Sunday evening, a small village in Scotland. A weary traveller wearing a backpack has a phone pressed to his ear. He’s listening intently.
“For reservations of ten rooms or more press five,” says the automated voice. He’s lost, he’s hungry and he’s just stepped in a puddle. Block booking hotel rooms is not a priority. His GPS is saying the hotel is right here, on the very street he’s been pacing for the past 30 minutes. His GPS doesn’t know shit.
It’s 12:30am and I’m stumbling through Monkton. One hour earlier, I stepped off a flight from Prestwick. From there, the plan was simple: walk the 0.9 miles to my cheap hotel, survive the night and then hot-tail it back to Glasgow. The moment I stepped off the plane however, things started to go awry.
Google Maps is a lying whore and I can’t get through to the country house hotel whose 0.9 miles have turned out to be as the crow flies, rather than as the boy jogs around the perimeter of Prestwick Airport.
“42 minutes,” says Google when I type my destination into Maps. I run most of the way there, the laptop in my rucksack prodding every step of the way. Google is wrong: my destination is another mile and a half down the road, up the lane and along the track.
When I get past the automated options urging me to block book ten rooms at a time, I speak to a man who isn’t Google Maps. He issues directions, noting “It’ll get dark after you pass the factory.”
“It’s been dark ever since I left Prestwick,” I reply, memories of jogging towards the oncoming traffic on the dual carriageway still fresh in my mind.
In front of me, I can see this:
That’s right, fuck all.
30 minutes ago, I could see this:
Now I’m walking past cow barns, my feet soaked from splashing through invisible puddles on lanes where street lights are but a dream.
All I want is to sleep in my own bed and to wake up next to McDonald’s. Instead when I raise my weary head off the pillow – assuming I find the hotel – I’ve to walk back to Monkton, walk another half hour to Prestwick, catch a train to Glasgow and then catch a train to Edinburgh – if I’ve enough money left to do so. I also need to eat a fuckton of McDonald’s (with money I don’t have), catch a PureGym session, finish a BuzzFeed article about the world’s spookiest cemeteries, publish my Monday blog and find the time and funds to pick up a present for E, who turns five on Tuesday.
I don’t even know what The McWorkout is any more. It started out as a fast food fitness challenge. Now it seems to have turned into Around Scotland In 80 Days.
And around Barcelona. Shit, how could I have forgotten Barcelona?
Let’s start at the start – Thursday 8th May, the day after Part VI of The McWorkout left off.
Thursday 8th May (Day 11)
Weightlifting causes the body to release feel-good endorphins, boosts serotonin and raises testosterone. This in turn leads to a heightened libido.
Eating McDonald’s triggers the body’s pleasure receptors, releasing feel-good endorphins that are tickled by the blend of salt, fat and sugar. The sodium also dehydrates the body.
Fast food makes you thirsty.
It could be the Bacon & Egg McMuffin I ate at 8am or it could be the Nevada Grande burger I ate at 11:40am, but it’s probably a combination of both that has caused my unquenchable thirst. The Great Tastes of America burger alone contains 56% of my RDA salt, which leads us nicely into this week’s column from Dr Fenn:
Dr Chris Fenn
Junk food is over processed and under-nourishing but it is certainly not lacking in salt. Sodium chloride is added as part of the lip-smacking additive factor, but also to preserve and prolong the shelf life of the burgers, cheese, bread and fried chicken as it travels around the world supplying the McD eateries.
Kai’s blood sodium level was at the top end of the normal range before he started scoffing McDonald’s exclusively. After a couple of weeks, his daily salt intake would be consistently high. Some people are sensitive to a high sodium intake, which can lead to high blood pressure. This is serious as it can cause damage to your blood vessels, brain and kidneys. The trouble is, with all this high pressure activity going on inside your body, there are no outward signs or symptoms – which is why high blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the “silent killer.”
Apart from reducing salt intake – which is not possible for Kai just yet – he should swop coffee and Sprite Zero drinks for good old plain H2O from the tap and aim to drink at least two litres of water each day.
