UPDATE: Read Part VI of The McWorkout here.
One week ago, I began an intensive regime of fitness and fast food. My goal? To live off McDonald’s for a month while getting into shape. In the past seven days, I’ve eaten 30 McDonald’s meals, trained six times and fapped twice. Two of those statistics are relevant to this story. The other one you really didn’t need to know.
If you’ve been following this challenge for entertainment, you should enjoy the McWorkout Diary that’s coming up shortly. If you’ve been following it for science, you’ll find all the stats you could wish for in the conclusion, including exercise totals, costs, nutritional analysis, mood chart, weight and body fat.
First though, here’s some wisdom from Nutrition Consultant Dr Chris Fenn:
Dr Chris Fenn
Just as important as taste, the “feel” of food is important to a lot of people. Mouth feel is created by fat. We love the smooth, melt in the mouth creaminess of foods and these kick off another dose of neurotransmitters in the brain to make us feel good and keep coming back for more.
After a week of eating McDonald’s, there is no shortage of “bliss factor” but the “food” lacks texture. The original space food was nutritionally complete, pureed, flavoured and designed to be squeezed from a plastic pouch into the mouth like vitamin-enriched wallpaper paste. On returning to earth, the astronauts were craving foods with texture and crunch. Munching on a cream cracker was not allowed; crumbs were simply not allowed at zero gravity.
Good nutrition, in my opinion, is not simply about providing nutrients and fibre in the right proportions, but eating foods which stimulate the senses and give pleasure. Bread can do this if it has a decent crust, chewy texture and wonderful flavour. The buns served in McDonald’s are sad, soft excuses for bread that are lacking in any nutrition of this type.
My McWorkout Diary
Thursday 1st May (Day 4)
Before The McWorkout started, I was rarely out of bed before 10am; now I awaken early and am in my office by 8am every day. The lazy days of last week seem like a lifetime ago.
My first major decision of the day comes, not when perusing the McDonald’s breakfast menu, but when eyeing the pile of dishevelled clothes that passes for my wardrobe. Following a 7am abs workout, I shower and pull on a t-shirt before hastily changing my mind and removing it. K has volunteered me to be a parental helper again, this time supervising the P4 swimming lessons. I’m pretty sure it’s the parents who are supposed to opt in to these things, rather than their kids signing them up on the sly. That’s the trouble with being a liberal dad: you say yes to everything and next thing you know you’re in charge of a horde of excitable eight-year-olds, only one of whom is yours but all of whom are now your responsibility.
For this reason, I cannot wear my favourite t-shirt today. I toss it aside and pick up another. No, I can’t wear that one either. Or that jumper, come to think of it.
Why do all my clothes seem to have half-naked women on them?
When I have settled on a suitably demure outfit, I head to the office to edit Thursday’s McWorkout blog. Halfway through my cappuccino I glance up from my feelstation to see a familiar face looking back at me.
“What are you doing here?” I exclaim. My sister lives 40 miles away and now she’s sat next to me eating McDonald’s.
My sis doesn’t need to ask the same question of me; our meeting may be serendipitous, but she’s heard all about The McWorkout. We catch up on news while I edit my blog and speculate as to what our mum will say when I finally solicit her thoughts.
9:15: With Thursday’s blog published, I jump in the Tate and race to school just in time for swimming lessons. For the next two hours, fast food takes a back seat as I do my best to supervise the P4 schoolboys. When the last straggler has been herded out of the changing rooms and I’ve rounded up the stray towels and jackets left in lockers, I head back to the office for lunch.
12:15: I’m in McDonald’s streaming the Less Angry Version of Killing In The Name. Its niceness is fucking with my head and eventually I’m forced to X the tab. A kid at the next table drops the lid of his cheeseburger on the floor and begins howling. I bite my lip.
I’m not sure whether it’s the fitness regime, the fast food regime or a combination of both, but I’m getting the urge to nap every day now. At 14:45, I awaken from a short date with the pillow and flip open my laptop. Moments later, my sides start to hurt as I entertain the prospect of friendzoning a cat.
I’m still smiling as I enter McDonald’s 15 minutes later and order a Sweet Chilli Crispy Chicken Wrap with a Side Salad.
“Let me just check…” says the girl, “…we don’t have any side salads. Would you like fries instead?”
I’ve never heard of a McDonald’s running out of fries before; I guess salads must be harder to freeze.
While I’m eating my side salad-less wrap, I open a text from my mate.
Once upon a time I was “That guy who punts decent weed”. Then I became “That guy who wrote a blog about vagina names.” Now I’m “That guy you send your McDonald’s food porn.”
