Healthy Paddling: Food for Thought

Trail mix can provide sustainable energy on long paddling trips.

Trail mix can provide sustainable energy on long paddling trips.

In past columns, I have stressed the importance of checking the weather and checking your gear before paddling. One should also always check for a growling stomach before heading out on the water. Paddling, though often relaxing, is still an athletic endeavor and will require significant energy from your body. More energy output means more input is necessary. When traveling by human-powered vessel, your stomach is your fuel tank.

Fear not the carbs. Carbohydrates have received criticism in recent years, but they support your body during increased levels of activity. There are two types to consider – simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates burn faster and are great for getting off to an energetic start, or to give you a quick boost during a long paddle. Fruits are a great source of simple carbohydrates. Bananas even come in their own storage wrapper, and have the added benefit of containing potassium, which plays a critical role in muscle function.

Complex carbohydrates are foods like bread, oatmeal, and grains. Consuming these items builds your reserves for longer paddles (or for when you leave your snack on the hood of the car). Combining simple and complex carbohydrates creates a delicious double-whammy.

Peanut butter, bananas, and whole-grain toast are a match made in heaven. The peanut butter contains protein, an excellent source of energy. And let’s not forget the ultimate outdoor culinary staple, trail mix. Trail mix is my go-to for long days on the water. I can eat a handful or two of good trail mix when I am feeling a little slow, and it makes me feel like new. Combine nuts and dried fruit for protein and simple carbohydrates, but leave out the sweet fillers like chocolate for optimal performance.  

Enjoy these simple foods for a delectable day on the water – happy paddling! 

Walter Cheatham is an experienced paddler and ACA-Certified Paddling Instructor. Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club founded by Sanibel Sea School to help the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.