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 Read Part III of The McWorkout here


Eating junk food is easy. Anyone can do it; most people do.

Working out is hard. Anyone could do it; most people don’t. I used to be one of those people. Full of good intentions. Ridden by lame excuses.

Training is tough, but that’s not the worst part of it. The worst thing about going to the gym is it makes you feel guilty about all the crap you’re eating. Then you’re left with two choices: get on that fitness train and ride it for life or accept defeat and sink further into the sofa.

What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way to get fit without cutting fast food? What if there was a way to get fit while doubling it? Quadrupling it?

It sounds crazy and maybe it is crazy, but one way or another we’re about to find out.

Is it possible to get ripped while eating absolute crap?


New beginnings

In part one of The McWorkout, I explained why I’ll be eating nothing but McDonald’s for the next month. I also hinted at a second reason that’s yet to be covered – one that comes with a feel-tastic backstory. It’s an epic tale that will be told next week.

Right now though, with just four days until The McWorkout starts, it’s time to speak science. Each week, I’ll record the following stats:

  • Weight
  • Body fat %
  • Total calories burnt
  • Total calories eaten
  • % of these that are carbs, protein and fat
  • Sodium intake
Expect lots of pictures just like this.

Expect lots of pictures just like this.

I’ll also be recording how much I spend on McDonald’s. In month two, we’ll find out how much a healthy diet costs in comparison.

On Monday, I’ll also publish my starting fitness level, based on:

  • Personal best for running 5k
  • 10k PB
  • 1500m rowing machine PB
  • Max bench press for one
  • Max one-arm bicep curl for 10
  • Max # press-ups
  • Max # pull-ups

While not comprehensive, these readings will provide an overview of my current fitness and strength levels. At the end of May, we’ll measure them again.

Just as fitness is about more than metrics, body weight is about more than calories. As The McWorkout’s Nutrition Consultant, Dr Chris Fenn, explained to me:

It is not just a matter of calories in v calories out. This is a weight loss myth. It is possible for a person eating 2000 calories (mainly from refined carbohydrates and starch) to put on weight, whilst if they ate 2000 calories (mainly from fat and protein foods) they would lose weight. All calories are not the same!”


We’ll be hearing directly from Dr Chris in Monday’s blog. Then, next Thursday, I’ll be taking a closer look at McDonald’s nutrition, aka The Trouble With Trying To Build Muscle While Subsisting On A Diet Rich in Additives, Salt, Fat, Carbs, Sugar And Low In Protein. Is such a feat even possible?

Data will determine the success or failure of The McWorkout, but the rules will dictate how the game is played.

The Rules

  • The McWorkout shall start on Monday 28th April and will last for 28 days.

  • During this time I must eat McDonald’s meals at least three times a day.

  • During the McWorkout, I am barred from taking any vitamins, supplements or other dietary/muscle-enhancing substances.

  • While I am entitled to order McDonald’s least-unhealthy items, my daily diet must include at least one burger, one breakfast roll and one side (fries/hash brown/mozzarella dippers).

  • If I’m not up in time for breakfast, I must eat two burgers that day.

  • During The McWorkout, I must try every item on the menu at least once.

  • Should I win free food via the Monopoly vouchers affixed to McDonald’s packaging, I must claim and eat that item within four hours.

  • I am allowed a maximum of two cheat meals per week. There’ll be times when I’m nowhere near a McDonald’s – I’m not carrying a bag of soggy Big Macs in case I find myself blissfully far from home. (There are still a few remote corners of Britain where it’s possible to achieve the anti-capitalist trifecta: no McDonald’s, no Starbucks and no network signal.)

These eight rules shall govern The McWorkout. In addition, there are a number of quests that will be introduced as the month progresses. These are intended to make the challenge more interesting rather than to convey a significant dietary advantage.

For example, should I manage to visit three different McDonald’s restaurants in a day, I am allowed to swap fries (330 cal) for garden salad (20 cal) the following day. (Such incentive. Very wow.)

