New to all this? Read Part II of The McWorkout here
So where were we? Oh yeah, about to eat a fuckton of fast food, that’s where. Moments ago, The McWorkout officially started:
Exciting as this is, I promise not to turn the next month into a smorgasbord of McDonald’s selfies. I will be using a secondary account to tweet a pic of every meal I eat, but that’s solely to vouch for the veracity of the challenge.
As I explained to a mate, “Sure, I could just be binning all my McD’s and then stocking up on lean protein, but short of attaching a Go Pro to my head 24/7 and live streaming it, this is the best I can do.”
I’m not here to cheat: I’m here to eat.
(If any marketing types need me, I’m here all month.)
While I’m throwing out promises, I promise that after today you won’t have to suffer my naked torso for another month. Aside from when I’m ‘mirin in the mirror, I’ll be strictly taps oan.
Shortly we’ll have some insights from Dr Chris Fenn plus an action-packed McWorkout Diary. First though, we’ve features to cover: Best Case/Worst Case and The Weigh In. Let’s start with the latter.
The Weigh In
Body fat: 15.1%
Visceral fat: 3
To find out how these readings compare with the average person, click here. tl;dr: I’m within normal parameters.
Bicep size: 13″
Waist size: 31.5″
(Sorry for jumping between metric and imperial, but waist size in cm just sounds wrong.)
Next Monday, these stats will be measured again, save for my height, which I’m pretty sure will stay constant. (McDonald’s food has been linked with many things but dwarfism’s not one of them.) I’ll also be keeping a mood chart, which sounds like something that might be used during menstruation, I know. If McDonald’s causes me to have a happy period, you’ll be the first to know.
1500m rowing machine PB: 6:10
PB for running 5k: 19:40
PB for running 10k: 42:00
(Both recorded last summer, when I last bothered my ass with running)
Max bench press for one: 50kg
Max one-arm bicep curl for 10: 18kg
Max # press-ups: 40
Max # overarm pull-ups: 8
Max time I can hold a plank (this sort of plank): 1:10
Gym buffs, feel free to mock my starting stats; the cardio readings aren’t so bad, but my strength is weak bro.
Should I beat any of my cardio times during the challenge, I’ll probably fap about it in My McWorkout Diary. Everything else will be re-tested at the end of the month.
Just as I’ve not been eating healthily leading up to The McWorkout, I’ve not been exercising actively. In the past week, I’ve tested the waters with a run, a gym session and a bodyweight workout. Otherwise, I’ve probably broken a sweat four times since the start of the year – and one of those was when I reached in my pocket and couldn’t find my phone.
I exercise rarely. Smoke weed errday. Eat fruit and veg occasionally. My diet isn’t terrible, but it’s not great. Cardio? Once a month. Drink? Yes please. Drugs? Go on then.
In short, I’m just like you: capable of better. But how much better?
Best Case/Worst Case
Short of death by fast food, there are three ways I see this challenge panning out:
1. I get fat.
Reaching my calorie quota will call for ingesting way more saturated fat than usual. If my exercise regime can’t shift it, body fat will inevitably soar.
2. I get ripped.
Ideally, I’d like to put on muscle. Whether that’s possible, given my shoddy diet, remains to be seen. What I want and what my body is capable of are two different things.
3. I stay the same.
It’s possible that the fitness will counteract the fast food, leaving me looking pretty much as I do now. Whatever the outcome of this challenge, it’s worth noting that a month is not a long time in which to achieve tangible results – most body transformations are based around 8 weeks. It could be well into the second month (by which point I’ll be eating healthily) before a discernible improvement is detected.
Fat, thin or muscular, I promise that the next 28 days are going to be entertaining. Ultimately it makes no difference to you whether I gain visible abs or a visible gut; you just wanna laugh at some idiot’s expense. You’ll get that, I can assure you.
Of course, how I look and how I feel are two separate things. Even if I emerge from this looking OK, I’ll probably be feeling like shit. Skin, mood, cholesterol and testosterone are all things we can delve into in due course. I promise not to get scatological, though I can’t vouch for Dr Chris, who has already been dropping the phrase Bristol Stool Chart into our conversations.
