Read Part V of The McWorkout here.
Three days ago The McWorkout started. Three days ago I began training dirty and eating filthy. In a moment, I’ll provide an early insight into how the challenge is going.
First though, I owe you an explanation.
In Part I, I gave the following reason for my bizarre challenge, in which I’ll be eating nothing but McDonald’s while trying to get fit:
“I aim to show that anyone – even with limited access to good food or a proper kitchen – can get into shape. It’s not poverty that makes you fat. It’s not insidious fast food adverts. It’s you. If I can get into shape while living off McDonald’s, it will prove that anyone can get fit.”
That reason still stands. Like you, I’m genuinely curious to see how this thing pans out.
The McWorkout may not be ruling your life like it’s currently ruling mine, but I suspect it’s already made an impression. For the next month – and possibly beyond – whenever you see a McDonald’s billboard, pass a set of golden arches or bite into a Big Mac, you’ll think of The McWorkout.
I’m not here to scare you off junk food or tell you what to eat. Still, if this project gets you thinking about your diet, your fitness and your relationship with fast food, that might not be a bad thing.
If this project entertains you along the way, even better.
But what about the other reason that’s fuelling The McWorkout? You know, the one I’ve spent the last ten days hinting at?
It’s time for me to ‘fess up and explain the real reason why this all began. Every good story has an emotional backstory. Here’s mine.
My Emotional Backstory
Six weeks ago, I moved to Aberdeen. The city where I spent ten good years is now the city where I’ll spend a good three months. Between now and July, it’s just me, Aberdeen and enough mist to shroud an oil capital. After that, who knows? Perhaps I’ll return to Edinburgh; perhaps I’ll visit Europe; perhaps I’ll get hooked on hamburgers and become too huge to move anywhere.
Right now though, I’m in the fight of my life to stay skinny while scoffing McDonald’s.
Until recently, I ate McDonald’s twice a year. Now I’m eating it four times a day. What changed?
How did it come to this?
The flat I have moved into is next to McDonald’s. Night and day, I look out of my window at people devouring fast food. Truck drivers eat it; tradesmen eat it; schoolgirls eat it – even the seagulls eat it.
Despite the 24/7 access to endless fast food, I wasn’t tempted to join them. Not at first, anyway. Eventually though, McDonald’s wore me down.
It wasn’t their dirt cheap Saver Menu. It wasn’t their round-the-clock service. And it wasn’t their barely serviceable coffee.
No, The McWorkout happened thanks to a two-syllable word, an invisible force wrapped in four letters:
Writers are fuelled by two things: coffee and wifi. My temporary accommodation has neither; McDonald’s has both in abundance.
At first, I tried to limit my exposure; buy a cappuccino, check a few emails and then get the hell out. As my need for internet grew however so did my time in McDonald’s. Pretty soon I was referring to it as ‘my office’.
It escalated from there…
Somewhere along the way, my offbeat idea turned into an actionable plan. By 9th April, I was emailing Patrick:
Hey, I can’t remember if I mentioned this to you before, but I’ve been giving some serious thought to the McDonald’s challenge that’s been running through my head for weeks. Basically, I’m spending 8hrs a day in Aberdeen sat at McDonald’s cos of their wifi. It’s given rise to an idea for a blog, or series of blogs: would it be possible for someone to get into shape in a month by working out and subsisting on nothing but McDonald’s?
And that’s why The McWorkout was born: to provide me with a means of sitting in McDonald’s all day without getting fat.
Don’t be. In the future, wars will be waged over wifi. It is a basic human right, lack of access to which can cause men to commit desperate deeds.
Don’t hate me because I devised a convoluted scheme to feed my wifi habit. I’m paying for every calorie I consume with a gruelling fitness regime. Besides, next month when I’m on a mission to eat healthy, I’ll still be working out and I’ll still be spending six hours a day in McDonald’s – only this time I won’t be able to touch a morsel.
Home is where the wifi connects automatically, and right now my home is McDonald’s.
