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Kayaking with Low Blood Sugar Levels. How Eating Right Keeps You on the Water Longer


Dr. Courtney Bennett

One day as I was doing some grocery shopping, I suddenly felt a wave of dizziness come over me. I was weak and jittery. I also felt noticeably hungry. It wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced before, not like typical hunger pangs. The feeling had hit me out of the blue, and I realized something wasn’t right.

I had to leave my shopping cart in the middle of an aisle in the grocery store as I was almost in a panic. When I got to my vehicle, I had developed a headache and I was slightly sweaty. I had a partial bottle of soda in my cup holder, and I instinctively grabbed it and began drinking to try to quell the overwhelming feeling that I had not eaten food in days, despite having had breakfast that morning.

After that particular experience, I made an appointment with my general doctor to see what was going on with me. I explained how I had felt fine up until the point that I suddenly felt as if I were going to die of hunger. My doctor suggested that I have some routine blood work and also a check of my A1-C. This test would show my fasting blood sugar levels. My general doctor suspected I might be Diabetic or even have what is typically called Pre-Diabetes.

Kayaking with Hypoglycemia

Once my tests were completed and I had kept a food journal for a few weeks, I went back to talk to my doctor again. It turns out, I suffer from a condition known as Hypoglycemia. What that basically means is, I have persistently low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia can occur due to the body producing a large amount of insulin usually within four hours after a meal. This is consistent with the fact that my first encounter with Hypoglycemia hit me shortly after I had breakfast.

Being a kayak angler, I knew that I had to get my Hypoglycemia under control before taking to the water again. I decided to work with a friend of mine who is a licensed dietician in order to come up with a plan of what I should eat and when I should eat it during the day. I could only imagine the horror of being on the water alone and suddenly becoming dizzy and shaky. I knew that had I been in my kayak on some river where help wasn’t close by, things could have become an emergency quickly. Sure, I always carry food with me when I kayak, but getting to the food in a fast manner isn’t always a simple task. Sometimes, I have to find a suitable place to eddy off the water, get out, open my cooler, and then begin to eat. I knew that I needed a long-term plan, and that plan would involve me learning how to eat better.

I learned that it is very important to eat meals that will release carbohydrates slowly over time. Eating anything that is loaded with sugar isn’t a good idea as the blood sugar level can rise quickly and then crash at any equally fast pace. So much for love for those sugary-sweet cereals that I had grown up eating. People who suffer from Hypoglycemia should learn about the Glycemic Index of the food that they plan to consume. Eating foods that have a low GI will ensure that you don’t get the crashing feeling that I experienced when my blood sugar level suddenly dropped in the middle of my grocery shopping. I learned that for me, keeping my carbohydrate intake around 60 carbs or less per meal worked very well for me. I stopped drinking soda and started drinking water or milk. I gave up eating a lot of sweets. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still have a cookie maybe once a week as a treat. I just don’t eat a whole sleeve of Oreo’s in one sitting anymore.

Since I usually eat my main meals before going kayak fishing, I focused on creating some options that I could take along with me. I also knew that I would need to start actively planning times to get off the water and eat in order to keep a consistent level of blood sugar. A typical on the water menu looks something like this:

Protein Bars with Nuts
Tuna Packet
Wheat Crackers
Cheese Sticks
Small Portion of Peanut Butter

I also like to use some of the new pre-packed protein meals that have nuts, cheese, and some type of meat such as turkey or chicken included as they are very convenient to pack for an outing. Shake mixes that are high in protein and low carb are also favorites of mine.

It’s important for anyone who is experiencing symptoms like I had to see their doctor to get a diagnosis and a plan. Hypoglycemia can definitely be scary, but it’s also very manageable. Don’t let something easy to control keep you from being active in the sport we all love. Keep yourself healthy so you can enjoy the excitement of kayak fishing for years to come.