Speaking of which, here is Dr Fenn with the first of her fascinating Monday columns.
Dr Chris Fenn
I spend my professional life helping people to shift their eating habits to better quality foods, and here is a man wanting to eat off the McDonald’s menu for a month! At first, he can expect to enjoy it; fast food is designed to be addictive.
Nutritionists and bio-psychologists have spent years trying to understand why we choose some foods and not others. We know that sweet foods activate the pleasure centres in the brain, which originated as a survival mechanism. Bitter foods tend to be poisonous, whilst naturally sweet foods are safe to eat.
For thousands of years, the practice of seeking out foods which gave pleasure, and provided energy and the right nutrients, has kept the human body weight remarkably stable; being overweight was unusual and rare. Then, in the 1980s, things started to change. Food manufacturers discovered that not only was sugar nice to eat, but fat had a powerful influence on appetite too. Each has their own “bliss point” – the point we get maximum pleasure from the sugary drink or lump of cheese. The response is an inverted “U”shaped curve, as there is a limit to the pleasure and it is possible to get too much of a good thing.
However, combine fat with sugar in a 50:50 ratio and the food becomes ultra palatable; we want to eat more and more and more – well beyond the point at which our normal appetite centre would kick in and tell us to stop eating. The same can be done with fat and salt. Pop open a tube of Pringles and you may intend to eat only three or four. However, the salty taste, the richness and crisp texture mean that you are soon looking at the bottom of an empty tub.
Told you she was good.
Today’s installment of My McWorkout Diary is loooooong. Like, ten days and a bunch of words long. In fairness, there’s been a helluva lot of stuff to write about and more to the point I slaved over this thing, so focus for five minutes and I promise we’ll all have fun. Trust me, it’s better than the auto-play Facebook video that’s currently vying for your attention.
See you back here on Thursday, and remember you can keep up with the action on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat (whisperednothin). Alternatively, pop your email address in the box below for instant notification of new posts.
My McWorkout Diary
18th April (10 days to go)
On Friday lunchtime I hit the studio for a photo shoot with Tommy Slack. He grabs a selection of pics (taps oan/taps aff) and then we head to McDonald’s Princes Street for breakfast and more pics. The photo shoot costs me 800 calories, half my daily salt intake and 40 grams of fat.
Afterwards, we process the pics and smoke a fat banger. It’s a gorgeous day in Edinburgh and all I want to do is get stoned in the Meadows but I’ve a train to catch at 2:30. There’s also the opening blog to write, logo designs to approve and an iPod to buy.
The seller lives in Bedford (one of the less salubrious parts of Aberdeen), where I arrive to find the housing estate in lockdown. Eight police vehicles, two news crews, acres of police tape and uniforms everywhere. Hours earlier, I learn, a tragic accident saw a 7-year-old fatally burned by a petrol canister.
I feel like an interloper as I stride past the cordon and swiftly conclude my business. McDonald’s challenges and Gumtree purchases seem utterly trivial at such a time.
“It’s already got tunes on it,” says the middle-aged seller, who appears to still live with his mum.
The tunes turn out to consist of Now That’s What I Call Music, The Commodores, Roy Orbison and Clubland 23.
I take the Nano home and sync the fuck out of it.
That night, I go out and get drunk for what will be the last time in a while. A few drinks won’t ruin a fitness regime, but if you’re eating McDonald’s thrice daily, you need to claw back what you can. The alcohol will have to go.
19th April (9 days to go)
I am at Codona’s with my daughters, preparing to go on the Vertigo aerial assault course. We stand in line, draped in climbing gear, while the obese assistant straps us in.
She looks me up and down before remarking: “There’s nothing of you! You need a McDonald’s to fatten you up.”
“Well, it’s funny you should say that…”
20th April (8 days to go)
It feels like McDonald’s is following me everywhere; I see it on bus stops, I see it on newspapers and I see it on Facebook.
