If you are eating McDonald's food before and after a workout, you should probably reconsider. Some evidence suggests eating fast food in moderation is OK. A body of evidence indicates that eating a diet consisting of mostly fast food and empty calories has negative short- and long-term effects.
McDonald's and Workouts: Benefits?
Though this may surprise you, some preliminary evidence suggests that high intensity interval training (HIIT) may be enough to counteract the negative cardiovascular effects of eating fast foods such as McDonald's.
A small study of 15 young men published in Nutrients in August 2017 concluded that young men participating in HIIT counteracted the negative effects of eating a fast food diet. However, the researchers warned this is a preliminary study and needs further investigation.
In another small study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in October 2015, researchers looked at the differences between 11 men eating fast food versus eating sport supplements (sports drinks and bars) following a workout.
The researchers found that both foods had similar effects initiating glycogen resynthesis following a workout. In other words, eating McDonald's following a workout may help a person recover, because the fast food meals have similar sugar content to sports drinks and bars, which is to say, a high concentration of sugar.
However, it is important to note that both these studies were small in scale. They also examined young, physically fit men, so it does not represent a large portion of the population. It is more likely you will find that eating fast food, such as McDonald's, before or after a workout, will have short- and long-term negative effects on your body. Instead, you should opt for healthier meal options and make meals at home that fit your nutritional needs.
Negative Effects of McDonald's
Unfortunately for those who wanted an excuse to eat more McDonald's, there is much more evidence indicating that eating fast food can have negative short-term and serious long-term effects on your health. Frequently eating McDonald's and other fast or junk food increases your risk of developing diabetes, obesity or heart disease. You will also likely feel more sluggish when consuming heavily processed foods.
If you lift weights to bulk up, the extra calories may not bother you initially, though there are better foods to help you bulk up safely. If you are looking to lose weight, eating McDonald's before or after a workout is a good way to counteract what you are doing in the gym.
For example, a study published in Health Promotion Perspectives in January 2016 concluded that the effects of consistently eating fast food, like McDonald's, has irreversible effects on your health. The most notable of these effects being an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and increased weight gain.
But weight gain is not the only effect you'll see from eating McDonald's or other fast food. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating junk food like McDonald's, with added sugars, leads to issues with insulin and blood sugar. It also increases fat around your midsection. This increased body fat can lead to problems with inflammation and high blood pressure.
In addition, studies link fast food consumption to increased exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. In a study published in October of 2016 in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers determined that consuming fast food increases a person's exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.
Finally, McDonald's may not be good for most people's workouts because it decreases their energy levels. According to the UCLA Newsroom, a team of life scientists fed one group of rats a junk food diet and the another group a regular diet for rats. The team found that the rats that ate the junk food diet gained noticeably more weight. In addition, the rats also showed more signs of fatigue, needing more rest between performing tasks.
- Nutrients: "High Intensity Exercise: Can It Protect You From a Fast Food Diet?"
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: "Postexercise Glycogen Recovery and Exercise Performance Is Not Significantly Different Between Fast Food and Sport Supplements"
- Health Promotion Perspectives: "Fast Food Pattern and Cardiometabolic Disorders: A Review of Current Studies"
- Mayo Clinic: "How Junk Food Wrecks Your Body"
- Environmental Health Perspectives: "Recent Fast Food Consumption and Bisphenol A and Phthalates Exposures Among the U.S. Population in NHANES, 2003–2010"
- UCLA Newsroom: "Does a Junk Food Diet Make You Lazy? UCLA Psychology Study Offers Answer"