I think back to my interview with the careers advisor at 17. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the trajectory we’d mapped out.
I drive to school and pick up my daughter, once again making sure to stash the McDonald’s wrappers strewn around my car. It would be easier to conceal a smack habit.
“Dad we need to buy a plastic tub for my ladybird,” says K as she climbs in.
She opens the side pocket of her bag and out falls a handful of grass and a small red dot. As I gaze at the tiny creature, all I can think is “What would happen if I fed McDonald’s to a ladybird for a month?”
The McWorkout does strange things to body and mind.
7:40: I am in McDonald’s Union Street, queued behind a pair of fat lesbians with bad tattoos. I request a Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad. The assistant stares blankly at the screen for a full 30 seconds. I suspect the salad button has never been programmed.
Half an hour earlier, I completed an 11.5k run along the beach. Despite the wind and cold, it was a satisfying cardio sesh, the sort where you feel like you could run at that speed forever. I vow to attempt a long run during The McWorkout. 20k? 20k would be nice. Who’s up for it?
With dinner consumed, I head to the gym, stopping at my car first to ditch the McDonald’s packaging. That brown paper bag may only contain the remnants of a salad, but the gym bros aren’t to know. There’s probably something in the PureGym Ts & Cs about taking McDonald’s into their inner sanctum.
By 8:30 I am in BrewDog, where I’ve arranged to meet up with a mate for a drink. It’s the first pub I’ve entered since The McWorkout began and it’s the first time I’ve entered a BrewDog without ordering alcohol.
I sip a Diet Coke while my mate nurses a pint of Fake Lager. I’d promised not to regale her with countless stories about fast food and fitness, but it’s not easy. This challenge isn’t just dominating my life – it is my life.
“Did you know that your name in Māori means ‘food’?” asks my companion.
I laugh. “Say my one-syllable name quickly and you end up with fast food.”
During The McWorkout, I’m supposed to be photographing every meal and tweeting it via a secondary account as proof. When I arrive home at 11pm however my last two meals have still to be snapped because my piece of shit phone refuses to photograph them with a low battery – even when umbilically linked to a charger.
I fall asleep in my bedsit surrounded by brown McDonald’s bags. Today was a good day.
Friday 2nd May (Day 5)
When I check my bank balance it is to discover that my phone bill has come off, leaving me £52 overdrawn. All I have is the shrapnel in my pocket which is expected to fund my £16-a-day McDonald’s habit and provide enough fuel to make it to Edinburgh and back.
I’m going to need to borrow some money.
My now-obligatory nap arrives earlier than ever today; within an hour of consuming a Bacon Roll with brown sauce, I’m back in bed. Are my energy levels plummeting or am I just getting lazier?
It’s hard to tell.
12:00: McDonald’s is queued out the door. Fuck that. I jump in the Tate and drive to an alternative McD’s. This one is scarcely any better; the drive-in queue stretches back onto the dual carriageway, while the walk-in queue is equally depressing.
It will have to do: I must preserve my gains. I park up and get in line behind a pair of land whales.
My Chicken Legend meal is reasonably satisfying, but like all things McDonald’s is ridiculously salty. These days, all I seem to do is drink water and piss it back out.
I’m starting to get used to the McDonald’s energy cycle, the one that lifts you for an hour or so before leaving you slumped and lifeless, ready for more pillow time.
By my reckoning I have two hours in which to complete my work before the fast food high wears off. Two hours in which to write an 800-word article on cloud-based accountancy software and 300 words on Livingston Designer Outlet. I can do this.
Two hours and three joints later and my mission is complete, just as E is finishing up at nursery. I’m in such a rush I don’t even have time to stash the McDonald’s wrappers. I throw my bag over the top of them and speed off.
The sun is shining and E wants to play in the park next to her nursery. It’s a pseudo-gym park where the rides mimic resistance equipment. Most of the installations serve no practical purpose, but one of them seems to work. If I tense my core and raise the handles, it makes for an effective abs workout, especially once E jumps on, adding her bodyweight to the mix.
Abs done, father-daughter time done, dad of the year nomination in the post.
5:00: I’m in McDonald’s, spending my last £2 on a Crispy Chicken & Bacon Wrap. As I am biting into it, a text message arrives from a client: “Hi m8 I transferred £75 for you. Hope this helps :)”
Success. God wants me to complete The McWorkout. Just when it seems this sunny day can’t get any better, I receive a WhatsApp from Patrick:
To which there can only be one response…
After a short but intense chest workout, I meet my mate at the Tate and we set off for Edinburgh. I apologise to her in advance for having to stop off at McDonald’s en route to refuel.