It’s 7:30am and I’m in McDonald’s having coffee. A guy with a laptop, spotting a fellow guy with a laptop, approaches.
“Is there a plug socket in here?”
“Yeah, over there,” I point. “There’s also one at that table.”
He looks at me in awe. “You sure know your way around this place.”
21st April (7 days to go)
It’s Monday, the day when The McWorkout is revealed to the world. I sup a cappuccino but eschew a Sausage & Egg McMuffin: this close to the challenge, I don’t want to be eating fast food if I can help it. There’ll be plenty of time for that in the coming weeks.
I mix a can of tuna with light mayo and some chilli con carne seasoning, devouring it while I watch people sat in cars munching McDonald’s. I can’t make fun of them because soon I’ll be one of them. Besides, for all I know they’re also bulking on McD’s to get into the best shape of their lives.
In the evening, I visit Pure Gym to get a feel for the place ahead of next week’s McWorkout. My pin code doesn’t work, forcing me to Google the company, call their head office and ask for Aberdeen to be added to my Edinburgh gym membership. I try the code again and this time a green light flashes and the turnstile clicks. I’m in.
The free weight area is crammed with gym bros so I give up and head for the treadmill. It’s a beautiful evening and while I work up a speed, I watch the sun sink over the harbour. I suspect I’ll be seeing a lot of this view in the weeks to come. I am okay with this.
I’m not sure whether it’s the pretty scenery or the motivation of a very public fitness challenge, but I run 3.5km in 12 minutes – if I can maintain it for another 1.5k I’ll smash my personal best. It’s not to be: I’m shattered and giddily slow the treadmill to a crawl. The signs are encouraging though; if I can run 5km in under 17 minutes during The McWorkout, I’ll be a happy boy.
With one week to go, I still haven’t devised a training strategy, so head to Tesco for some fitness mags. I also buy a pull-up bar. Then it’s on to Northfield for a cheap set of dumbbells. They’re only 7.5kg a side, but will do for overhead triceps and ab work.
The buyer sends me his address via the Gumtree mail system, spelling his street name wrong in the process. I park up and knock at the door of an end-terraced council house. A fat middle-aged man in Arsenal slippers answers the door, a rollie in his mouth and ash on his t-shirt. After we have concluded the deal, he grunts “Are ya interested in buying any sunglasses?”
Before I can respond, he has produced a box of imitation Ray-Bans and Armanis, mine for £6 a pop. I have no more money and no weed, both of which pass for currency in this part of town.
In fact it is the first day I haven’t smoked weed in a while. I could use a joint, but I’ll survive without one. I won’t be abstaining entirely during The McWorkout, but I’ll try to cut down. After sex, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, sleep, masturbation and food, weed is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I can live without it, but I’d rather not.
22nd April (6 days to go)
With less than a week to go, it’s time I took a closer look at the McDonald’s menu. Their food might be crap but their nutrition calculator is pretty nifty, I’ll grant them that. I assemble a day’s sample diet, ensuring that one breakfast roll, one burger and one side are included, as per the rules. The calorie count’s OK, but the salt and saturated fat levels are off the chart.
3pm: I try out the abs routine I’ll be using each week during The McWorkout. It hurts like a bitch. If there are two things the next month is sure to be filled with, it’s pain and regrettable eating choices.
In the midst of my abs run through, an email arrives.
It looks like I’m going to be buying some cheap sunnies.
My phone vibrates again as I am recovering from a set of renegade dumbbell rows. Edinburgh Evening News have emailed; they’d like to run a feature on The McWorkout.
I conduct a phone interview with the reporter while sipping a coffee in McDonald’s, before returning to my flat to make a salmon and peanut butter wrap. It’s a first and it’s surprisingly good.
On Tuesday evening, I head round to my mate’s for dinner.
“I’m away to put tea on but I’m afraid I’ve bought burgers,” she begins. “Sorry, I didn’t think.”
“That’s OK,” I reply. I’m not sick of burgers – yet.
