What It Takes to Burn Off 5 Fast Food Meals (and a Latte)

woman working out

The holidays are behind us, and that means one thing – dreams of sugarplums dancing in our heads have turned to nightmares of cellulite chasing our posteriors. Because even the best eater is going to sample a homemade white chocolate chip mocha cookie when it’s offered piping hot from the stove, right? (This is me, raising my hand.) And the best eater might even have another cookie – or six. Who’s to say?

And besides all the awesome baked goods we may or may not have consumed over the holidays, there are also the quick dinners we might have grabbed between shopping and wrapping and generally trying not to go insane. And maybe, just maybe, this food arrived to you through a drive through window with grease seeping through its paper bag – a paper bag you later threw away in an anonymous dumpster on the side of the road. Perhaps?

But not to worry! We’ve got a quick guide to a quick way to burn off the bad stuff. Every wonder how many crunches it takes to burn off a Big Mac from McDonald’s? Or how many miles you have to run to burn off a large French fries from Wendy’s?

First, everyone burns calories in a different way. In other words, a 120 pound woman with 17% body fat isn’t going to burn the same amount of calories as a 250 pound man with 30% body fat. It all varies according to weight, size and metabolism. So for the purposes of this article, we figured in statistics for the average sized American woman – which is 5’4″, 140 pounds, and a size 14.

Here’s a look at our average Jane eating our favorite fast food wonders, and how she pays for them. (Not that we green Janes ever eat fast food…)

Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburger

burger king bacon double cheeseburger

620 calories and 28 grams of fat. Get out your bathing suit and hop in the pool for some swimming. Like the back stroke? You’ll just have to swim 2.18 hours of the back stroke to burn off the 620 calories. We suggest a wet suit and nose plugs.

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets


Six pieces have 290 calories and 17 grams of fat. Sounds like a lot, right? Easy enough to fix: a few hours of vigorous sex will burn that off! Just 9.06 hours in bed will take care of those six McNuggets. Up for it?

Thirsty? Before you reach for a Starbuck’s Mocha, Low Fat Milk, Venti, here’s a thought.

venti mocha

At 446 calories and 20 grams of fat, you can burn that all off with just one simple exercise. Consider climbing some hills for just one hour – while carrying a 21-42 pound load. That’s about a bushel of apples. We suggest not eating one on the way up – one Red Delicious apple will add 127 calories to your count.

Want a Chocolate Softie from Wendys?


One large Frosty Dairy Dessert in Chocolate from Wendys is 540 calories and 91 grams of fat. Participating in one hour of your place of worship –  i.e. kneeling, walking, and praying – will burn 32 calories. You just have to marathon it by completing 16.8 straight hours at church.

Carl’s Jr Bacon Swiss Crispy Chicken Sandwich

crispy chicken bacon swiss carls jr

690 calories and 36 grams of fat. Like working on your home? Just 2.17 hours of roofing will burn off your crispy sandwich. If that’s not motivation to get your home in order, I don’t know what is.

IHOP Pancakes with Syrup

ihop pancakes

110 calories and 3 grams of fat per dessert pancake, and 230 calories and 58 grams of fat per two ounces of syrup. So if you layer up the pancakes, you’re looking at about 790 calories. But no worries. If you bicycle like a rabid hamster – or, roughly 20 mph – you can burn it off in 45 minutes. And possibly win the Tour De France. Look out, Lance Armstrong!


Note: please excuse our inadvertent errors and typos. IHOP syrup has 58 grams of carbs, not fat.  A large Wendy’s shake has 13g of fat.

Further reading: Calorie Counts frequently off for fast food

Images: mikebaird, thefoodpornographer, milkintheclock, lyberty, foodfacts, mooshee85, foodbeast

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30 thoughts on “What It Takes to Burn Off 5 Fast Food Meals (and a Latte)

  1. Great article, but the ad from Domino’s Pizza at the bottom could cancel it out. The long and the short of things is, stay away from fast food, sugar, drink lots of water and exercise and you will lose weight or maintain your current weight.

