms crossing chin area, cables and bar
zinging about in the air, etc., etc.

THANKS for doing research and joining the discussion :-)

Thank You Dr. Mier
For I have enjoyed reading your reports on the internet. And I do appreciate your contribution here on this forum. Back in the mid '80’s, urine samples were taken from volunteer kayak racers before and after our 32 mile open ocean sprint race. The results showed significant presence of ketones, which indicated that the body did rely on fat as a fuel.

testing with kayak erg
It’s not difficult at all, shade-tree engineering required.

Here’s a link to a few photos:

The original intent was to offer information for kayakers in general, particularly those that are competing in long distance events. This has led to research on nutrition intake in competitors and a grant that funded a kayak ergometer which can be used to study energy expenditure, among many things. Field work is also very important. From my work thus far, I have publishable data and it will continue to evolve. Ultimately, I would like to spark a greater interest in the long distance paddler’s nutrition and training needs within the exercise physiology research community. The unique qualities of kayaking and the demands of ultra distance competition or expedition are what makes all this so interesting, from a physiological point of view.

To those of you that may think my information is flawed, you are right, because it is based on very little data that primarily come from a handful of studies with Olympic kayakers, at best. Also note that the paper originally linked for this thread was written 5 years ago.

Glad to see MORE kayaking info
Increasing that sample size with more data will

help substantiate the research you’ve done.

Glad to see the pics showing the kayak erg VO2 test !

  • some kayaks use swivel seats to get torso rotation.

    Using the entire body is something novice kayakers

    need to learn, as technique truly matters.

    It’s not just arm strength, it’s whole body involvement

    THANKS for being honest and continuing the research

    I look forward to reading more from you in years to come

Calorie Counting
Thanks for sharing your articles and research. It is still not clear to me how to get a better estimate for myself than using the average 100 calories per mile. I weight about 235 and paddle about 4 mph, but wind and waves have a great affect on the speed.

I wonder if a heart rate monitor would help. Some of them give you calories if you input weight and age. Would this information be accurate?

Also in winds over 20 mph or lots or current or chop it is very hard to maintain speed. I was wondering if I might get more miles per day without injury if I limited my efforts to a certain percentage of my maximum heart rate. Do you think that is warranted?

Thanks again,

Frank Ladd

Carolina Kayak Club

Raleigh, NC

Calibrating Heart Rate /Calorie counter
I’ll bet Polaris and others aren’t using any kayak data

when they calibrated their heart rate/ calorie counters

  • they use runners and cyclists (traditional sports)