15 miles from Dundee, the tall golden arches come in to view and I pull off the dual carriageway. The M doesn’t stand for McDonald’s – it stands for Muh Gainz, which are in desperate need of some post-gym protein.
One Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad, Peri Peri Snack Wrap and hash joint later and my perfect Friday takes an unexpected turn for the worse. The tunes are pumping, the sun is shining and my car…woah, what the hell is up with the Tate?
All of a sudden, the engine is sounding unhealthier than my diet.
I’m overtaking but I’m slowing down. I’m in fifth but my revs are sky-high. And what does that red light on the dashboard mean?
I kill the radio.
Shit, this isn’t good. I exchange grim looks with my mate as I switch on the hazards and the Tate slows to a crawl. An exit looms and I limp off the dual carriageway while the remnants of the engine whine in protest.
We shudder to a halt in a country lane, 7 miles from Dundee and 70 miles from our destination. I wait a moment and then try the ignition. Nothing.
The Tate is dead. So’s my Friday.
And it had all started so well…
The apology for dragging my mate to McDonald’s had been half-hearted – this time all my apologies are genuine.
With funds and options thin on the ground, I phone a friend who kindly agrees to drive all the way from Edinburgh to pick us up. In the meantime, we’ve got an hour to kill and the temperature is dropping fast.
There’s only one thing for it: my mate delves into her bag and pulls out a bottle of wine. I hadn’t been planning to drink, but when in Rome – and by Rome read: a farmer’s field near Forfar – it only seems right.
While we await deliverance, I recount The Madrid Story, the longest and most engrossing tale in my armoury. It does the trick; by the time I reach the part about the hotel door, help is a mere 15 minutes away and the bottle is empty.
I’m not sure what bothers me more: the death of my car or the 350 calories I just drank.
A thought occurs. “Do you have a pen? I probably ought to leave a note on the car to say I’ll be back for it.”
After rummaging in her bag, my mate produces a pencil, but there’s not a scrap of paper to be found. It’s 2014; no one uses paper any more. Thankfully, The McWorkout comes to the rescue. I tear open a McDonald’s bag and scribble my message on the reverse, each of us taking turns to score the thick lines required to make the pencil legible.
2am: After belatedly arriving in Edinburgh, I curl up on the sofa and smoke a bunch of joints. Today I’ve fallen off the wagon and so’s my car. The Tate has gone full potato in the worst possible place at the worst possible time.
Never mind, I can still save this weekend. All I have to do tomorrow is write a bunch of overdue articles, make it to the gym, vacate my office (an actual office, not McDonald’s), meet Patrick, eat a bunch of junk food while meticulously recording every calorie and find a way of making it back to Aberdeen.
I can do this…r-right?
Saturday 3rd May (Day 6)
I’ve not been eating unhealthily enough; yesterday I forgot to have a burger. I kick off the weekend with a Breakfast Wrap in McDonald’s Princes Street, 600 calories of filth and 45% of my RDA fat devoured in a couple of bites. If I can cram in a couple of burgers before the day’s done, the diet will be back on track.
I look out the window as an English gentleman discusses the state of the trams with his tousle-haired teenage boys. A violin case lies next to them, while words such as ‘Stockbridge’ and ‘environmental policy’ drift over. It’s good to be back in Edinburgh.
I look from one boy to the other, trying to work out which of them is called Tom. There’s always a Tom.
After breakfast, I enjoy my best workout of the week, a solid 90 minutes of weights with no time constraints to halt my progress. Why can’t it be like this every day?
Next it’s on to my mate’s cafe where I meet Glasgow MOG, rapper extraordinaire and a man whose diet closely resembles mine. MOG’s partial to a bit of filth:
Every time I make plans to meet a mate, they make me promise not to take them to McDonald’s:
I have decided that I can’t morally invite my mates to join me in my office. If they wanna eat filth, they have to do the asking.
“So mate, I was wondering…” I trail off.
“What?” asks MOG.
“I can’t say.”
It clicks. “Would you like to join me for McDonald’s?” he asks.
“I’d love to mate.”
As we queue for food, MOG asks me how the diet is going.
I think for a moment. “It’s a bit like prison. I just wanna serve my time and survive the month.”
“There’s only two meals in this place – your first and your last,” quips MOG.
Still buzzing from my workout, my natural instinct is to preserve my gains by dining on lean protein and clean carbs. Instead, I force down a McChicken Burger and fries.