More intriguingly, you will have the opportunity to set quests of your own. Want me to pimp my Big Mac with condiments of your choice? OK. Want me to meet you and your mates for McLunch in Aberdeen/Edinburgh (or anywhere in between)? Why not. I’ll blog it – you can buy it.

Wanna train with me?

Forget it. You don’t have it in you.

gr8 b8 m8

I’ll be covering quests in more detail next Thursday. If you can’t wait till then, jump on Twitter, FB or email to outline your indecent proposal. As you can probably deduce, a guy who’s planning to eat McDonald’s for 30 days straight is game for pretty much anything.

On Monday 28th April The McWorkout officially starts. Visit Ed Uncovered then to discover:

  • The weigh in: body fat, fitness levels and a bunch of other numbers

  • First column from Dr Chris Fenn

  • Best case/worst case: things that could go wrong

For now, I’ll leave you with the first installment of My McWorkout Diary. It begins on 11th April, the day this went from being a dumb idea to a dumb idea that’s actually happening.

My McWorkout Diary

doge mcdonalds11th April (17 days to go)

My challenge – still going by its working title, The Reverse Spurlock – is on. I’ve set the date (28th April) and I’ve started the prep work: emails to Kaiga Design requesting a logo; emails to Ed Uncovered’s marketing whizzkid, Patrick; emails to a fitness coach regarding which body stats to monitor. I also post on /fit/, a cult bodybuilding forum whose users are fanatic about nutrition (among other things). /fit/izens will do anything to preserve their hard-earned gains. If anyone knows whether The McWorkout is possible, it’s /fit/.

Next, I order the Omron BF508 Body Composition and Body Fat Monitor Bathroom Scale. Then I sit back and await a lifetime of emails about Amazon bathroom products.

13th April (15 days to go)

I get in some advance training by visiting the McDonald’s drive-thru, ordering Mozzarella Dippers and a Deluxe Quarter Pounder with Bacon. In mitigation, I’ve just returned from a semi-final in Glasgow where my team were beaten and I was zapped by a mobile speeding unit which I didn’t spot because I was texting a guy who was supposed to buy the spare match ticket. He never showed up and we got papped out the cup. I’ve earned this McD’s.

14th April (14 days to go)

I receive a reply from the fitness coach, who dispenses some useful advice but refrains from getting on board, explaining “I think the project might raise a few eyebrows with the Sports Nutrition Register I am in the process of applying to join.”

It hasn’t even began and already The McWorkout has fitter men than me diving for cover.

At 9:30am, I use the voucher I won in the previous night’s McDonald’s to claim a free Sausage and Egg McMuffin. It’s washed down with a coffee, followed mid-morning by a Sprite Zero.

I’d like to say I’ve approached this challenge by eating healthily. I’d like to say I’ve been working out and juicing up. I haven’t.

mcworkout detoxing

In fact I’ve mostly been living on these:

noodles mcworkout

Noodles: a bachelor’s best friend.

Mid-morning, an Amazon email informs me that my scales will be delivered between 1 and 2pm. At 1:20, my mate texts me:

mcworkout scales

When McDonald’s starts filling up, I return to my flat and eat a day old garage sandwich. There’s no disputing it: I’ve been training hard for this challenge.

In the afternoon, I return to McDonald’s and, while sipping a cappuccino, install My Fitness Pal on my phone. Before I can start, the app has some advice it would like to dispense:

my fitness pal terms

MFP will be your pal, but don’t ask it to be your doc. I follow the app’s advice and book an appointment for the 24th. For the first time in my life, I find myself wishing for blood work. If the nurse will take a sample, I’ll be able to gather additional data including my testosterone level, which will take a pounding during The McWorkout.

Some of the app’s questions confuse me…

my fitness pal what is your goal

What do I want to happen or what do I think will happen?