My McWorkout Diary
Monday 28th April (Day 1)
I awaken at 8:30 to an assortment of good luck texts. I may not have solicited support, but it’s heartening to know that my mates are thinking of me as I embark upon my self-imposed month of fast food hell.
The night before, I had struggled to get to sleep. It wasn’t the excitement and it wasn’t the nerves – it was the nap I took at 5pm. I’ve not even started and already I’ve learned my first McWorkout lesson: don’t sleep after lunchtime.
I step on the scales and measure my vital statistics.
The phone rings. It’s the news editor from Radio Forth who would like to fix an interview. I explain that I’m not currently in Edinburgh but I could do the honours over the phone.
“Actually, we’re part of the same group as Northsound,” he explains. “Do you think you could you go to their studio for, say, 11am?”
That gives me an hour and a half in which to digest breakfast and publish my first blog.
There’s something nasty about McDonald’s breakfasts; they taste OK, but really don’t go down well. (Or is just their food in general?) I’m only one meal into my McWorkout and already my stomach hurts. Please don’t let it be like this all month.
11am: I am sat in the reception area listening to Northsound radio, which is being broadcast live from just along the corridor. The walls are lined with signed platinum discs from Stereophonics, Will Young and other Northsound-friendly artists.
I complete a pre-recorded interview which is scheduled to go out on Northsound and Radio Forth the following day. Afterwards, I hit the gym and smash my way through a solid chest and abs workout followed by ten minutes of interval training on the treadmill.
My next goal is lunch, but unfortunately lunch will have to wait. I’ve unrelated business to attend to with a colleague who picks me up from the gym. Our task should only take 20 minutes but winds up taking longer than anticipated; by the time I return to my car, over an hour has passed since my workout ended and I’m badly in need of sustenance. All I can think about is ‘Muh gainz’. My precious gains, diminishing by the minute.
I race to McDonald’s and order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Garden Side Salad and Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad.
“If you give me a couple of minutes, I’ll go and fetch your salad dressing,” says the microwave technician.
“Don’t worry about it.”
Salad dressing is for wimps.
Despite guzzling a Sprite Zero with my meal, I feel hella thirsty afterwards. Must be the 3.4 grams of salt I just consumed, 2/3 of my RDA.
At 3:30 I pick up E, my four-year-old, from nursery. She opens her tray and removes a packet of Smarties, exclaiming “I’m bursting to eat my sweets! If I eat them late at night I’ll be high as a kite granny says.”
I steal a Smartie. It tastes good. Perhaps I’ll have a McFlurry tomorrow, shovelling down a bunch of carbs and Smarties in the process.
When I get to my daughters’ house, K, my eight-year-old, is stepping off the school bus. She already knows about The McWorkout – her mum told her.
Upon questioning, I explain that I’ve consumed two McDonald’s meals so far. She glances at me quizzically. “You don’t look like you’ve been eating McDonald’s.”
I smile. “It doesn’t work that fast.”
Mac and Deez
By 4:45 I’m feeling hungry again. I could really use a decent meal right now, or failing that a McDonald’s.
Working out calls for eating five balanced meals at regular intervals through the day. I can already see that being more than a mile away from McDonald’s is going to be problematic.
A week earlier, I’d shown my daughters some of the exercises I could do using their bodyweight as resistance. Now, on day one, they want me to do press-ups while they lie on my back. I try my best, but after my punishing chest workout, I just don’t have it in me.
“Daddy I’m thirsty,” says E.
I open their fridge and look for the juice. It is packed full of tempting treats: Easter eggs; peanut butter; beer – basically everything that isn’t McDonald’s.
6:45: With my parental duties taken care of, it’s time for a quick snack. To my dismay, McDonald’s is queued out the door. Don’t these people know I’ve a major cardio session starting in 15 minutes?
It’s a gorgeous evening and Aberdeen Beach is resplendent in the sunshine. The perfect evening for working off the McFlurry I’ve just gobbled in less than two minutes.
You can say what you like about McDonald’s food (and I will be saying a lot), but McFlurries are utterly sinful and utterly delicious.
