Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Eating McDonald's and Losing Weight

Here is a popular story that is making its way around the interwebs, not sure if you've seen it or not. Basically, a high school teacher from Iowa ate nothing but McDonald's for 90 days, and low and behold....*gasp* he LOST weight!

Before everyone starts shouting profanities at me for having absolutely zero problems with this little experiment, let's discuss the study and its findings.

The point of the experiment wasn’t to prove that living off McDonald’s is healthy, per se, but rather that sticking to a balanced diet, even at a fast-food joint, can have a big impact.

Exactly. Remember that this was not a study about eating a balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients, it was about losing weight and staying within certain daily recommended numbers such as caloric intake

See, Cisna ate his fair share of burgers, but he didn’t exceed the recommended daily allowance for carbs, sodium, sugar, etc., in the meals his students helped him plan. In an interview with a local news station he says that in a given day he might have two Egg White Delights, a bowl of maple oatmeal, and 1 percent milk for breakfast, salad for lunch, and a Value Meal for dinner.

Barilla Microwaveable Meals Penne.jpg

Despite dinner, his breakfasts and lunch actually sound quite healthy, and despite the fact that he is eating at McDonald's, sounds healthier than what most people eat - microwaveable junk anyone?

“I can eat any food at McDonald's that I want as long as I’m smart with the rest of the day with what I balance it out with,” Cisna says. He also started walking 45 minutes a day during the three months he was eating at McDonald’s (free of charge, thanks to the interest of a local franchise owner).

Notice what is said here - balance. The problem most people run into is that they indulge far too often, or when they do indulge, they lie to themselves as to what a 'serving' actually is. If most people followed a moderate plan of say 80/20, 80% healthy eating, 20% cheat snacks/meals, then they would probably be a lot better off.

Not only that, but the teacher also admitted to starting to walk 45 minutes a day. Walking is far from great exercise for those of us who are fit, but for those who have a decent amount of weight to lose, even walking can go a long way to improving overall health. It probably also accounted for at least part of that cholesterol drop he witnessed.

One last thing, it is mentioned at how the local Mickie-D's allowed him to eat for free. I don't know about all of you, but I find eating at home or taking a packed lunch is far less expensive than eating fast food every day. There are so many other factors that are unaccounted for in this study. I can almost bet that this teacher wasn't drinking soft drinks with every meal...

This isn't a ground-breaking study by any means. It is yet another sensationalized study to drum up some attention. One of those stories that Jim and Nancy can start talking about at the coffee maker at work, joking about how, "See, I told you McDonald's ain't so bad!"

We can pull a couple things from a story like this, however.

  1. I get questions from people all the time about calorie burning this, and calorie burning that. Estimating, calculating, and just trying to figure out the best way to burn as many calories as possible with exercise. It always happens with people hopping back on the horse too, trying to cram 3 workouts in in a day (before breakfast, at lunch, and right before bed) because they have lots of weight to lose.

    Truth be told, regardless of how much you exercise (unless you are training for the Olympics) it is still a relatively small calorie burn compared to your regular daily activity. I am dumbfounded by the amount of time and effort people put into trying to exercise as much as they can rather than just educating themselves and focusing on changing their diets. Exercise is great for your body and brain, and has a part to play in your weight loss journey, but focusing on your diet is a far more beneficial strategy.

  2. Just because someone is thin or doesn't appear to have weight to lose does not mean that they are 'healthy'. The food you put in your gob plays a much larger role than just how much you weigh. It also has to do with your energy levels, what you look like, how well you function, how you think, your digestive efficiency, your performance, etc., I can go all day.

    Just because someone says, "I have a fast metabolism, I can eat whatever I want!" does not mean they are improving their overall health. That is one of the main reasons why I chose to start drinking Shakeology. I didn't have weight to lose. In fact, I started taking Shakeology right around the time I started Body Beast and was attempting to gain weight.

    I knew that regardless of your health and fitness goals (gain weight, lose weight, maintain weight), nutrition is what makes us function better and I need to make every single calorie count nutritionally.