Thursday, 1pm: I am buried in my feelstation, writing my blog from the office. The floor-cleaning lady (every McDonald’s employs a foreign or mildly autistic cleaner whose job is to mop the same patch of floor constantly), points under my table. I look down to find a discarded five-pound note. God bless you ma’am.
An hour later, this penurious writer uses his newfound riches to order a Triple Chocolate Cookie and a Sprite Zero.
Six hours and one gym session later, my quest to complete the McDonald’s menu also sees a Chocolate Brownie McFlurry ticked off. I’m eating it because I have to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the sugar high. My workout was good, but this is better.
Today I’ve consumed almost 200% of my RDA saturated fat. I’m not sure whether to high five myself or stick my fingers down my throat.
I flick through a copy of Men’s Health, which contains a body transformation feature. These guys are getting professional trainers, specially devised circuits, nutritionally balanced meal plans, supplements and ten weeks in which to get into shape. I’m trying to do it in four weeks, with no workout partner, no professional trainer, no supplements and a meal plan that consists of non-stop McDonald’s. Have I bitten off more junk food than I can chew?
Friday 9th May (Day 12)
The McWorkout is settling into a familiar routine. Every morning, I check my bank balance to discover how many debits have come off in the night. The outcome will have a direct bearing on the amount of McDonald’s I can afford to eat that day. If I’m in credit, I can intersperse my burgers with salads; if I’m in debt, it’s pocket shrapnel and the Saver Menu.
Today, I wake up to £42 of bank charges, leaving me with -£75 and £6 in my pocket. In four hours I’m due to set off on holiday. Barca’s shaping up to be a belter.
My mate joins me for an early breakfast in the office, tucking into double rolls, double hash browns and a large Fanta. I chow down my own regular-sized breakfast while Googling “McDonald’s Barcelona Airport”. I am relieved to discover that my life support machine is present and operational.
A McDonald’s lorry pulls up outside and starts unloading. I nod approvingly. “Here come my gainz.”
At 11:15 I open a rucksack and throw in a handful of travel essentials: running shoes, iPod, shorts, laptop. By 11:20 my packing is complete and I am out the door, bound for Barca.
The mate who is driving me to the airport has arranged to meet at Asda Garthdee. When I phone him, he’s inside, ordering McDonald’s. I follow suit, before trotting out to the car with a Big Mac bag in one hand and a Men’s Health in the other.
3:20: I’m sat in the departure lounge sipping a Stella. It’s the first beer I’ve tasted in two weeks and, shockingly, it tastes divine.
“Pure dead brilliant” reads the Prestwick Airport slogan. All that’s missing is a ‘but’ on the end. Prestwick is many things (awash with cellulite slappers and pot-bellied Weegies) but it’s certainly not pure dead brilliant, but.
If airports could find a way of charging for air, they would.
Halfway through my pint, I start to get a wee heid on, as they say. I could really use a joint right now. And some McDonald’s. Prestwick has neither. Instead, I am forced to settle for a cheat meal: a tuna melt.
I Google “calories in a pint of Stella”. 260. I switch to Jack and Diet Coke. My travelling companion hands me my fourth drink and a packet of crisps. Down the hatch it goes.
On the one hand, I don’t want to shovel unnecessary junk into my body. On the other hand, the more ‘normal’ my diet, the more accurate The McWorkout will be: is it possible to shape up without improving one’s diet?
Is it possible to shape up while worsening it even? We’re on course to find out.
“You must choose your allocated seat,” says RyanAir’s pre-recorded flight message. “This is for weight and balance reasons.”
Aye, that’ll be right.
When I awaken, 45 minutes into the flight, I slip in my headphones and turn up Bring Me The Horizon. Their noise effectively drowns out the trolley dollies who are hawking whatever it is they are hawking. Scratch cards I believe.
In one hour, I will be arriving in Barcelona, whereupon I see the evening going one of two ways:
1. I meet up with my mates and get spectacularly drunk.
2. I lace up my trainers and go for a run.
I pray I have the resolve to elect for the latter. I’ve already claimed my rest day this week.
