Brits wasting workouts with too many takeaways, survey shows

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09 May 2018 --- Despite high average levels of exercise, Brits are undoing their hard work in the gym with weekly “cheat meals” and high-calorie snacks. A survey, conducted by health and wellness provider Benenden, found that people can end up with nearly 3,000 unburned calories each week as a result of over-indulging. This, unfortunately, is likely sabotaging weight-loss efforts and counteracting the calories burned from exercise.

The survey included 2000 UK respondents and determined that 65 percent of Brits exercise on a weekly basis, with 54 percent stating that they work out one to three times a week for over 45 minutes.

Click to EnlargeHowever, the surprising findings show that on average, 44 percent of respondents admit to treating themselves with as many as three fast food takeaways a week. Furthermore, 58 percent of respondents confess to eating up to three chocolate bars a week.

Courteney Stevens, Digital PR Executive, speaking on behalf of Benenden Health, tells NutritionInsight how consumers both under-estimate the calorie content of their foods, while potentially overestimating the calories burned during exercise: “It’s a known fact that people don’t fully analyse the contents of their food, for example when packaging says ‘fat free’ that can often mean they’ve added sugar in its place to retain the flavour but consumers aren’t always aware of this. When it comes to takeaways and indulgent meals out, the calorie content of your meal is often the last thing on your mind but I think most people would be surprised at how many calories their ‘treat meals’ truly contain.”

“When we exercise, our bodies will start burning calories, but the calories that are burned are the calories from carbohydrates in our system. In order to burn calories from your stored fat, your body requires the presence of oxygen. If you continue to only burn calories from carbohydrates, you will lose mostly “water weight” which leads to a decrease in your metabolism, which can cause these excess calories especially when said calories are sourced from a high carb/ high-fat diet.”

Stevens goes on to add that the rise of fitness technology likely contributed to the high rates of exercise, for example, the Fitbit and its well-known 10,000-step goal. Results showed that walking is the most popular exercise in the UK, with 79 percent of respondents saying they regularly went walking to burn calories.

Notably, to burn off the average excess calories at the end of the week, intense exercise would be required: 170 minutes of running, 297 minutes of cycling and 229 minutes of swimming.

Furthermore, the survey found that Brits across counties differed in results. They found that Coventry topped the list as the biggest “cheaters,” with 3,895 unburned calories being left over from cheat foods and drinks after their weekly exercise. In contrast, Brighton and Hove had the smallest amount of unburnedClick to Enlarge calories left over (1,502).

Brighton may well have come out on top due to their population bring around 30 percent vegan and, “by living on a plant-based diet they’re avoiding meat and dairy which are both calorific food groups. Vegans also have to be more aware of ingredients in food and sometimes that interest then extends to the production process where you can make the conscious choice to indulge. We believe it’s these types of cultural influences that will have informed the results,” says Stevens.

Moving forward
“For consumers, it’s about being aware of the content of indulgent treats and on the other side of it it’s the producers’ equal responsibility to give consumers more low-calorie options to reduce the unburned calories leftover at the end of the week,” adds Stevens.

It is key for consumers to get into the habit of reading, and understanding, food labels, Stevens continues. For example, added sugars may turn up under complicated terms such as “anhydrous dextrose, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup and syrup.” 

Additionally, creating a food-plan, making use of colored food labels and setting a weekly limit for takeaways and indulgent meals out can all aid decreasing leftover weekly calorie levels. 

“It would make a huge difference is Brits could reduce their weekly takeaway limit from three, down to one,” Stevens concludes.

By Laxmi Haigh

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