23rd April (5 days to go)
I receive an email from McDonald’s. Two days earlier, I’d contacted them on the off-chance that they’d throw some vouchers my way. It seems a reasonable request given the amount of mediocre publicity I’ll be giving them, but McDonald’s reply with a terse ‘No’.
I’d predicted as much in an email to Patrick two weeks earlier:
“In theory, it’s the sort of challenge that McDonald’s ought to be interested in getting in about (remember Jared and Subway?), but because of my propensity for calling them out on their shitty child marketing and making insinuations about Ronald McDonald’s motives, I suspect they’ll steer well clear.”
By 6pm, I’m Edinburgh-bound for press pics and a doctor’s appointment. My stomach rumbles as I’m approaching the Forth Road Bridge and on cue a double cheeseburger ad greets me from a bus stop. Not today cheeseburger, not today.
As I’m entering the city, the photographer from the Evening News rings.
“I’m sorry to ask this but could you bring some McDonald’s food with you? I think this is gonna be for the front page so we’ll need some decent shots.”
I laugh all the way to the gym, where I rattle through a tricep workout in readiness for the following week. I’ve never gone from the gym straight to McDonald’s, but I’d better get used to it.
“Would you like to go large?” asks the ham beast behind the counter.
I grab my Big Mac meal and dash to the car, which has been ditched on double yellows. On the short drive to the studio, the smell of McDonald’s is pervasive; I open the window to let out the poison.
The photographer turns out to be a pretty cool guy and we have a laugh as I primp for the camera. By the time we’re done, my Big Mac meal is stone cold, which is probably for the best. I eat some Skittles and smoke a joint instead.
24th April (4 days to go)
9am: I awaken on my mate’s sofa to an avalanche of emails and texts. Among the respondents is a press agency which has been trying to get hold of me; they’d like to send a photographer round to take some pics. The desired meeting place?
I arrange to meet the photographer at the Princes Street branch where, for the third time in a week, I’ll be purchasing their fast food for use as a prop. Only I won’t be the one buying it today: my Pure Gym direct debit has come off, leaving me with -£15 to my name. At this rate The McWorkout is going to be fuelled by burger vouchers I find lying around McDonald’s car park.
At 12:00 on the dot, I enter the belly of the beast to find the photographer already waiting.
“This table looked good for photos so I grabbed it as soon as that couple left,” she explains. “I’m just gonna get a large Big Mac meal and then a hamburger for myself – I’m starving, but I can put it all on expenses.”
She plonks down the tray before rifling through her pockets. “Did I get a receipt?”
I chew a couple of salty chips and slurp my Sprite Zero. The burger, just like the previous night’s offering, winds up in the bin, but not before it’s been snapped from a dozen different angles. We take pics inside McDonald’s, on Princes Street (the photographer perched precariously in the gutter while buses whizz past) and at the studio, taps oan and aff.
It turns out that there is a golden window of opportunity in which to photograph a Big Mac before it turns into a soggy, glutinous mess in your hand. That window is about 15 seconds.
The following day, the press agency’s story shows up in The Sun. As red-top stories go, it’s fairly accurate. What’s more, because I didn’t speak to them directly, I can still pretend that I have some semblance of a moral code.
Prior to the morning’s photo shoot, I’d been to the doctor. Like most men, I’m accustomed to seeing the doc only when I’m on the verge of death. Since my last and only visit to the practice, it had moved to a swish new premises.
“Have you tried the automatic check-in?” asks the receptionist, pointing to a touch screen display.
I try it.
It doesn’t work.
The nurse seems intrigued by my challenge, and is kind enough to take a blood sample without charge. My pre-McWorkout results should be ready in a week. She agrees to test me again at the end of the challenge, at which point I will discover whether a month on McDonald’s has caused me to develop the testosterone level of an 8-year-boy, the oestrogen level of a 30-year-old woman and AIDS.