…while some of its tips amuse me:

my fitness pal quick tip

100% of those people weren’t eating McDonald’s.

I search Gumtree for an iPod Nano – mine only works if I sit stock still; hardly conducive to getting fit. The Nano won’t just soundtrack my workouts – it will also record my distance and calories. A McFlurry of emails follows between Patrick, Kaiga Design and myself as we discuss ideas and hone slogans.

7pm: It’s a nice evening and all this sitting about McDonald’s has made me restless. I put down the laptop and lace up my trainers. For the first time in a month, I go for a run. I manage 5k before returning to my flat and rattling through some abs exercises. I then ruin my hard work by smoking a joint and going to McDonald’s.

I have a voucher for small fries, which I combine with a cappuccino for a total of 320kcal. The fries are demolished in 60 seconds; my 390 calorie run, in comparison, took 22 minutes. The next thing I know, I’ve begun Googling weird shit like ‘mcdonalds cheese slice nutrition information’. (54cals and 4g fat, just so you know.) To round off my day, I browse Facebook and click on a link called Watch This Video & You’ll Never Eat McDonald’s French Fries Again. I immediately wish I hadn’t.

15th April (13 days to go)

At 2pm, I receive a group email from a friend:

mcworkout gym equipment

It seems like a portent, so I promptly reply in the affirmative. I’m finally about to join mainstream society by adding an exercise ball and abs trainer to my flat. The only difference is I’m actually going to use mine.

16th April (12 days to go)

It’s 9:30am and I’m in McDonald’s again. I’m not eating there – I’m just acclimatising myself to the place. Outside a man in a high-vis jacket is unloading boxes marked MACFRIES THIS WAY UP. Because storing those boxes upside down would ruin their nutritional goodness.

Those frozen pallets contain my meals for the next month.

sad frog

11:00pm: I arrive in Edinburgh, having made it past Forfar without sating my hunger at the large yellow M. The mate I am staying with tells me about the Ayahuascan vegan diet he is following. For the next few weeks, he’s not allowed seasoning or spices on his food. He can’t have anything fermented either – even vegetable stock is prohibited.

longcat v tacgnol

I then explain The McWorkout to him, the tacgnol to his longcat.

“Jesus Christ man…fucking hell man. Are you mad?” he gasps.

“Basically, our diets are so opposed we can’t even be in the same room for the next month,” I conclude.

17th April (11 days to go)

While I’m in Edinburgh, I pay a visit to Real Foods; inside it’s all languid jazz music and men called Jeremy. They sell no animal products whatsoever but the women do have lovely complexions – and that’s without make up. I figure I should grab some nuts and seeds for nourishment before The McWorkout starts. If the staff knew my snacks were being used as a precursor to McDonald’s, I suspect they would refuse to serve me.

My gourmet rabbit food comes to £15, or the equivalent of 15 cheeseburgers from the Savers Menu.

real foods nuts seeds

When my mate gets home, I proudly produce my shopping: “I bought some snacks from the Real Food shop. You can probably eat all this stuff – look!”

I pull the salted cashews out of the bag. “Actually, you can’t have these, can you?”

I pull out the honey-coated banana chips. “Ah, you can’t have these either.”

“You can have these though, can’t you?” I proffer a bag of brazil nuts.

He shakes his head.

I look at him, crestfallen. “Well, I guess that just leaves the pumpkin and sunflower seeds then. At least we can still have dinner together.”

Later, we head to another flat where two vegans live. “Tell them about your challenge,” urges my mate.

I reluctantly outline The McWorkout. When he hears what I am planning, Vegan #1 recoils sharply. I haven’t even started the damn diet and already I feel dirty.




McWorkout train dirty eat filthy

On Monday, the next installment of My McWorkout Diary will bring us fully up to date. See you then for funsies, fitness and fast food.



McWorkout images: TDSLR Photography

McWorkout graphics: Kaiga Design

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