Can You Lose Weight Eating Big Macs?

Jordan Syatt did. And his 30 day Big Mac challenge can teach us about the importance of calories.

Serdar Tuncali
Oct 20 · 5 min read
Instagram post by Jordan Syatt

The fast-food industry is blamed for the obesity epidemic by many. The cause of our ever-increasing waistline must be the companies that bring us cheap, delicious food that is ready within minutes of ordering.

The biggest fast-food company McDonald’s is almost synonymous with evil these days. Why else would they have a clown in their restaurants? They even made documentaries about how eating McDonald’s will make you fat and sick. (Hint: Eating more than twice your maintenance calories every day will make you fat and ill no matter what you eat.)

Big Mac is the featured food of the franchise. It is cheap, delicious, and ubiquitous. (There are 4 McDonald’s restaurants within a mile radius of my house, and I drive by 3 McDonald’s restaurants every day during my commute.)

Is Big Mac Fattening?

According to McDonald’s website, a Big Mac is 540 Calories. 28 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein.

Here is the list of ingredients in a Big Mac:

Photo from McDonald’s website

If I scared you with the long list of mostly hard-to-pronounce ingredients, now it’s time to be intellectually honest.

I could leave it like this and tell you Big Mac is just poisonous.

That would help me get more attention and shares. But I guess I’ll keep it honest and keep driving my 2010 Honda.

Once we deconstruct the Big Mac, here is what it looks like:

When you look at the calories, a Big Mac is not that big of a meal and couldn’t be fattening by itself. However, the Big Mac is carefully engineered to taste great, and I can tell from experience that it is not very filling.

Even though the Big Mac is not fattening per se, consuming Big Macs often may lead to overconsumption of calories and gaining weight as a result.

How did Syatt manage to lose weight eating Big Macs every day then? He is very experienced in tracking his caloric intake, and he knows exactly how many calories he needs to eat to lose weight.

Syatt mentions in his YouTube documentary that his purpose was to prove that he (and everyone else) can lose weight eating occasional junk food.

He didn’t just randomly start eating Big Macs and lost weight as a result. He tracked everything he ate, made sure he stayed in a calorie deficit and kept exercising.

Eating 540 Calories from chicken breast, vegetables, and roasted potatoes would keep you full longer and energize you to stay active and exercise. However, as Syatt admits after his first Big Mac, it left him feeling bloated and tired. He didn’t want to go workout. Maybe he felt hungry within hours of eating the Big Mac.

But Syatt is an adult. He didn’t give in to the temptation to eat more, and he went to workout instead of taking a nap.

How Fat Loss Works

Fat is a form of long-term energy storage in the body. Our body uses energy every second of the day for the essential functions of the body. We also use more energy through activity. Food is how we supply this energy demand. Any extra energy that is not used is stored as body fat to be utilized later.

The only way to burn body fat is to have a shortage of energy supply, so the body would tap into the fat stores to make up the difference.

Calories in and calories out principle is not as simple as tracking how many calories you eat and how many calories you expend.

Both sides of this equation have an impact on each other. Your eating habits may have an effect on how many calories you burn throughout the day. Furthermore, your exercise habit may influence how many calories you eat by appetite regulations.

The type of food you eat can also affect your appetite. 500 Calories from a Big Mac are not as satiating as 500 Calories from a chicken salad.

But at the end of the day, a calorie deficit is a must to lose fat.

Does Big Mac Belong to a Fat Loss Diet?

You don’t have to eat a Big Mac. In fact, if your goal is to lose fat, it is not a good idea to make Big Macs as a part of your regular diet. As Jordan Syatt mentioned in his documentary, eating a Big Mac may make you tired and less motivated to work out.

On the other hand, it may be the one thing that keeps you motivated to keep dieting. Adherence is the most critical piece of the dieting puzzle. Sometimes, including your favorite food in your diet increases your adhesion, then it belongs in your fat loss diet. As you watch the documentary, you see how Syatt eats the rest of the day. He follows a healthy, low-calorie diet and exercises regularly. Adding a Big Mac to his day does not ruin his progress.

Photo from McDonald’s website

Why Encourage Bad Habits?

Some people will see this as an encouragement to go out and eat Big Macs, pizza, and candy. Why are we not eliminating all the wrong foods altogether?

Because as you are dieting, life still happens around you. Unfortunately, most of us live in an obesogenic environment. Our social lives revolve around food. Just because we are trying to lose weight, we don’t need to turn into hermits.

There will still be birthdays, weddings, social gatherings, and dates. As Jordan Syatt puts it, the point of this experiment is not to encourage everyone to eat Big Macs every day. It is to show that you can eat a piece of cake at your daughter’s birthday, eat a slice of pizza at work lunch, eat an ice cream cone on your date, and still stay on track and lose weight.

Big Mac is not a diet food, but if one day you are in a rush to eat or you can’t afford a healthy lunch, and you grabbed a Big Mac instead, remember. You haven’t screwed up your diet. Enjoy your Big Mac, and move on. As long as you stay on track, you can make progress.

Originally published at on October 20, 2019.

Serdar Tuncali

Written by

Scientific approach to fat loss and body transformation. Self-experimenting and researching various methods and reporting on

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