My phone memory is full. I scroll through it, deleting ten days of McDonald’s meals. Every morsel I’ve eaten since 28th April is on there. I feel Asian.
The travelators in Barcelona’s Terminal 2 are bouncy. This is good. The fast food chain in Terminal 2 is Burger King. This is not good.
Our hotel is just two kilometres from the airport, but this doesn’t prevent the taxi driver from charging us €30 for the ten-minute trip.
At the imaginatively-named Barcelona Airport Hotel, the rest of our group are already well lubricated. They only arrived half an hour earlier, but have been drinking solidly since Edinburgh Airport.
Alex – my nominal McWorkout partner – had ordered champagne and shots for them all in the departure lounge.
“We had five rounds of drinks lined up at the bar plus a heap of garlic breads which Alex bought,” recalls Mark. “I was like “Dude, we only ate a McDonald’s half an hour ago.” I tell you, the garlic bread was beautiful though.”
While Mark has been reminiscing, the pair of us have been waiting at the bar in the hotel lobby. There is no barman and no sign of one coming, despite our obvious presence. Eventually, Mark decides to take matters into his own hands.
“Dude, give me a shout if anyone comes,” he orders, ducking down behind the bar.
I keep watch while my companion ransacks the fridge.
“How many beers?” comes the muffled voice from behind the bar.
The self-service mission is successful and presently I’m cracking open Budweisers with a lighter. The seven of us, in varying states of inebriation, are now assembled at the bar. Everyone wants to go into town for more drinks and dinner.
Everyone except me. I’ve had four drinks at Prestwick and a free Bud at the bar; it’s been fun, but now there’s work to be done.
Informing my companions that I won’t be joining them feels bad. I don’t want to be that guy, but for the sake of The McWorkout, I have to be that guy.
I’m not here to get drunk: I’m here to get fit.
10:30pm: Shoes are laced, shorts are on and tunes are cranked. It may be dark and late but it’s also hot. Aberdeen this ain’t.
I set off in the direction of Terminal 1, my path taking me along a series of slip roads and across motorways. It’s not an ideal route to take – in fact it’s a downright dangerous one. Several times I have to jump over the barrier as trucks and buses come roaring towards me.
There’s a reason for my hazardous route however: if I can make it to Terminal 1, I can eat at McDonald’s. Right now, I couldn’t care less about Barcelona’s cultural attractions: I need fast food and I need it fast.
5km later and, despite circling the sprawling airport, I am nowhere near Terminal 1. Up ahead, a chain link fence comes into view and the road is barred by a Stop barrier.
I’ve tried my best, but it’s not to be. There will be no McDonald’s for me this evening. Still, all is not lost: I’m halfway through a 10k run and, despite the stifling heat, I feel great.
Scorched grass fringes the narrow road around the airport. The air is redolent of clover and heroin. I glance up at the stars, moon and vapour trails.
“It’s all about the music and it always will be!” exclaims the tune pulsing through my iPod at 140bpm.
Six weeks ago, the McWorkout was a daft idea running around my head. Now I’m running around Barcelona airport. How did it come to this?
Saturday 10th May (Day 13)
I awaken feeling sore but refreshed. Friday wasn’t a drunken night, but it was a late one. At 3am, Alex and his mate had arrived back at the hotel, whereupon I joined them for a vodka Red Bull and a joint. At 4:30am, the others returned, including a heavily intoxicated Mark, whose repertoire consisted of talking loudly about fanny. Everything, to him, can be likened to a vagina.
“That garlic bread we had earlier in the airport was delicious. It was like a moist fanny, but better.”
By Saturday lunchtime, the seven of us are in Barcelona. On the long bus ride into town, I keep an eye out for McDonald’s, but there are no gainz stations to be found. The night before, I was forced to take a cheat meal. Now I’m about to take another, my second and final permitted cheat of the week. It had better be good.
