Why you can’t ‘burn off’ a bad meal

One of the common misconceptions of new clients at Genesis Gym is that they can "burn off" a bad meal by doing some exercise after.

This is an idea driven by the negative emotion of guilt.

In this article I will explain why this method of guilt-based exercise doesn't work, and how to plan a "less healthy" meal into your week.

First let's take what I call the "pizza" example.

Let's say you go to a party the night before and overdo the pizza eating. According to Domino's website, half a regular peperoni pizza (4 slices) is 1160 calories.

This has: 135g carbohydrates and 51g fat.

Then guilt kicks in and you decide to go for a jog. "That will burn it off" you think. So you take a 100 minute jog which is way more than normal, but the thought of that pizza sticking on your love handles helps you push through the sore knees to finish the jog.

"Phew, I got rid of those 1160 calories!" you might think.

Not so fast.

Here is why this method will not work

1. Food is not just calories, food is information telling your body what to do.

In this case, the large amount of carbohydrates in the pizza stimulates the storage hormone insulin, and get stored in your fat cells. The large amount of fat in the pizza, combined with insulin also get stored in your fat cells.

2. We tend to eat bad food at night. The high fat levels lower growth hormone output which is a critical part of the fat burning, and body repair processes that we need to do at night.

3. The exercise we did with good intentions, quite possibly did burn 1,160 calories. However, it is a long, slow, cardiovascular dominant form of exercise which when done for long periods of time (needed to get rid of ALL those calories) tends to....

  • Break down muscle for fuel since amino acids are an important fuel for long activity

  • Raise stress hormones, which means fat storage especially around the tummy area, and even further break down muscles for fuel

  • Lead to an overall lower metabolism and easier future fat gain because of the increased fat and lowered lean muscle

As you can see the "burn off a bad meal" mentality doesn't work well.

So what shall we do?

1. Normal daily food should be unprocessed and "caveman" in nature. This article is a good place to start.

2. If you do eat a bad meal, try to make it more carbohydrate based with limited amounts of fats together with it. Eat it several hours before you sleep.

3. Use strength training as your main form of exercise. It builds lean mass and this increases insulin sensitivity of your muscles. Which means that nutrients from meals will tend to replenish your muscle stores rather than get shuttled into your fat cells.

4. If you do go overboard don't worry it can happen to any body, just recover quickly and get back on track. If one car tire gets punctured, fix it and get back on the road, don't feel bad about it, give up and puncture all the rest of them by doing foolish things.

For the best fitness boot camp program, ExpressFIT program in the CBD, and personal training in Singapore visit or the Genesis Gym facebook page. Or visit Coach Jonathan's homepage and blog at