5 nutrition tips for distance paddling

This story originally appeared in SUP Magazine. Words by Jack Haworth.

Standup paddling can be physically demanding. Paddlers work nearly every major muscle group in their bodies and that is only amplified when paddling long distances.

To maintain optimal performance and keep your body from breaking down, a solid nutrition plan is a must. Check out these five tips that’ll keep you feeling strong from start to finish.

1. CARBO-LOADING

The right nutrition makes all the difference. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt
It’s no secret that loading up on carbs before an endurance event is a strategy used by pro and amateur athletes alike. But that’s for good reason: Carbohydrates keep blood sugar levels steady during those longer paddles. This prevents hypoglycemia — low blood sugar — which causes all sorts of undesirable effects including fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness and indecisiveness.

You’ll primarily want to stick with high-carb, low-fat foods that won’t stay in your stomach and slow you down. These include apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, green beans, nuts and whole grains. Max out on foods like this with your last major meal before a big race or outing for optimal energy.

2. HYDRATION

Proper hydration starts the day before your endurance event. To ensure you are properly hydrated, drink plenty of water the day prior to your paddle and have two or three glasses before going to bed and again when you wake up. Once it’s time to paddle, ensure you bring a hydration pack with enough water to tide you over until the end.

Of course, it is possible to overhydrate. Drinking too much water depletes sodium levels, which, combined with losing salt through sweat, can lead to debilitating cramps. To avoid this, remember to consume plenty of sodium before your event and also bring salt tablets along for the haul. Furthermore, adding supplements such as Carbo Pro to your water will help you maintain a steady energy level.

3. LIMIT SUGAR INTAKE

Low sugar and high carbs is the way to go. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt
While certain energy drinks promise to give you wings, that ride lasts only so long before you come crashing back down to Earth. Foods and beverages that are high in sugar are big no-nos when it comes to endurance paddling. The reason is pretty simple: Blood sugar spikes are short-lived and cause you to burn through your carbohydrate reserves at a faster rate.

The result? A debilitating blood-sugar crash that will crush the performance of even the fittest athletes. Pay attention to avoid sugar-filled drinks, candy, processed foods and even too much fruit.

4. TIMING

A clean diet will help you paddle faster and longer. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt
Equally as important as knowing what to eat is knowing when to eat. If you eat a large meal right before your paddle, you’ll feel bloated and won’t be able to perform to your ability.

If you plan to get an early start, you’ll want to eat a high-carb meal the night before and then a light snack in the morning, such as yogurt or a banana. If you’re doing a sunset session, you’ll want a high-carb breakfast and lunch, with a light snack before your paddle.

5. REFUEL POST-PADDLE

Fueling your body doesn’t just end when you step off the water. In fact, the 30 minutes following your paddle are critical for recharging your sore and tired muscles. This begins with protein intake.

We suggest consuming approximately 25 to 35 grams of protein — the maximum your body can process at one time — within 30 minutes of completing your workout. The easiest way to accomplish this is to bring a protein shake with you. Finally, remember to drink plenty of fluids, stretch and get plenty of rest to let those muscles heal and grow.

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