Three hours and one nap later and I’m back in McDonald’s, this time ordering a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Vanilla Shake and a Side Salad.
“I’ll check if we have any,” says the cashier, issuing the reply I am accustomed to hearing every time I order a salad.
While I ruminate my food, I ruminate the oddities of the McDonald’s menu. Why do they call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese when everything comes with cheese? Why not just call it a Quarter Pounder?
McDonald’s Garden Salads are utterly depressing. No wonder nobody orders them. In the right hands, salads can be nutritious, tasty, imaginative and filling. In Ronald McDonald’s clumsy clown paws, they’re dreary, bland and tasteless.
I love the taste of the Vanilla Shake, but as I slurp my way to the bottom, I can feel the sugar high building, to be followed by the inevitable slump that can only be cured by one thing – moar McDonald’s.
As if on cue, a WhatsApp arrives from my mate, followed later by a Facebook message from a friend:
9:45: For the fourth time in 12 hrs, I walk into McDonald’s Princes Street. Eating McD’s in Aberdeen is relatively painless. Having to leave my mate’s and trek all the way to Princes Street, however, is a pain in the ass.
Back at the flat, I do the math. It’s been my biggest calorie day so far and yet I still feel hungry. I also feel thirsty, thanks to 200% of my recommended daily salt.
“Fuck…I’ve consumed almost a half ounce of salt today!”
My mate is well aware of The McWorkout, but that doesn’t stop him from repeatedly forgetting and offering me food I can’t have.
“If you’re still hungry there’s some pesto pasta in the saucepan…oh shit, sorry, never mind.”
I feel like Jesus being tempted after 40 days in the wilderness. Unlike JC, I eventually succumb to the devil and devour half a chocolate muffin to ward off my hunger pangs.
Sunday 4th May (Day 7)
The Sausage, Egg & Cheese Bagel is the worst breakfast item I’ve had yet. One thing I certainly won’t miss when this is over is McDonald’s cheese slices. Since when did egg and cheese go together anyway?
The rest of Sunday passes much like the previous six days: exercise (a solid biceps workout and 3.5k of interval training on the treadmill) and a fuckton of fast food. Before catching the train back to Aberdeen, I meet MOG in McDonald’s one last time. Yesterday’s encounter was by arrangement; today’s is serendipitous.
I’m here because I’m on a McDonald’s diet. MOG’s here because he’s Glaswegian.
With the remainder of Sunday taken up with preparing the blog you’re currently reading, there are just three more points worth mentioning:
1. I discover a new workout song which I download and play to death. You’ll hate it. I’ll love it when I’m subjecting my ears to it at the gym tomorrow.
2. At 1am, I finally cave in and have two spoonfuls of peanut butter. It tastes amazing.
3. At 2am, I read this status update:
7 Days of Training Dirty
Monday: 1170 calories, 95 mins
Tuesday: 520, 80 mins
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 850 calories, 75 mins
Friday: 410 calories, 40 mins
Saturday: 640 calories, 105 mins
Sunday: 536 calories, 45 mins
Ave. calories burned per day*: 688
Ave. time spent exercising per day*: 73 mins
*Rest day not included
7 Days of Eating Filthy
Click on the day of the week for a complete breakdown of the filth I’ve shovelled into my body.
Monday: 2204 cals
Tuesday: 2963 cals
Wednesday: 2814 cals (inc. 750 ‘other’)
Thursday: 2244 cals
Friday: 2804 cals (inc. 350 ‘other’)
Saturday: 3100 cals
Sunday: 3045 cals (inc. 250 ‘other’)
7 Days of Feels
Read My McWorkout Diary for the corresponding day to link the feels to the activity I was performing at that moment in time.
7 Days of Stats
Total spent: £115.45
Ave. cost per day: £16.49
Eating McDonald’s all day erry day ain’t cheap, that’s for sure. These figures would be even higher were it not for discount vouchers and the benevolence of friends. If you were to stick to the Saver Menu, it would be possible to eat non-stop fast food for less. The moment you order salads or try McDonald’s ‘deluxe’ fare however, prices shoot up.
Adding up everything I’ve eaten this week and crunching the numbers makes for some interesting daily averages. Recommended daily amounts are published by way of comparison. When training hard and trying to build muscle, daily calories should be higher than 2,500 and protein should be much higher than 55g; ideally I should be taking in 160g protein a day for my weight and around 3,000 calories.
