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Can Eating at McDonald's Help You Lose Weight?

Fitday Editor

Recently, McDonald's CEO Don Thompson claimed that he lost 20 pounds just eating fast food--the McDiet if you will. How did CEO Thompson shed those 20 pounds, while Morgan Spurlock, of "Super Size Me" fame, seemed to gain it? Let's take a look at what exactly you can do to spur your weight loss, even if you must have some fast food in your diet.

Not Just McDonald's, But McExercise Too

First, let's be frank about it. Don Thompson didn't lose 20 pounds by simply eating at the Golden Arches everyday. He obviously (and admittedly) incorporated an exercise plan into this diet as well. Ideally, if you are attempting the same thing, you will want to include a sound exercise plan on top of changing your eating habits to something more health conscious. Preferably, for both ladies and gentlemen, your fitness plan would include both strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Every person's exercise plan should be tailored to fit both their lifestyle and their goals.

Your fitness plan should have you exercising three to five times per week, with strength training three to four days per week, and cardiovascular exercise at least three times per week. You can also incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which incorporates elements of both strength and cardiovascular workouts into timed intervals of hard exertion, followed by periods of rest. Other exercises, such as swimming, running, bicycling, walking, or other aerobic exercise is also recommended. Not only will this help to jumpstart and boost your metabolism (the rate you burn calories at), but this type of exercise is great for heart health and is effective in lowering your cholesterol levels.

Even with Exercise, is Eating McDonald's Really Conducive to Losing Weight?

Yes...and no.

Most fast food companies have recognized that a growing population of people are wanting healthier options than that triple-double McCheeseburger with cheese. As such, we've seen healthier options pop up on menus across the board. It really is up to you to do some due diligence on the menu options of your favorite fast food joint. Many now offer healthier entree options like salads and wraps, as well as lighter sides like fruit or yogurt parfaits. It takes only a few minutes to plan out a healthier choice the next time you stop for drive-thru.

In addition, you probably shouldn't eat McDonald's (or any fast food for that matter) more than once or twice per week at that. While you may be able to cut on calories and fat content with some of the better fare, many of the options are higher in sodium, cholesterol and additives. While they may not make you gain weight, they can affect your overall health if eaten too often. Another suggestion would be to limit the amount of regular soda you drink with these fast food meals. Opt for water instead, and make sure you drink plenty of it.

The Bottom Line

So can you shed pounds and still eat take-out? Yes, if you make the right choices, limit the amount of times you eat it, and be sure to stick to a solid exercise plan. If you don't, well, look for those 20 pounds to stick around, and probably gain some friends too.



Photo credit: _skynet / / CC BY-NC-ND

Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous professional, collegiate and amateur athletes across many different fields, including professional and arena football players, Mixed Martial Artists, elite runners, international soccer players, and more.

Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA, as well as the owner and operator of Funky Fitness PA, a personal training studio, in home personal training and personalized fitness planning service. Ryan's work has been featured across the US and the globe, working with clients in all facets of life. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can check Ryan out on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, or you can reach him at

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