  2. Their are no excuses these days for people to still be making fast food choices that are not good for them. Many places these days have plenty of healthy choices……We just have to ask for them!

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  6. Gee, that BK double cheeseburger looks good. (without the bacon). I think I better get out that rebounder.

  7. My gosh, the calorie thing again! People are going to stay fat and unhealthy as long as they don’t understand why they get fat in the first time. You can eat all the calories in the world, sit on your bum all day and still stay fit and healthy if you eat the right kind of calories. Your carbs should be real low and come only from natural sources (read fruits and veggies). Unlimited good fats (olive oil, coconut oil…) and proteins coming from grass fed animals. Also eliminate grains and dairy. Try it for a month and you will never come back. Do you think the Palaeolithic man had weight problems and chronic diseases. Think about that. Do you think he hate very lightly and was in a constant semi-starvation mode. No, he gorged on fatty meat. The whole calorie in/calorie out has been beaten to death in the last few years and proven undoubtfully wrong countless times. Don’t try to burn every calorie that comes in, its a recipe for disaster and dispointment.

  8. Oh, ick! I’m so glad I gave up fast food over ten years ago! My waistline, blood sugar, and heart thanks me. Its amazing I even drooled over that stuff at one time. I dont care if the numbers are off, its still not real food.

  9. No way an apple us 127 cal…. And 81g if fat in a frosty….doubt it

    I call shens on this article

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  11. OOPS! Missed the previous comment about Frosties! Sorry!

  12. You’ve also got a problem with the Wendy’s Frosty — there’s no way that something with 91g of fat would only contain 540 calories. Fat is 9 calories per gram of fat, and that would total 819 calories from fat alone… let alone sugar.

    Thankfully, that’s not the case: according to the Wendy’s site, the total fat content of a large chocolate Frosty is 14g (and a total of 530 calories).

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  15. You are correct! Thanks for pointing that out for me.

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  18. Hi Fred, thanks for your comment! You are likely correct about the numbers for a 170 pound man. But if you noticed, we stated in the beginning of the post that this is calculated for the average woman, not man. ;)

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  22. All of these numbers seem over-hyped. For instance, “Carl’s Jr Bacon Swiss Crispy Chicken Sandwich” would take an average man (170 lbs) about an hour and a half to walk off. While their 6 piece “McNugget” would take only 2 hours of ‘moderate sex’ to work off, not 9. Search the web for ‘Calorie Calculators’ and check the numbers for yourself.

    This kind of ‘sensationalist’ reporting is a good part of what’s wrong with our society today.

  23. I think you mean 58g of SUGAR for 2oz of IHOP syrup. There’s no way it has 58g of fat.

  24. admittedly i haven’t checked them all, but some of those numbers are WAY off. you listed a large wendy’s chocolate frosty as 91 grams of fat, for instance. according to wendy’s nutrional info (http://www.wendys.com/food/Nutrition.jsp), it’s 14 grams. similarly, you listed IHOP syrup as 58 grams of fat, when it fact in reality it’s 0 grams (http://www.thedailyplate.com/nutrition-calories/food/ihop/pancake-syrup). The syrup _does_ have 58 grams of sugar (which is hardly good for you), but that’s pretty different.

  25. Pingback: Burning Off Fast Food Is Harder Than You May Think | Lifehacker Australia

  26. I know, right? Downer meat with melted fat on top. Love to see a similar post on what it takes to burn off the good stuff, too. How bout it Katherine? I overdo the good stuff for sure. How many sit-ups for brown rice? How many knee bends for veggie tacos? How many…well, you get the picture.

  27. Amy needs running shoes! I have to say, I’m glad I have warded off all of those sickening fast foods, except for the occasional latte. It’s good to know junk food can be worked off, fatwise, but your post shows it involves a heck of a lot of work for those small eating missteps. It’s not worth it. These days, I’m working off a glass of wine and piece of dark chocolate, more than the downer meat cheeseburger.

  28. Sadness fills my heart when I realize I don’t even have a pair of running shoes.
    Be gone fat!


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