Red = too high
Blue = too low
Ave. daily protein: 142g
RDA protein: 55g
Ave. daily fat: 117g
RDA fat: 95g
RDA saturates: 30g
Ave. daily carbs: 262g
RDA carbs: 300g
RDA sugars: 120g
Ave. daily fibre: 21g
RDA Fibre: 24g
Ave. daily salt: 10.9g
RDA salt: 6g
In total, I’ve consumed 76 grams of salt this week which is the equivalent of 14 sachets per day. Fat (including saturates) is high, but not as bad as I’d anticipated. The amount of carbs and sugar I’ve ingested may seem low, but that’s probably because I haven’t made a dent in the McDonald’s dessert menu yet. On Saturday, when I had a vanilla shake, my sugar intake soared to twice its RDA.
Calories is the one metric I was unsure of going into this challenge: I figured I’d measure my weight and body fat at the end of week one and then adjust the level accordingly going forward.
As for the exercise aspect of The McWorkout, I’ve started to really enjoy my gym sessions. The best moments of this week haven’t involved food – they’ve involved fitness; completing an 11k run at the beach and my weekend workouts at PureGym Edinburgh were highlights.
The Weigh In
At 8:30 this morning, I stepped back on the scales. A week ago, before a morsel of McDonald’s had passed my lips, I weighed 72.2kg.
This is what I saw today:
That’s right, I’ve lost half a kilo.
A week ago, my body fat was 15.1%.
After just a week on The McWorkout, my body fat has dropped by almost a third. As a consequence, my BMI is also slightly lower, down from 20.9 to 20.7.
What do these figures mean?
Firstly, they mean I’m not eating enough. With the amount of exercise I’m doing, I ought to be consuming more calories each day. If these figures were to be mirrored in the remaining three weeks of The McWorkout, there’s no chance of me building muscle. At this rate, I’ll end up with well-defined abs and not much more.
Just because my body fat’s dropped doesn’t mean that eating McDonald’s is a good way of losing weight; more likely it means the cardio I’ve been doing has raised my metabolism and burned off additional fat.
See all those times when the feels chart records be being tired or hungry during the past week? That’ll be when my body was crying out for more food (or more nutritious food more likely).
My goal for week two? Regain the weight I just lost – but without increasing body fat. Given the amount of carbs and sweet treats I’ve got lined up for the coming week, this could be harder than it sounds. It turns out that trying to build muscle while subsisting on McDonald’s is quite hard. Who knew?
Week 1 Assessment
I’m happy to have trained for six days this week, but know I can work out harder and for longer in week two. The biggest enemy right now isn’t McDonald’s or lack of energy – it’s a lack of time. And the lack of a car, just to add to my woes.
I claimed one cheat meal this week, which I’m pretty happy with. Otherwise, my only indulgences were half a muffin, half a bottle of wine and a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. I ate at least one burger and one side (fries/hash brown) each day, in accordance with the rules. (Total consumed: 9 burgers, 10 sides.) I also ate one breakfast roll every day, save for Wednesday when I elected to try something else on the menu.
In week two, I’m going to have to eat sweeter: there’s a lot of filth on the McDonald’s menu that must be consumed before the end of the month.
While the rules don’t forbid me from drinking or smoking, I’ve been trying to cut down on both for obvious reasons. I’m pleased with my alcohol consumption, having twice met friends in the pub without touching a drop. I’m gonna excuse myself for tanning that half bottle of wine on Friday night, given the circumstances.
Days smoked this week: 4/7. Three days without touching the demon weed is good going for me, but on the other days I fairly packed it away. Week two’s goal? Less joints 🙁
And Then There Were Two
Last weekend, as I was preparing to commence The McWorkout, I received the following text:
Despite my attempts to dissuade him, Alex has joined The McWorkout. One week in and he’s been training hard and eating exceedingly filthy. I’ve recorded his starting weight and body fat; if he sticks with the programme and succeeds in losing weight, I’ll publish his stats at the end of the month. Till then, add him on Snapchat (username: rdbisgod) to witness a man voraciously working his way through the McDonald’s menu.
While I harbour doubts about his ability to last the course – specifically with regards to the exercise segment – there’s no doubting his enthusiasm.
The rest of you: don’t even think of attempting The McWorkout. I don’t feel bad about flinging fast food into my own body but I really don’t want to become an ambassador for eating shit.
In Thursday’s blog:
Hack my Mac: I solicit your ideas for pimping my burger
Fat Burning v Muscle Building (you know, that feature I keep running out of space for )
Meet the Tate’s replacement – The Potate-Two!
The McWorkout goes Mediterranean
One week done. Three to go.
Missed any previous episodes of The McWorkout? Catch up here.
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McWorkout logo, feels chart & graphics: Kaiga Design