While I’m lacing my trainers, positive feedback is still flying in for my Evening News story:
I run a solid 7km before heading back to base for my final meal of the day: a Crispy Chicken & Bacon Wrap and a Sprite Zero.
When I check my daily intake using McDonald’s nutrition calculator, it is to learn that I’ve only succeeded in eating 2,200 calories. Despite that, I’ve still managed to consume 125% of my recommended fat, 200% salt and just 60% of my daily fibre. What’s more, half the calories I took in were burned off through exercise.
Tuesday’s goal: eat moar McDonald’s.
Total spent: £16.64 (yikes!)
Total calories: 2204
Total burned: 1170*
*Wanna learn moar? Click on the tab below to find out how this figure was calculated.
Calories burned is an estimate (but a reasonably accurate one). To obtain this figure, I added the number of calories burned during cardio (as recorded by respective cardio machines/Nike Fitness) to the approximate number of calories burned lifting weights. Calories burned during sedentary activities (walking/interneting/carrying my daughter around) weren’t included.
Want moar science? OK, here’s how I estimated the number of calories burned pumping iron:
According to this forum post, here’s how you determine the intensity value of your weight training: a bodybuilding level of effort is vigorous and burns 0.055 calories per pound per minute. Circuit training with weights burns 0.042 calories per pound per minute. Strength training with free weights burns 0.039 calories per pound per minute. Lighter weight lifting with moderate effort burns 0.028 calories per pound per minute.
Americlaps calculate everything in pounds; my 72kg weight works out at 159lbs. Multiply that by 60 (the number of minutes I worked out for) and multiply it by 0.039 (as per the above equation) and you get 372 calories.
372 + 800 (115 burnt rowing, the rest running) = 1172.
Tuesday 29th April (Day 2)
Every part of my body hurts. In fairness to McDonald’s, that’s not their fault – it’s all down to cramming in more exercise than I’ve ever done in a day. Will I be able to keep up this momentum as The McWorkout continues? I’m an optimist but I’m gonna say no.
An early breakfast sees me tucking into another Bacon & Egg McMuffin, Hash Brown and Cappuccino. For the second day in a row, I forget to ask for no cheese in my roll. That’s not a health request – it’s a taste request. What is McD’s obsession with cheesing all the things? It’s surely only a matter of time until the Mozzarella McFlurry is unveiled.
My mate who has joined me for breakfast has no such qualms, and expertly disposes of a Sausage & Egg McMuffin, a Sausage, Egg & Cheese Bagel, two Hash Browns and a large Fanta.
Today’s breakfast goes down better than Monday’s identical effort; whether this is a good sign, I cannot say. Either way, there’s no time to ruminate: I have to be at school for 9:15. K has volunteered me to serve as a parental helper on the P4 trip to Duthie Park. It’s the first time I’ve ever performed such a duty, and, while I feel completely unqualified for such a role, I’m quite looking forward to it.
K’s teacher is aware of my challenge – my eight-year-old has told her all about it.
As we pass McDonald’s on Union Street, the children’s eyes light up and they become animated. “I go there every Saturday for breakfast,” says one. It’s fascinating to observe the spell it has on them.
I glance over at their teacher and mime zipping my mouth. I’m saying nothing.
“Are you K’s dad?” ask two boys sat behind me on the school bus.
“No, I’m her brother,” I explain. They nod solemnly.
It’s the first time K’s classmates have met her dad; they gaze curiously at the tousle-haired figure sat among them in his Converse, skinny jeans and borrowed Nirvana sweater. (I’ll give it back D, I promise.)
When we alight at the park, one of the girls nudges her mates and walks up to me. “You’re cool,” she says.
Those two words mean more to me than any amount of media coverage.
As our tour of the winter gardens is nearing its conclusion, we pass the carnivorous plants. I stare intently at the venus fly trap. I think I’ve finally found a soulmate.
Lunch is a Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad and a Big Mac, which is claimed using a Monopoly voucher. Dessert is a well-earned nap.