My reward for visiting the gastronomic heartland of Catalonia is the worst paella I’ve ever tasted. It takes an hour to arrive and is welded to the pan. What’s the point of cheating if you can’t even enjoy it?
I’ve spent 30 euros and have nothing to show for it. While the others head to the marina for drinks and boat rides, I head back to the hotel. As I retrace my steps along Las Ramblas, I encounter two McDonald’s in rapid succession. Now they show up, after I’ve forced down a plate of microwave-grade paella.
I had high hopes of living off McDonald’s while in Barca, but it’s not turning out that way; the hotel is miles from McD’s and I can’t afford to keep travelling back into town – I have 50 euros to last the weekend.
9pm: I awaken from my siesta and take my laptop to the bar. I like it here but I don’t belong here. Around me, everyone is on holiday; Asians chattering amiably; Americans nursing bottles of wine; English being English.
I’m sat in a corner writing editorials for Edinburgh Art Shop and The Quartermile. I may be sharing the same space as my fellow guests, but we’re in different places. They’re in Barcelona; I’m still in Scotland.
My intentions have been honourable, but there’s no getting away from it: this weekend I’ve been slacking. I’ve hardly been dining in style (shitty paella and some cold cuts at the bar), but I haven’t been eating filthy either. That’s OK though: on Monday I intend to atone for this oversight in some style.
Last Thursday, I invited readers to Hack My Mac by suggesting ways to sex up McDonald’s. My mate has proposed the following concoction:
You’d never guess he was a vegan.
When I return from Barca, I have vowed to try this monstrosity – it even has a name, as one blog commenter explained:
Three burgers, one bap. In the process I’ll neatly tick off three things: my need to taste the Filet-O-Fish, my need to Hack my Mac and my need to atone for the absence of McDonald’s this weekend.
10:30pm: The others are in town drinking. I’m in the hotel basement, making use of the 24-hour gym. There are no gym bros here hogging the Smith machine (and not just because there is no Smith machine). It’s just me and a bunch of free weights. This is how all gym sessions should be.
I complete a 70-minute chest and biceps workout, followed by a 20-minute circuit that combines low weights and high reps with some cardio exercises I borrowed from Insanity. By midnight, I’m peeched but happy: it’s my best workout all week.
Today I have eaten:
Two chocolate digestives (84 cals each)
Two apples (72 cals each)
Two Iberian tapas meals (jamon serrano, olives, bread: e 700 cals each)
One shitty mixed paella (e 700 cals)
One large beer (400 cals)
Two small cappuccinos (50 cals each)
Calories burned: 590
Sunday 11th May (Day 14)
6:00am: I left the gym six hours ago but still haven’t been to bed. I’m wired, which is a combination of the coffee and the siesta I took at 4pm. My insomnia is being put to good use at least: during the night, I’ve typed up 7,500 words of audio from an interview with Captain Tom. This will be getting turned into a feature article that I’ll be publishing next week. I also edit and publish a guest blog by Russell Bowes on how to make a Big Mac at home. Reading it makes me hunger, not for McDonald’s, but for proper homemade food, a luxury I haven’t tasted in weeks.
6:30am: Of the countless hotels I’ve stayed in over the years, I reckon I’ve made it down to breakfast twice. Hotel breakfasts are served way too early – who the hell is up at that time apart from old people and Asians?
This morning I’m going to make it to breakfast. Partly because I’m starving and partly because I’ve finally found a way to ensure I make it there on time: pull an all-nighter.
I consume a filthily large breakfast that includes cereal, fruit, cooked items, two coffees and three mini pastries and then immediately feel guilty. It’s the first proper meal I’ve eaten all weekend, but still – was there need to go back for seconds? That’s the trouble with hotel breakfasts: they entice you to shovel in as much as you can. Never again.
10:30am: I still haven’t been to bed and check out time’s in 90 minutes. The others have gone to watch the Barcelona Grand Prix, but I’m more interested in squeezing in a final workout before I leave.
My last workout was 12 hours ago and I haven’t slept, but I manage an hour on shoulders and triceps before bidding goodbye to my bijou gym.
