Why it happens and what to do to prevent it
Marked up and reprinted from the California Kayak Friends newsletter, Kayak Yak No. 107, December 1995
Mt San Antonio College
1100 North Grand Avenue
Walnut, CA 91789
909-594-5611 Ext. 4657
Steve has over 20 years background in Mountain Rescue, Search & Rescue, Air Rescue. The first 10 years as a Paramedic, the last 10 years as an RN. He is the Program Director and a Primary Instructor in the Paramedic Program at Mt. San Antonio College, the top-ranked Paramedic Program in California. He is a regular at Southwind’s Wednesday night social paddles and will be glad t o tackle any emergency medical problems you’d like to suggest. He is a member of the Wilderness Medical Society, an international group of outdoor-minded physicians and wilderness experts. Steve attends frequent wilderness medical seminars.
For energy paddling, you need sugar and water and oxygen – really, that’s it. Because of something called the “Glycemic Index,” complex carbohydrates (starches) are better for the long haul than simple carbohydrates (sugars). Some of the “Power Bar” type of stuff some athletes eat contain a lot of protein (or its building blocks – the aminoacids). Unless you can drink large quantities of water, you are better off eating carbohydrates than protein. While you are actively exercising you are not building up muscle, that happens after the exercise. You will not break down muscle if you have enough carbohydrates in your system while you exercise. Therefore, if you exercise for hours and eat proteins, your body goes through a complex process to convert that nice protein into energy to burn (basically turning the protein into sugar) – and the process produces more waste than eating carbohydrates.
Your body can only store maybe 2 hours worth of carbohydrate energy, then if you have not been replacing it along the way, your body goes into catabolism – its tarts breaking down protein and fat for fuel. Now I can hear you saying, “Oh yeah!” – but you should know that the first target is the easier to burn protein, not the fat. That is why body builders trying to get huge eat from 6-8 small meals per day.
What Fluid Should You Drink?
Gatorade? Plain water? There is a large misunderstanding in this area. It comes from not knowing how we sweat. When one does light to moderate exercise (kayaking or peddling a bike on level ground) in a cool to moderate climate (as we normally kayak in) then if you break out in a sweat , you are losing 5 mEq (milliequivalents) of salt in your sweat. If you exercise heavily (football linemen, construction workers) in a high heat environment (temperature and humidity) then your sweat contains 120 mEq of salt. That is why the former type of exercise never leaves salt rings on your clothing like the latter does! When the climate is comfortable and you exercise lightly, you can get away with water. But if you are pushing it on a hot, humid day, you will understand why they needed to invent that beverage if they were going to play football in Florida in the sun – (that’s right, it was invented in place of lemonade for the Florida Gators in the Gator Bowl). By the way, the human is the only animal we know of that cannot rely on thirst to tell him when to drink. The average adult will have lost one to two pounds of water before becoming thirsty. Force fluids! Drink more than you think you need.
What Causes Fatigue?
A lot of things, but one important one is not delivering enough oxygen and fuel to muscles. If you sprint, you can easily experience the fade out of power when you can’t deliver enough oxygen to your muscles as fast a s they burn it. Well, the same thing goes for fuel (carbohydrates). If the muscle runs out, fatigue sets in. But another big factor in fatigue is dehydration . As you sweat (or pee) you lose water. This results in your blood actually becoming thicker. It does not flow as fast, and will not supply fuel to your muscles as well. One of the signs of dehydration is having no appetite (and having a bad attitude). Ever “been there – done that?” How about a deck bag of grapes?
If you are going to exercise for more than 15 minutes, you need to drink. If you are going to exercise for more than 2 hours, you need to replace fuel. You ca n drink it in a sport drink, killing the proverbial 2 birds, or you can bring along water and then have some sort of carbohydrate at hand to nibble on while paddling.
Personally, I am not into endurance kayaking – (sorry, George, paddling to Anacapa is not in my future). But, on searches I have hiked from dawn to well into the night. Long distance hikers know the value of a good breakfast. Then, lunch is the meal that stretches from breakfast till dinner – and should be eaten in that manner, a little at a time – the same way it is burned – every hour of the day.
Adequate hydration and adequate food intake will make your paddling seem nicer, and less like an ordeal – it will even improve your attitude. It will also keep you safer – when you need that burst of energy to get yourself out of trouble.
The rule for hiking – never hike out farther than you want to (and are able to) hike back – probably applies to kayaking also. Except that in kayaking, add that the wind will turn and be blowing in your face on the way back. Don’t ask me how the wind knows when to do that – it just does! Maybe it listens to the Laws of some guy named Murphy.
Happy & safe paddling! May the force be with you!
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