3pm: I wake up feeling alert but hungry. I need to eat everything on the menu during The McWorkout so now seems as good a time as any to claim a free donut and free Sprite Zero.
Someone is smoking weed in the car park. It smells amazing.
Re-energised after my sleep and sugar donut, I feel ready to take on the gym and smash all my PBs. There’s just one problem: I’ve got work to do. This is going to be a major issue during the challenge, as I confess to a Facebook friend:
I pick up K and her schoolfriend, stashing the McDonald’s wrappers strewn around my car before they get in. Once I’ve dropped her home, I take some tobacco to my mate who is feeling ill. I let myself in to find her laid on the sofa peering at her iPhone.
“How’s it going?” I enquire.
“Well I just read Danny Dyer’s Top 26 Tweets. So not great.”
We smoke a joint.
So far today all I’ve achieved is spending time with my daughter and eating McDonald’s. Both are worthy causes but neither is helping with my fitness. By the time I reach the gym, it will be over 24hrs since I last broke a sweat.
Worse still, the sugar high from my donut has evaporated and now I’m hungry. I plot a course for my nearest wifi centre.
“Can I have a chicken and bacon salad?”
“Sorry we don’t have any left,” says the cashier.
I order a Grilled Chicken Wrap, a Ranch & Bacon Snack Wrap and a Cappuccino.
For the first time all day I have an opportunity to get some work done while I listen back to the Rock Show.
It’s not to be: five minutes in, the blue loading circle starts swirling – McDonald’s wifi is down. This is what I get for visiting a different McD’s: no salad and no wifi. I should have gone to my local.
I’ve got a bad case of the first world problems and a heap of missed deadlines. There’s only one way to fix this: with a punishing back and shoulder workout. First though, I’d better let my dinner settle. In the absence of internet, I park at the beach and work offline, composing an article called Long Term Holiday Rentals in France. It’s as fascinating as its title would suggest.
7:30: Determined to match my first day’s efforts, I put in a solid hour on the weights, bookended by ten minutes spinning and ten minutes running.
Everyone else here is fuelled by protein shakes. I’m fuelled by McDonald’s.
As I wind down the treadmill and catch my breath, the screen flashes up my average time:
I instantly get the urge to smoke a joint.
As I drive home from the gym, the radio blaring and endorphins rushing, I feel elated for the first time since The McWorkout started. Please can I keep this feel forever?
Back at base, I elect to fuel my gains with a relatively healthy option: two Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salads and some Mozzarella Dippers. McDonald’s are out of Dippers, so I order 6 Chicken McNuggets and two Sprite Zeroes instead.
“Would you like balsamic or ranch dressing with your salad?” asks the cashier.
“Balsamic,” I reply.
Salad dressing is for real men.
10:30: I open my kitchen cupboard for the first time since The McWorkout began and a jar of peanut butter makes eyes at me. “Just one spoonful?” it implores.
I glare at it with a mixture of longing and anger before slamming the door.
12:00: I’m writing up My McWorkout Diary when a McDonald’s advert comes on TV – Great Taste of America. Five weeks, five different burgers, starting with the Chicago Supreme.
Total spent: £20.62*
Total calories: 2963
Total burned: 520 (370 weights, 150 cardio)
*On days where I have claimed free food (via a mate’s benevolence or a voucher) I haven’t reflected this price in the day’s total. At the end of the month however I’ll publish the average daily cost of my meals had they been paid for in full.
Wednesday 30th April (Day 3)
If I’m to work my way through every item on the McDonald’s menu, I’d better start switching up my breakfasts – a month of Bacon & Egg McMuffins simply won’t do. I can’t face a Big Breakfast or one of their grim Snack Wraps right now – I’m going to go healthy instead:
I’ll compensate later by cramming in some filth.
There’s just going to be one problem with my plan to fill up on McDonald’s: I’ll be spending most of the day with my four-year-old daughter. There’s no danger I’m taking here there.
Instead, I’ve decided to take her to Subway – she can have her usual ham and cheese and I’ll order the filthiest item on the menu to atone for the lack of McDonald’s – a Meatball Marinara.
