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What’s the Best Workout Routine If I’m Still Eating a Ton of Junk Food?

Two or three walks around the block?

There is, of course, a very simple answer to the question of what workout routine is best for a junk-food diet — no such thing exists. So my first piece of advice would be equally simple: Do not consume piles of junk food on a daily basis. After all, as they say, you can’t outrun or out-train a bad diet. 

But you know what? Let’s have some fun and try anyway… 

Can you even relate to the people who are asking this as a perfectly rational question?

Honestly, I have more life experience in this area that you might have initially suspected. Let’s flash back to the period between 2001 and 2004, and pick on what used to be my favorite indulgence when I was a critically broke college student, a fearlessly broke college graduate and a shamefully broke young adult — Chips Ahoy Original Chocolate Chip Cookies. 

Whenever mom brought home the family-size box of Chips Ahoys from Sam’s Club, I had absolutely no trouble downing an entire delicious stay-fresh pack of those magnificent, mass-produced cookies every evening after I came home from the gym. Those individual packs held somewhere in the vicinity of 18 cookies at a time, or six servings of 160 calories totaling 960 calories overall. By the time I’d finished downing it with one of the 20-ounce Coca-Colas that mom was always kind enough to stock the refrigerator with, my nightly snacking would net me 1,200 calories worth of sugary junk that would have taken up immediate residence on my waistline if I wasn’t doing everything I could to get away with it.

You got away with it? Teach us your ways! How did you manage to pull that off?

Three reasons: 

  1. Back then, my daily breakfast consisted of a low-calorie yogurt and a glass of skim milk. My lunch was just a can of Starkist tuna with lemon juice, a teaspoon of Miracle Whip and a few crackers. Dinner was whatever nutritious 650-calorie dinner mom meticulously put together for us every evening. 
  2. During my nightly personal training hours at Bally Total Fitness, I snuck in an hour-long workout for myself, consisting of half an hour of strength training and a relatively intense half hour of cardio. In essence, I could make at least 500 of those daily calories disappear as a direct result of my seven-day-per-week workout activities.
  3. I had the metabolism of a young man, and I took it for granted. Once that disappears, it’s like pulling the pin on a grenade, because the unwelcome growth becomes explosive.

So, if you’re doing something similar to what I was doing, meaning you have no desire to curb your penchant for pounding pleasant pastries, and you simply want to avoid adding an accumulation of adipose to your abdomen, you’re going to have to make like Christopher Cross and Ride Like the Wind, except you’re going to be the horse in this analogy, and you very well may feel like you actually sprinted to the border of Mexico by the time you’re done.

Enough with the alliteration and song references! All I want you to do is give me a workout suggestion!

If you won’t accept my first recommendation, which is that you change your habits immediately, I would advise you to move, but unlike MIMS, I want you to move even if you don’t wanna. If you need to offset 1,200 ill-advised calories that you find yourself consuming on a daily basis, I suggest that you engage in 10 minutes of intentional, relatively uncomfortable cardiovascular activity for every 100 calories you consume. In this case, we’re talking about two hours of constant movement, either outside, in a swimming pool or on a treadmill, rower, stepmill, elliptical or similar device. 

In this instance, you needn’t bother with the start-and-stop routine of lifting weights; all we’re trying to do is help you stave off fat production as reliably as we can, for as long as we can, and you don’t have a second to waste.

There’s another reason you need to remain in motion for as long as possible: If you refuse to adjust the nature of your food intake, your ability to move is the only thing you have left that is keeping things from becoming hopelessly dire for you. If you don’t offset the 1,200 superfluous calories you’re ingesting each day, you’re going to gain weight rapidly. The more weight you add, the more difficult it becomes to move, and the less movement you engage in. Before long, you’re walking when you used to run, because you can’t run, and the rate at which you gain weight increases exponentially.

That’s a lot of work, and it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Maybe I should just eat less junk food.

Just remember, trying to outpace a set of unhealthy eating habits simply through exercise is the fitness equivalent to participating in the Running of the Bulls: You put yourself in the situation through your own choices; you get to enjoy a tiny head start; and the danger chasing you down is much faster than you are. If you don’t do something soon, eventually you’re going to slow down, and the consequences will be pointy, painful and potentially permanent.