You’ve probably asked yourself, “How much do I have to run to lose weight?” Well, let’s look at what you eat. We’ve drawn a simple diagram of everyday American food vs. exercise. Calories burned can depend on a wide variety of factors, from your weight to your pacing, but we’ve created a visual that paints a larger picture. Food and exercise are fundamentally tied; use our running and walking calories burned comparison to give yourself a rough idea of what’s going on with your body and diet. See how far you’d have to run to work off the calories from the most common U.S. foods, from doughnuts, pizza, and burgers to sit-down meals at America’s favorite chain restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory. Just remember that exercise vs. calories burned might be different for you!
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To illustrate how most Americans match a fairly sedentary lifestyle with a very caloric diet, we’ve used the averages. But remember that the calories burned running a marathon can be very different if you have a marathoner’s body. Ultra-marathoners are famous for eating bizarre, high-calorie diets just to even everything out. They’d measure how many calories in a slice of pizza only so that they can make sure they get enough. (One famous runner put mayonnaise on his crust.) If the question is, “How much does running burn?” the answer is probably around the average unless something is unusual with your BMI or metabolism.
How bad is soda for you (or burgers, popcorn, and other high-calorie items)?
It’s pretty bad, for many reasons other than calories. Ignoring the amount of sugar, salt, and acid in these foods, many of these items have a relatively low nutritional value. A bag of potato chips, popcorn, or a large coffee drink might not be as bad as some of the other options on this list, but they’re often snack foods or “blind calories” that we don’t think about. Give that we’d have to walk about five miles to work off an extra slice of meat lover’s pizza or need to run slightly more than a mile to work off an extra can of Coke, it may help us gain more perspective on balancing our calories vs. exercise.
So I need to jump on the treadmill right now?
Remember that binge behavior is bad. Making us all question, “How many calories in food need to be worked off?” before jumping on the treadmill isn’t the goal. We just need to take a closer look at our “fall-back” snacks when we’re feeling lazy and analyze the calories by food type. We should scrutinize any foods with calories in the thousands, fast-food items with bacon, cheese, or sugar, and appetizers and desserts at sit-down restaurants that are intended for multiple people. Remember, we naturally need energy throughout the day (around 2,000 calories for healthy adult men and 1,500 calories for healthy adult women).
And we don’t have just to run to work it off! There’s dancing, swimming, or cycling. There are plenty of physical activities that can help!
What are the worst calorie counts for common foods that we need to watch out for?
Fast-food places and terrible snacks often get the blame, but meals from sit-down chains are some of the most calorie-dense food options in America. The worst fast-food meals don’t really compare with the worst restaurant meals, which can top out perilously close to 3,000 calories. The fast foods with the most calories, at least regarding single items, are around 1,000 to 2,000 calories (but note that this discounts the fact that some fast-food consumers double up on many of their items). Consider this calorie-by-food graph eye-opening!
So one needs how much exercise to burn off calories?
No one should be using this as a blueprint for food equivalents; eating junk food and working out at the same time isn’t an optimal combo. But inserting the link between food and exercise into consumers’ minds has been a goal for a long time, to the point that some recommended putting amounts of exercise on food labels. Hopefully, we can all think about how to better take care of our bodies.