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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How many miles are in a Big Mac?


photo by a minor

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What do we know about calories, besides the fact that consuming too many of them makes us fat? Well, a calorie is a unit of energy, technically the amount of energy required to raise 1 milliliter of water 1 degree Celsius. A calorie is a very small amount of energy. When we talk about calories in terms of food energy, we are really talking about kilocalories, or the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a liter (about a quart) of water by 1 degree Celsius. For some reason, the food industry uses the term calorie for kilocalories, or 1000 calories. So when you see that an apple contains 50 calories, that means that an apple contains enough energy to raise the temperature of a liter of water by 50 degrees Celsius.

Who cares about raising the temperature of water? Your body converts food into energy to go about your daily activities and to lose weight you've got to burn off more of those calories than you consume. So how much work is required to burn off the food that we eat? Here are some examples of a variety of foods and the amount of time that a 175 pound person would have to run (10 minutes/mile) to burn them off:

Miles needed to burn it off
Big Mac, Large Fries, Large Soft Drink
Subway Meatball Marinara Sandwich, Chips, Large Soft Drink
Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha, Honey Bran Muffin
Chili's Awesome Blossom (2710 cals, 203g of fat!)
Chili's Mushroom Swiss Burger w/Fries
P.F. Changs Great Wall of Chocolate

A typical restaurant meal with an appetizer, meal, dessert, and drinks can easily provide enough calories to run more than a marathon. If you aren't running marathons, then that energy gets stored as fat. What this post should demonstrate is that it's much easier to not eat these things than it is to burn them off. If you justify frequently overconsuming at restaurants by doing a minimal amount of exercise, you are just fooling yourself into thinking you are making progress. Remember, there are a lot of miles in that Big Mac.

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Crabby McSlacker said...


This is a great post, because it's so easy to rationalize a blowout indulgence if you don't make yourself face what you're going to have to go through to undo it.

And if you weigh less than 175 pounds, it's all that much worse because you have to travel more miles to burn that many calories.

I love an occasional treat, but there's no way I can justify running an extra 15-20 miles for one stupid meal or even just one dessert! Yikes.

Fit Club Scott said...

Thanks for stopping by.

You are right. I forgot to mention that a person who weighs less than 175 burns even fewer calories per mile, so they would have to run even further.

Conversely, a person who weighs more than 175 burns more calories per mile run and they would have to run fewer miles to burn off those calories.