How long will it take to burn off these Olympic calories?

Grab your trainers – it’s time for a workout. We ‘worked out’ how much exercise you’d need to do to burn off some of the food that’s being sold by Olympic sponsors.

Last month we talked about how sponsorship by Cadbury, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s could undermine the healthy ethos of the Olympics. It got me thinking about how much exercise I’d need to do to burn off the calories I’ll consume while watching the Games.

When I’m on the treadmill at the gym I’m always amazed at how long it takes to burn around 250 calories (much longer than the two minutes it takes to eat the Kit Kat they came from!).

How many calories should I eat per day?

It was reported that Michael Phelps ate 12,000 calories a day when training for the Beijing Olympics – he got to this by apparently eating a lot of pasta, pizza, eggs and sandwiches all washed down with energy drinks.

However, as most of us are not Olympic athletes, we need to consume far fewer calories than this – 2,000 a day for a woman and 2,500 for a man. So, how much ‘Olympic exercise’ would you have to do to burn off some of the Olympic food sponsors’ grub?

Working up an Olympic sweat

Well, a Big Mac meal with medium Coke (990 calories) would take a while to burn off – 110 minutes of cycling at 12mph. If you prefer something a little sweeter, a standard 49g Dairy Milk chocolate bar (260 calories) would take about 30 minutes of swimming laps, going at a moderate speed. And don’t forget the liquid calories! It would take you around 25 minutes of tennis to burn off a 500ml bottle of Coke.

Last time we discussed this, some of you were really frustrated by the apparent contradiction between a healthy sporting event and its fast-food sponsors. Commenters Matt Leach said:

‘I think that it’s appalling that an institution such as the Olympics should allow such organisations to sponsor them. We live in a time when the promotion of health and fitness, along with the known dangers of fast, convenient, or “junk” food, is higher than ever.’

But Annie was less worried about the calorie count than the patriotic principle:

‘I am not worried about the health of the foods offered – if you want to stuff yourself with rubbish you should be free to do so. What annoys me is that the three giant companies mentioned are American. A bit of patriotism when offering sponsorships would not have gone amiss.’

Are you worried about the calorie counts, or do you think that unhealthy food in sport is an inevitable part of sponsorship?


Sorry, but should all this not be in joules rather than the ambiguous calorie? Some of us have the opposite problem of trying to maintain weight, I need the fats and sugars.

Ian S says:
23 June 2012

As far as fast food outlets are concerned. We live in a modern age and we all know the pros and cons of eating junk food. Fast food can be included in your diet especially if your an active person. Freedom of choice. A lot of these companies do contribute to charities(admittedly as a PR exercise) and try to provide healthy alternatives. Personally as a family we treat ourselves to a McDonalds or KFC about once a month.
We all have our weaknesses… I’d be far more concerned about the do-gooders who criticise yet probably smoke or drink excessively… I agree with Annie… Why are all these companies American?

Come on Richard, How about a Virgin Burger outlet?…

Lord Coe has defended the Olympic sponsors:

‘Sponsors play a really important role to help that happen. In large part it is easy to talk fast food and soft drinks but I’m a great believer in input and output. No one is suggesting Coke and McDonald’s are not doing a massive amount in terms of the legacy. They are doing an extraordinary amount to make sport come alive for young people.’

So, Coe’s latest achievement is to defend the indefensible.

The reputation of the Olympics and other sporting events has already been greatly tarnished by all the cheating and use of drugs. What should be something to celebrate and inspire has been largely destroyed, in my view.

I think it’s pretty awful that large US/global companies such as mc donalds and coca cola and cadburies (now owned by the american company kraft foods) are given massive opportunities to sell food at the olympics, my understanding is that it’s pretty impossible for other food vendors to get a look in, and local shops are not allowed to use the olympic logo to offer their own foods unless given express permission

md donalds are well known for providing unhealthy food, and treating their staff atrociously, for example zero hours contracts. Similarly coca cola have a terrible reputation both for unhealthy produce and fighting trade unions, literally in columbia where it’s alleged they caused the death of trade unionists

cadbury’s has a better reputation, but still sells sweets and chocolates, but now it has been bought by an American company, who promptly closed a british factory having promised not to do so during the pre sale period, who knows….

surely the spirit of the games, which are amateur as far as participants are concerned, should see healthy food being sold everywhere, and it would make better sense to encourage local and british organisations to be selling food at the olympic venues to benefit local communities and uk firms.

i’m pretty disilusioned by the whole commercialism of the olympic games, and what is being done in the name of the games, the way volunteers are being treated (my 65 year old cousin is volunteering to steward, her shifts are outside of normal public transport hours and she is being offered no travel allowance or transport facilities, and we all know of the people on job seekers allowance sleeping under the bridges of london on the rainy jubilee weekend as a training/test of volunteers for the olympics

ken says:
25 June 2012

It is very misleading to connect these foods with the Olympics, they are unhealthy, which has been proven in a court of law and they contribute nothing to providing a healthy diet. The athletes would not train on Coke and McDonalds it would be wrong for a youngster to connect these fat and sugar laden foods with healthy living.
Coe should be stripped of his Knighthood for profiteering in this inappropriate manner?

