In response to the dietary article in Issue 44 of NSW Sea Kayaker I have had a few follow-up questions from interested readers. Here are my responses:
Question: What type of foods should you eat as snacks whilst paddling?
Answer: Carbohydrate rich, high GI (Glycaemic Index) foods that are convenient. I have included a ‘Food for Touring’ table that outlines appropriate meals and snacks. My previous article also covered this question.
Question: I keep reading about semolina. Is it a recommended food and how is it prepared?
Answer: Semolina is an excellent carbohydrate rich grain. 1 cup of cooked semolina provides 17 grams carbohydrate, zero grams fat (if prepared with skim milk or water) and has a low GI of 55. Therefore an ideal breakfast food that will help to sustain your energy levels for longer.
It is light to carry and easily prepared by adding 1-2 tablespoons of semolina to 100-150 ml skim milk and heat until thickened. The addition of jam will increase the carbohydrate even further.
Question: What role (if any) do foods with a low GI have during a long kayak trip? I am also interested in the role of fats during a longer expedition. Is the fat in chocolate a good or bad thing? Should you actually increase the amount of fat in your diet on a trip if your normal intake is low?
Answer: Researchers have found that a low GI meal, at least 1 hr prior to endurance exercise, can delay fatigue by delivering greater amounts of carbohydrate to the muscle late in exercise. Low GI foods that are not too high in fibre and/or gas producing are the best and these include porridge, certain breads (with barley or wholegrains), pasta, some varieties of rice (Basmati) and lentils. It is important to remember that there is no perfect pre-paddle meal – experiment with low GI foods and find out what works for you.
If you are doing a really long paddle you will also need to ‘carbohydrate load’ prior to it by ensuring 9-10 grams carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight 3-4 days prior and taper off training to reduce the use of muscle glycogen.
With reference to the role of fats in a longer trip, they are an important and dense source of calories needed for endurance exercise. But by far the majority of calories should be provided by carbohydrate foods (60-70% calories). Fat should make up about 15-20% calories which would approximately equate to about 70-100 grams fat per day for a kayaker doing a long trip. It should be remembered that fat can slow down digestion and could therefore hinder energy levels.
Chocolate bars are considered a high fat food (60 gram bar equals 37 grams carbohydrate & 11 grams saturated fat), but this is not necessarily a bad thing as some fat is needed in the diet to maintain energy levels and body fat. Better fat choices for a healthy heart are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in foods like avocado, nuts, canola/olive oils and fish but of course these foods are not necessarily high in carbohydrate as well.
If you found that you were losing weight on a long trip then an increase in the amount of calories consumed would be indicated. A qualified dietician would need to assess your nutritional intake and make appropriate adjustments whether it be to fat or carbohydrate content or both.
Question: An experienced paddler sent me a comprehensive meal plan that he found worked for him on long paddles. He asked me what I thought of it.
Answer: Breakfast was a homemade muesli consisting of rolled oats, rye and wheat, sultanas, shredded coconut, puffed rice, sunflower kernels and wheat germ. He then added skim milk powder and water when ready to eat.
This breakfast is certainly healthy and carbohydrate rich with a medium GI. However, some people feel bloated, experience stomach cramps and produce a lot of wind with excess fibre, especially when exercising, so this breakfast would not suit everyone as it is very high in fibre. A more moderate fibre intake is generally recommended when exercising.
Lunch was also very high in fibre made up of dried fruit and nuts plus a couple of muesli bars. Again these sorts of foods could cause bloating and wind. Fibre is also nature’s natural appetite suppressant as it helps you to feel full and therefore it could also reduce your intake of valuable carbohydrate foods. You would also need to increase your intake of fluids as fibre rich foods need ample fluids to work effectively.
This lunch is not particularly high in carbohydrate, so the evening meal of pasta or basmati rice (with some lean meat) would need to be ample to make up the deficit and this may be the reason for some stated weight loss on trips. If the sheer volume of food is overwhelming then sports drinks can be a useful addition or taking a tasteless carbohydrate powder like Polyjoule or Glucodin. Adding lentils to the pasta/rice is another useful way to increase your carbohydrate intake or taking some packet custard/tinned rice cream.
Fluids need to be attended to and it is recommended that some carbohydrate rich sports drinks be taken on long trips as well as water to help with the carbohydrate load. A good way to monitor if you are getting enough is to watch the colour of your urine – it should always be straw coloured EXCEPT for first thing in the morning.
Thanks to everyone that sent in questions and glad to see there is a healthy interest in nutrition – applying some of these strategies can certainly make a huge difference to your kayaking performance.