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Endurance shoppers need nutrition plan, too

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‘Tis marathon season in Honolulu. Not only will many marathon runners be spending three to six hours on their feet to complete Sunday’s Honolulu Marathon, but shoppers will be on their feet, walking, standing and lugging purchases for several hours at a time as well.

Both the marathon and the mall-athon push participants beyond their usual limits. Marathon runners have spent months in preparation for the event. However, shoppers usually have invested little time in preparation for being on their feet for hours at a time. Consequently, both marathoners and shoppers can benefit from some nutritional planning.

QUESTION: How do the energy needs of marathoners compare with those of shop-athoners?

ANSWER: Average marathon runners expend 10 to 15 calories per minute during running. Depending on the shopper’s body weight and the weight of packages being carried, shoppers will typically expend only 3 to 5 calories per minute of vigorous shopping. However, this does add up, and a four-hour shopping spree can easily burn 1,000 calories.

Q: Do marathoners and shop-athoners have increased nutrient needs?

A: Both are losing water through perspiration. Marathoners in Honolulu commonly lose as much as 2 liters of water per hour. The average shopper, walking and standing most of the time, can lose 1 or 2 liters of water during the day through perspiration. This water loss is not as obvious for the shopper as it is for the marathoner, but it can lead to a somewhat dehydrated state.

Like marathoners, shoppers are wise to start their event in a well-hydrated state. During a day of intense shopping, shoppers should plan on consuming about a liter of fluid from their favorite beverages to maintain reasonable hydration. Although poor hydration can be life-threatening in a marathon, inadequate hydration in a shopper can be enough to affect mental acuity. This can result in an impaired capacity to make those quick reactions and snap decisions that may be needed for the more highly competitive shopper.

Q: What is the best way to recover from either of these marathon events?

A: A combination of rest, adequate fluids and a balanced diet are the main ingredients that support a rapid recovery. Experienced runners often estimate that it takes about one day per mile of running to fully recover from running events. So, for the 26.2-mile marathon, full repair and recovery may take three or four weeks.

The same formula may make some sense for the competitive shopper. A day of shopping could add up to 1 to 2 miles of walking. Although the exercise intensity is low compared with marathon running, an untrained shopper who usually shops infrequently may need a day of recovery after a full day of shopping.

If a heavy day of shopping takes a lot out of you, maybe it is time to consider a training program. This requires a regular schedule with at least three one-hour bouts of shopping a week.

Recruit a friend to join you, remember to consume fluids, and consider setting a limit for dollars spent per mile of shopping. Engaging in more frequent high-intensity shopping has the potential to improve personal fitness while doing our part to support economic recovery.

Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii-Manoa. Dobbs also works with University Health Services.
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