It doesn’t work out that way though. On the way to Tesco, E informs me that as of right now she no longer likes Subway.
“How about Baguette Express then?”
She thinks for a moment.
“I want a McDonald’s. Olaf says yes. Olaf says he wants McDonald’s. He whispered it in my ear.”
She vigorously nods her stuffed toy.
“We’re not going there,” I insist.
“But you can eat McDonald’s.”
“I don’t wanna encourage you to eat McDonald’s.”
She looks at me. “What does encourage mean?”
I start to explain but E interrupts. “I want a McDonald’s. I’ve ate it none times.”
After some haggling, we broker a deal and go to the pub carvery instead.
After lunch, we visit Tesco where I buy weightlifting gloves (a sure sign that a beta is turning into an alpha) and spare towels. For her patience, E gets a pink butterfly hairband to go with the Frozen toy I’d bought earlier in Toys R Us.
Hanging out with my daughter is proving to be just as expensive as hanging out in McDonald’s.
My arms are aching, but E insists on being carried everywhere. As it transpires, this will be the only exercise I will manage all day; I should really be thanking her but I’m too tired to even think straight. E affixes the butterfly hairband to my crown and we spend the rest of the day driving about in the rain and attempting to resolve the endless questions that four-year-olds are filled with.
5:30: I feel like I’ve been dead lifting a cement mixer. In actual fact it was a mere 50kg the night before. My work deadlines have been missed, my blogging deadline is looming and it looks like I’m gonna have to dingy my workout.
There’s only one thing for it: McDonald’s.
The Chicago Supreme is described as “a delicious combo of 100% beef patty, bacon, cheese, slices of onion, spicy tomato salsa, cool mayo and shredded lettuce finished with a chilli, chive and sesame-topped bun. Nice.”
It is by far the worst thing I’ve tasted yet. I would describe the Great Tastes of America burger as “a fiendish combo of damp scrotum, bin juice, spunky sock and soggy Kleenex. Nasty.”
It’s stuffed with calories (160 more than a Big Mac) and the patty, which started life with zero flavour, somehow manages to lose taste as it gets colder.
Still, with its high calorie content and obligatory slice of processed cheese, it’s very American, I’ll grant them that.
Such Americlap. Very die.
While I recover from the ordeal, I write up today’s blog and smoke a heap of joints. Wednesday can GTF. Sunday was going to be my rest day, but I’m claiming it now. At the moment, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
My evening snack is meant to be a Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad but my local is all out of salad boxes; I elect for a Crispy Chicken & Bacon Wrap instead. Its 495 calories send me well over the 2,500 mark, with nothing burned in return.
Now that someone in Aberdeen is actually eating the fuckers, McDonald’s really need to get some salads ordered.
I may be on a fitness quest but that hasn’t stopped me from parking right outside McDonald’s, despite living just across the car park. I grab my wrap and set off on the very short drive home.
11:00: It’s only Wednesday and already this has been the longest week of my life.
I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I’m miles behind on my work. My kitchen is full of McDonald’s wrappers. I’m sick of the incessant rain.
I remove my top and take a look in the mirror. I think I may be putting on muscle. I pinch my stomach. I think I may also be putting on fat.
One way or another, we’ll find out on Monday.
Total spent: £8.08*
Total calories: 2800 (includes approx 750 calories for carvery lunch)
Total burned: 0
(*My mate bought breakfast and I had a cheat lunch, hence the low total.)
Also on Monday:
Second column from Dr Chris Fenn
Fat Burning v Muscle Building (yeah, that feature I was supposed to include today)
And Then There Were Two: The McWorkout gains a new follower
Three days done. 25 to go.
Missed any previous episodes of The McWorkout? Catch up here.
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Loving The McWorkout so far? Then be awesome and tell all your friends. Next week, you guys get to decide how I pimp my Big Mac.
Finally: Don’t try this at home. Living off burgers for a month is neither big nor clever.
McWorkout logo & graphics: Kaiga Design