At the beginning of my journey, I honestly believed that, once I got to my goal weight, as long as I was exercising hard every day, I’d be able to eat pretty much whatever I wanted. Perhaps a little older and wiser now, I’ve come to realize that no matter how much we wish exercising could allow us to “earn” bad food, the math relentlessly opposes success in that realm of thinking.
6 hours of yoga gets you a Big Mac Combo!
To illustrate the point, this website came up with a fantastically awesome calculator that will show you exactly how much exercise you have to do in order to “earn” your favorite fast-food. While the formula is targeted at the fast-food industry in general, it’s worth pointing out that most “restaurant” food is actually worse than fast-food, often by factors of 2x. Even your favorite “healthy” restaurant salad probably packs over 1,000 calories.
Eating out on a regular basis, quite simply, will confine you to a life of 2-3 hours a day at the gym just to maintain your current weight.
Yup… you read that chart right. You should plan to do 6 hours of yoga if you want to off-set a large-size big-mac combo meal (or, if you opt for the slightly healthier 1,200 calorie dinner-salad from your favorite restaurant, you can probably cut that down to a manageable 5 and a half).
The “Fat Guy” in the weight room
The point is further illustrated by a particular type of person I see regularly in the weight-room at the gym… The fat guys who show up every day, do 60 to 90 minutes of lifting (easily burning 400 to 700 calories). These guys show up every day. They put in the work. They sweat. They grunt. They struggle, just like the fit/healthy people do. The only difference is that they never seem to lose any weight. It’s not because lifting is a bad weight loss routine (it’s actually better than cardio, in many respects) — by all workout / exercise standards, they’re doing everything right!
But.. without changing their diet, absolutely no amount of exercise, strength training, or sweat is going to offset even a moderate intake of pizza, cheeseburgers, or donuts. These guys are literally 100lbs overweight (morbidly obese), but walk around with enormous biceps and quads. (Side-note: I see women make a similar mistake — believing that by investing all their time and effort into their abs, they are somehow targeting their belly-fat… Doesn’t work like that..)
Remember, there’s no such thing as being “healthy fat”. No matter how active you are, no matter how much exercise you’re doing, the fat on your body has serious side-effects to your heart, and your overall health.
The right way to “earn” the bad stuff
I’m not saying you should never eat that stuff again — not at all. (I’m a huge fan of cheat-days, actually). But consumption of those things should be carefully planned and incorporated into your broader strategy. I’m huge believer that if you are doing the right thing 95% of the time, you can easily get away with doing the wrong thing 5% of the time.
Put another way? You while you can’t out-exercise a bad diet — you CAN eat bad food once or twice a week — provided you’re sticking to a structured plan and eating healthy the rest of the time. That, far more than the amount of time you spend at the gym, will allow you to “earn” the cheat meals!