Eating during long-term exercise


I’ve been ocean-sailing for some years now and during that time i’ve done some short trips ( ±50 hours). Eating and insuline-dosing has never been easy during these trips, but since it was just for a short period i was able to accept the trail-error approach. Now however i’m planning a 14-day sailing trip which forces me to figure out an adequate diet in order to survive this adventure.

One of the major issues are the difficult conditions on this boat. It’s a 21-foot competition sailing boat (mini-transat 650), which means that there’s no luxury at all; imagine no toilet and the kitchen is limited to a small camping gas bottle that hangs from the ceiling. As you can imagine there is no room or time to make an broad meal nor is there much room for food that can expire. Mostly, dinners are restricted to canned food and those exlorers meals ( just add water) but i’m afraid that most of these meals are mainly focused on providing as much carbs as possible and thus not very diabetes-friendly (although i’ll probably need the carbs aswell)
The snacks aren’t a problem, but i need a 3-meals/day plan that’s both diabetic friendly and efficient.
Is there anybody who has some experience or advise or me ?


Sounds like quite an adventure! Im not one to eat processed foods, so I dont know whats available. Fresh fruit and whole grain bread for the beginning while it stays fresh. Will have a cooler? I am a very picky eater and when traveling, I cook and slice some chicken and usually freeze it so it will stay fresh longer. I use it to make wrap/pita sandwiches. I think the first few days wouldn’t be a problem but after that I would opt to snack often on the healthiest items you can find. Large jar of nuts, unsweetend apple sauce cups, pb with a jelly or a fruit spread, whole grain crackers or rice cakes. Good luck and have a great trip! Sounds fun!

wow sounds fun also sounds like ur going to have to do some major food prep! :slight_smile: We dont know if you have a fridge/freezer or not

but if you do have a freezer

fix and freeze soups in individual containers thaw as needed… 14 apples or pears or oranges etc… shelf stable items like sardines, wheat crackers, canned veggies,peanut butter, canned tuna…string cheese

WOW no toilet???

Thank you for your replies
However i’m afraid that there’s no freezer either. It’s this thing to minimize the weight onboard so something as heavy as a freezer is out of the question. I liked the idea of canned sardines or tuna, i hadn’t even considered fish.

But i was hoping to get some more general/practical advise. I guess routine and consistency are keywords here.
I was thinking for a 3-meal day: preparing 14 packs of muesli of similar weight for breakfast (that would mean however that i need milk aswel) 14 times canned soup and 14 times some fast-cooked, full-grain rice packs (to combine with vegetables and fish or meat.)
It won’t be very varied but at least it will be easier this way no ?

Have any of you ever tried Uncle Ben’s Express Rice or similar “fast and easy to prepare” products or have any good experiences with those kind of meals ?

Anexo …no experience , but some thoughts as I sundered back from the computer room to the kitchen for my morning breakfast and back to the computer : …powdered milk ( for your muesli etc. ) . You will need your carbs !!! Liquid meal replacements in a can available in Belgium , such as Glucerna ?? They maybe available for you too in bar form ( snack ) . I believe you have to be reasonable under the circumstances …you will not eat as you do at home . So for a 2 week period , these items will not harm you …You know , what is utmost important : good blood sugars while you are exercising and alone on the ocean .
Glusoce tablets for emengencies .
I am impressed , that you are willing to take on the challenge !! Hope this is helpful .

Canned tuna/chicken/other meat are good non-perishable options that don’t need to be cooked.

On our interminable drive to Vancouver Island, yes canada is huge and we started as close as possible big city. I was eating Almonds very diabetic friendly and lot of energy per unit weight. Then We were going up and down ravines to fly fish the Stamp river inspite of my massive insulin injections I never went low. Put in water tight container baggies are not bad.

Canned sardines very yummy.

These comments assume that you’re using a pump and that you’re not sailing solo.

I only have experience with eating during marathons, but I suggest this:

Nothing about this trip sounds diabetic friendly, so don’t be overly concerned about ‘diabetic friendly’ food. Your major concern should be having enough energy to keep up during the trip and that means eating enough carbs, not avoiding carbs. That means covering the carbs with insulin when you’re inactive and covering the carbs with exercise when you’re active. Marathoners do this by reducing their basal rates for the active period, the race, and returning it to normal afterwards. Actually, the reduced rate begins two hours to 1.5 hours BEFORE the race because that’s when fast acting insulin peaks. I imagine you’ll be active in shifts (or ‘watches’ or whatever they call them) followed by a period of relative inactivity. If there is a schedule, this should be simpler. Imagine yourself running a series of marathons or distance races.

For the marathoner, the systems goes like this:

  1. Reduce basal rate to 50% 1.5 hours before race.
  2. Each bunch of carbs 1 hour before race.
  3. Eat steady stream of carbs during race. (e.g… 15 g/30 minutes)
  4. Return basal rate to normal by end of race. (e.g. after 3 hours - this is programmed into the pump.)

You would do the same except that you would add a step 5:

  1. Repeat as necessary.

You should also buy and read “The Diabetic Athlete” by Sheri Colberg for excellent tips on handling endurance sports.

Good luck, good sailing.


p.s. there’s no substitute for planning and for TRAINING. I’m sure you’re training for this cruise and an essential part of your training is practicing your meal plan - adjusting basal rates and carb intake. If you have or can borrow a continuous glucose monitor for training and the cruise, that would be a big help.

Brother-in-law did some transatlantic thing I think Azores to Carrabian and lost 20 lb was unable to eat much because of extremely bad weather. This may not be a suitable event for diabetics.

Are you aiming at setting a record , such as getting into the World Guinness Book of Records ???.." person with type 1 diabetes sales the ocean solo for 14 days " ???

I have met Canadian Sebastian Sasseville , who was the first Canadian with type 1 diabetes to reach the summit of Mount Everest and including 2 others, climbed the highest peak in the world .Sebastian is now a motivational speaker .
Happy Sailing and happy training :slight_smile:

hey, thanks again for the replies.

First off i should mention that i’m not sailing alone, i’m doing this with a friend (i’ll see how good this goes first).
Setting a record ? No, not at all, i was really hoping it would lay within my possibilities to do something like this. Climbing the mt everest is a whole other level.

To Terry: I’m not on a pump ( insulin shots novorapid) and i don’t have a cgms either ( there’s no insurance coverage for this in Belgium).
About the “activity in shifts” idea. We don’t really work in shifts. There is a constant level of activity unless i’m asleep (which isn’t necessarily at night or in one stretch). Plus the intensity of the activity varies with the weather or wind direction which can be unforseeable and change within short periods. We need to be “unagi”, as Ross would put it, or in a constant state of preparedness.

Dear Anexco.

Just another thought bring some soda crackers. They are extemely good to raise blood sugar and my classmate told me they were the only thing he could eat when he went cod fishing off the north shore of Quebec (very up and down), no other food would stay down he said. I personally don’t get sea sick but then I have never been in a small boat in the Atlantic in a storm. But when I had the ulcer soda crackers and sour cream ( the French call this creme fraiche ours only has 14% fat) where about the only thing that would stay down. Try to pack them in an air thight container, they are best dry not soggy.

Bon voyage and blue skies.