Reality Check: Eating Junk Because You Workout

junk food 5You’ve heard the phrase: “I workout so I can eat whatever I want to.”

For some guys, eating “clean” is a four-letter word. Indulging in the monster burrito with a frosty beverage is worth extra time in the gym. But, is that added workout time truly X-ing out the poor food choices? Let’s find out.

We can take a wild guess that the calories in that burrito are not being torched even with an extra hour of working out.  Some guys think that if they eat a lot of unhealthy calories they can just work it off, but that’s not the case. While exercising can certainly help mediate the damage done by a less-than-healthy diet, there aren’t enough hours in the day to work off the foods that are eaten in the mindset of  It’s OK, I just worked out.

A January 2014 study from Arizona State University found that strength-based exercises burn the following calories:

  • Push-ups burned 514 calories per hour
  • Crunches burned 437 calories per hour
  • Squats burned 560 calories per hour
  • Pull-ups burned 597 calories per hour

junk food 7Obviously, no one does any of those exercises for a solid hour. According to a Harvard Medical School study, a vigorous hour of strength training burns an average of 532 calories. Make that only 266 calories for a general weight training session.

Ready for some shocking news? Per the University of Washington’s recent research, the number of people meeting their exercise guidelines is rising. Good stuff, right? Now here is the big BUT. So is the number of people who are obese.

Trying to out-exercise a junk food diet is about more than calories in vs. calories out. The body is complex and hormonal factors can have a huge influence on weight gain and loss.

For instance, when you eat a sugary waffle, soda or scoop of ice cream, your body’s levels of insulin rise. This forces your body into “fat-storage” mode. You aren’t just eating X number of calories. You’re basically injecting X number of calories straight into your ever-expanding fat cells. Now doesn’t that sound delicious?junk food 6

A junk-food diet allows fat to accumulate under the skin, on top of your muscle. Even if you exercise daily, you won’t see the muscle definition until you get rid of that fat. Muscle growth requires lean protein, not poor fats and sugars.

Eating poorly, despite your exercise routine, can lead to health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and other adverse medical issues.

As if this wasn’t enough to clean out your cupboards, eating a lot of unhealthy food promotes inflammation. This can lead to weight gain all on its own, per research published in the journal Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome.

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The Bottom Line: When it comes to sculpting your body and enhancing your performance, without a diet to support your training, you are wasting your time at the gym. Save your sweet tooth for “cheat” meals.

Tristan "Lucky"

Written by: Tristan “Lucky”