It’s time to leave Barcelona Airport Hotel and make the short trip to the airport. During my 48 hours in Catalonia, I’ve seen zero attractions, gotten drunk zero times and have eaten zero McDonald’s. On the plus side, I’ve fitted in two gym sessions, a 10k run and a bunch of work.
I’ve spent weeks in the office that were less productive than this holiday.
11:30pm: My flight lands at Prestwick. It’s a shitty time to be arriving at a shitty airport, an ungodly hour when transport links are unavailable. Despite my usual paucity of funds, I’ve booked a hotel to see me through till Monday morning.
48 hours ago, I was running around the perimeter of Barcelona Airport – now I’m about to do the same with Prestwick. Over there it was warm and exotic at least; here it’s cold and wet and I haven’t slept in 36 hours.
I strap on my backpack, face into the oncoming traffic and start to run.
Today I have eaten:
A fat-ass breakfast (e 1,100 calories)
An apple (72 calories)
Two stodgy tapas dishes (e 1,000 calories)
KP Nuts (300 calories)
Large Macallan whisky (118 calories)
Calories burned: 450 (gym) plus 250 (trying to find my fucking hotel)
Total time spent travelling this weekend: 18 hours
Total time spent in Barcelona: 4 hours
7 Days of Training Dirty
Monday: 540 calories, 75 mins
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 400 calories, 60 mins
Friday: 650 calories, 50 mins
Saturday: 590 calories, 70 mins
Sunday: 700 calories, 75 mins
Ave. calories burned per day*: 547
Ave. time spent exercising per day*: 62 mins
*Rest day not included
In week one, I averaged 688 calories per day and 73 minutes of exercise. It would appear that I’m starting to slack off, though week two’s figures can also be attributed to focusing on weights ahead of cardio.
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: 2,910 cals
Tuesday: 3,214 cals
Wednesday: 2,650 cals
Thursday: 2,749 cals
Friday: 2899 cals (inc. 1240 ‘other’)
Saturday: 2912* (all ‘other’)
Sunday: 2590* (all ‘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
Week 2 total spent: £65.37
Ave. cost per day*: £13.07
*Based on the five days I was eating McDonald’s
In week 1, in comparison, I spent an average of £16.49 per day
Week 2 total calories: 19,924
Ave. daily calories: 2,846
That’s almost 150 calories more per day than in week 1.
The Weigh In
At the end of Week 1, my weight had dropped by half a kilo. At the end of Week 2, it’s dropped by another half kilo, while body fat has increased slightly – it’s up by 0.4% to 11%.
I’m losing weight but increasing body fat. C-could that mean I’m also putting on muscle?
Week 2 Assessment
The totals say I’ve done less training than week 1, but the intensity has been high. My goal for the final two weeks of The McWorkout is to train for at least 90 minutes a day, five days a week. My cardio’s fine, but building muscle is proving hard.
Up until Friday I’d eaten nothing but McDonald’s, but going to Barca threw a spanner in the works. 48 hours without McD’s won’t make a discernible difference to The McWorkout’s final totals, but I’m still disappointed. Thankfully, I’ve been making amends since getting home: Monday’s McDonald’s total will be much filthier.
I’ve drank alcohol on more occasions than week 1 – I had half a dozen drinks on Friday and Saturday. Considering I was on holiday however, and considering the amount of booze I turned down, I’m pretty happy with this.
Days smoked this week: 4/7. Just like week 1, I’ve had weed-free days interspersed with a couple of days of blazing hard.
For week 3, my goal is zero alcohol. As for the weed, well, we’ll see how that goes…
The McWorkout is running late this week so the next update will appear this Friday (16th May).
On Friday we’ll have:
Hack My Mac: Your burger recipes put to the test
Werd’s McWorkout Mix: Exclusive hip-hop playlist
Fatism: Our attitude to ham planets
Fat-Burning v Muscle-Building: lol
14 days done. 14 to go.
Missed any previous episodes of The McWorkout? Catch up here.
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