J.D.Baines says:
26 June 2012

I think (nay, am convinced) that ‘sport’ sponsorship should be just that – and having one’s name brought to the fore as a result is not necessarily a bad thing: BUT to be able to dictate what people should eat, drink or use at a venue is positively indecent and morally wrong – people will eat, drink and/or use the product if it is what they want, and otherwise will vote with their feet.
My remarks are aimed specifically at McDonalds (yuck), Heineken (also yuck) and Visa (bankers – need I say more?).

This is a storm in a teacup (anything from 1 to 60 calories, if it really matters). There’s absolutely no reason why these companies shouldn’t sponsor the Olympics. Do the Games really have a healthy ethos? Not if you’re going to watch them in the way millions already watch many other sports, accompanied by food and alcohol. I like the carefully-chosen “bad” meal – a Big Mac Meal and a coke. Maybe some people will buy a quarter pounder and coffee without the fries. Even if you do eat 990 calories at McDonalds, you don’t need to burn it all off unless you’re eating it entirely in addition to what you would normally eat, and also not using energy in any other way.

I hope the anti-McDonalds freaks enjoy watching the Games while they munch 100 grammes of lettuce and sushi.

I presume we would not have won the Olympics unless we agreed to the terms – which would have included sponsorship by “unsuitable” (as in unhealthy) food and snack companies. The choice would have been not to host the Olympics. That’s now done – as it is a commercial sports theatre let’s hope we make a profit! When we host other national sporting events, can we promote British products only and support our own businesses?

As far as unhealthy food is concerned, we are becomimg more informed on the effects of eating; however the recent disclosures on the effects of corn syrup would not have been recognised by most people as a potential source of obesity by the way it was metabolised. It seems the food industry has been irresponsible or misleading in closing it’s eyes to this issue, despite apparently compelling evidence. If you can’t trust them to provide sensible food, how can you be expected to make sensible eating decisions?

Don’t blame corn syrup, Malcolm. The problem is that we have become accustomed to eating a lot more food than we need, including plenty of sweet food. A good start would be to eliminate sweet drinks from our diet.

Granny W says:
5 July 2012

Obviously it is ludicrous to link such unhealthy food and drink to a sporting event with the prestige of the Olympics.However, in the UK today there is insufficient emphasis on personal responsibility.

Anyway, as we are always being reminded they are the “London” Olympics so the vast majority of us don’t need to worry about this issue.

Richard says:
8 July 2012

No aspiring athlete would ever eat McDonald’s food on a regular basis. I wouldn’t have such a problem with them if it weren’t for the fact that they constantly push people to eat more and more. They ask “is that a LARGE meal?” after every order which I find disgraceful and certainly not in keeping with Olympic standards. I do know some endurance athletes who swear Coke is the only thing that will keep them going in an emergency though.

I don’t think McDonald’s should be sponsoring the Olympics, it’s embarrassing.

Kevin Harnett says:
8 July 2012

No surprise of course, but the decision to allow these multinationals to dictate our eating habits at the Olympics and promote their dubious foodstuffs is once again shameful and disheartening. Of course we should be able to make up our own minds as to what we eat and of course these foods won’t greatly harm us if eaten occasionally but we are missing a huge opportunity here to promote healthy lifestyles and sound nutrition. It’s just the usual blinkered short-termism. Whatever money we make today from the sponsors we’ll certainly pay for several times over tomorrow in greater health service costs. I’m not a ‘do-gooder’ or a health freak, but this is a no-brainer. I very much hope the Olympics are success, but the prospects are bleak. Most decisions so far, from the appalling choice of logo to the boring stadium design and missed oportunities do not bode well.

Jacqui Winterflood says:
14 July 2012

I am a 44 year old mother of 2 boys. I am so shocked and disgusted that the london olympics have taken on such unhealthy sponsors as McDonald’s and coca-cola in particular. Even my boys of 5 and 7 years are shocked and are asking me “why the sports people eat and drink such unhealthy food”.
How can we stop the obesity Epidemic with such role models!

Alexander says:
16 July 2012

The point of exercise is not to burn off calories but to get fit. If you keep fit by means of daily vigorous exercise then your muscles which make up nearly half the body weight, develop the capacity to convert any excess calories into heat both during exercise and at rest. The principal cause of obesity is inactivity; the muscles become untrained and do not use up their stores of fatty acids and glycogen. This leads to insulin resistance and storage in adipose tissue of excess fatty acids. It also reduces capillary supply to muscle which raises peripheral resistance to blood flow and thus increases blood pressure. The result is the metabolic syndrome. As for eating energy dense foods, the answer is to stop eating when you have had enough