The rest of the morning is spent juggling tweets, press calls and emails. Around lunchtime, Ravi returns to the studio clutching the Evening News. The story has made the front cover, accompanied by a double page feature inside. It’s also online, where I gleefully wait for the butthurt comments to pour in. It doesn’t take long.
“is this guy for real?…your insides will rot pal” cautions one.
Disgruntled reader Super Marius concludes: “Desperado writer in bid for attention/publicity. Silly boy.”
Inside the Walls, meanwhile, unleashes the most Scottish insult ever coined: “Priiiiiiiiiiiiick”.
I can’t stop grinning.
In the afternoon, I collect the exercise equipment my mate has been trying to shift. It’s a tight squeeze, but I somehow manage to cram it inside my car. Affectionately known as the Tate (because it’s a complete potato), my car doesn’t lock properly, something that preys on my mind as I pop into the gym for a shower.
An exercise ball and worn out abs bench may not seem an attractive target to thieves, but then again I am parked outside a gym. Who knows what these testosterone-pumped animals are capable of?
25th April (3 days to go)
Back in Aberdeen, there is no food in my flat. I am okay with this: I want it to be that way when The McWorkout starts. In the meantime, I’m starving and have nothing to eat. I toy with going to McDonald’s and ‘just having a salad’ but come to my senses and visit Lidl instead. A tuna fillet with cherries doesn’t sound particularly appetising, but in its favour it’s full of protein and isn’t McDonald’s.
I devour it within seconds of leaving the store before jumping into McDonald’s for a coffee while I look up Swiss ball exercises online.
My evening snack consists of a packet of beef jerky. 100g contains half the calories of a Big Mac, 1/4 the fat, 1/20 the carbs and twice the protein. I’m allowed to modify my burger once a week during The McWorkout; hacking my Mac with beef jerky could be the way forward.
Shortly after finishing my protein-rich snack, I receive an email from Dr Chris:
“Just to say good luck for the start of the challenge next Monday – I will be thinking about you munching McD’s, as I swallow lungfuls of fresh air along the East Highland Way and enjoy wholemeal bread for my sandwiches.”
At 1:20am, I return home after an evening spent smoking joints at my mate’s. As I near my flat, the white glow of the McDonald’s sign comes into focus and I smile. “See you soon baby,” I mutter. “See you soon.”
Back at mine, I finally get around to unboxing my scales.
Whenever you unbox electronics, there’s always that moment of panic upon seeing the size of the instruction manual, followed by a wave of relief when you realise that’s only because it’s in 32 languages.
26th April (2 days to go)
With less than 48 hours until The McWorkout starts, I’m trying my best to avoid junk food and alcohol. The latter is proving to be particularly troublesome; I can live without alcohol, but it’s not easy when friends are celebrating birthdays and plotting nights out.
“Are you coming out for a few this evening?” asks my mate.
“I’ll come for dinner, but I can’t get drunk.”
I buy another mate a bottle of rum for his birthday and then we head to Triple Kirks. He orders a BrewDog. I order a Diet Coke.
“Aww c’mon, just have a pint for my birthday,” he urges.
I shake my head. I’ve officially become That Guy, the douchebag whose healthy lifestyle has to impinge on everyone else’s pleasure. And the worst part? I can’t even take the moral high ground because I’m going to be eating absolute filth.
April 27th (1 day to go)
I feel like a man out on bail, enjoying the final sensory experiences – food; fucks; freedom – before his sentence begins. I take fresh ingredients round to my mate’s flat where I cook up a hearty steak dinner.
After dinner, I receive an email from Ravi, Ed Uncovered’s #2, wishing me good luck in my challenge. I click on the image attachment to be greeted by a full length pic of my best mate clad in trackie-B’s with his scrotum hanging out.
It’s a touching sentiment.
Over the next month, I’m going to need all the encouragement I can get.
In Thursday’s blog:
First thoughts on The McWorkout
Fat Burning v Muscle Building
Plus: we finally find out why I’m really doing this
UPDATE: Read part IV of The McWorkout here.
McWorkout images: TDSLR Photography
McWorkout graphics: Kaiga Design