Fast Food Can Help Build Muscle, So You Can Forgive Yourself For That Post-Gym Big Mac

Have you ever gone to the gym for an intense workout and then wanted to go directly to McDonalds drive through or stop by Chipotle right after? If so, you may not be throwing off your training after all, because fast food could help to build muscle tone as well as protein powder does, according to new research published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. This is because your muscles main energy source of glycogen diminishes as you work out (which is why you get tired) and although energy supplements and protein powders and bars were thought to be the best way to increase your energy levels, this study found that many other kinds of food can restore glycogen as fast as these supplements.

Glycogen is what gives you the energy to lift, run, and strength train, and it isn't in abundant supply. Since it is the main source of energy that your muscles use when you are exercising, you get more and more fatigued the longer you work out, and usually your glycogen levels will start to decrease 10-30 minutes into your workout. Now, this may not seem like anything to write home about, but replenishing your body's supply of glycogen is crucial after working out. If you don't, your body will try to find other sources of it internally, which can destroy your immune system and your muscle tone. Carbs are one of the greatest sources of glycogen, which is probably why you crave bread and high-calorie foods after working out, especially if you did so on an empty stomach.

The Experiment

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In the research published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise, the studies authors used 11 participants who didn't eat for 12 hours, after which they worked out for an hour and a half. After they completed the exercise, half of the participants were fed a hearty breakfast that included pancakes and hash browns, that was followed by a fast food meal of a burger, french fries, and a soft drink. The second half of the group was not included in the feast and were given nutrition bars and Gatorade, two foods typically marketed for the better results they give you post-workout.

The Results

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During the participants eating, the researchers tested the subject's glycogen levels and found that there was no difference in those levels between the two groups after four hours. So, which group they were in had no difference.

Now What?

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So, while eating fast food after a workout might not affect how much muscle tone you build and retain, it can have detrimental long term affects on your health. Eating processed, fried food isn't good for you, which we all know, so just because it doesn't have this particular negative health effect, it doesn't mean that it doesn't cause others. Just some of the negative effects fast food can have on your health include a higher risk of developing diabetes, depression, and heart attacks. So, continue to enjoy your Taco Bell and Carls Jr. in moderation, but if you happen to indulge in one of those moderations after your workout, you won't delay your progress.

Images: Getty Images (1); Giphy (3)