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Food: Nutritional Requirements


In the book "The Last Wilderness", author Peter Browning describes a two-month trip through the Northwest Territories where their diet consisted almost entirely of fish. After a month, both paddlers noticed lesions and sores appearing on their skin; at first they assumed these were caused by too much exposure to the sun. When they continued to get worse, though, they finally realized it was their exclusive diet of flesh that was creating deficiencies.

Most canoeists eat a variety of foods on their trips and do not have to worry about these sorts of problems. Some care should be put into balancing your diet from a nutritional perspective, though, depending on the kind of conditions you are expecting. In general, we find that we eat less in hot weather. Because the Labrador Sea hovers only a few degrees above freezing, we are expecting fairly cold conditions throughout this trip.

When you are planning a menu, follow the same steps you would take in lighting a fire. Normally, you would start a fire with quick-burning wood, like cedar; something that lights easily and burns fast. In food terms, simple sugars are metabolized in our systems like that cedar; they are effective for a quick burst of heat, but are not enough to keep the fire going. A bottle of juice or a mug of tea when you reach camp are perfect for a quick burst of energy.

Next, we have the larger pieces of wood, something that won't light so quickly but will keep burning long after the cedar is gone. Complex carbohydrates (starch) are metabolized more slowly than sugars, and are usually where most paddlers derive the bulk of their calories. Pasta, rice, bread, and cereals are all excellent sources for sustained energy.

Finally, we have the slow burning logs that will last all night. In diet terms, this is provided by fats. On those really cold nights, a dinner laden with cheese, cream or some other high-fat alternative will keep you much warmer than a meal of just carbohydrate. It takes your body much longer to metabolize fat, so for that extra bit of heat that will last through till morning, a high-fat meal is a good choice.
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