As an athlete, you already know that you're probably not ordering your most healthy meals from the driver's seat of your car. Yet when cravings hit, even nutrition junkies can find themselves saying things like "double cheese, double bacon and, yes, supersize that combo" to a drive-thru intercom.
As long as the rest of your diet is healthy, there's no harm in the occasional detour, right? What can a single order of fries hurt? According to a recent study published in The Canadian Journal of Cardiology, maybe more than you think.
According to findings from research done by Dr. Anil Nigam, Director of Research at the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre (an affiliate of the University of Montreal), a single fast food meal high in saturated fat and sodium can almost immediately damage your arteries.
Nigam's study tested the effects of good fat versus bad fat on blood vessel lining by measuring the endothelial function (or the blood vessels' ability to dilate) after a high-fat meal. To do this, Nigam took 28 healthy men (18 to 50 years old) and fed them each two distinctly different meals after periods of 12-hour fasting.
The first meal was based on the Mediterranean diet and consisted of salmon, almonds and vegetables baked with olive oil. In the first meal, 51 percent of the calories came from monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats. Two hours later, Nigam and his colleagues tested artery dilations and found them all relatively normal. For the second meal, the men ate a typical fast-food breakfast sandwich of sausage, egg and cheese paired with three hash browns. The breakfast platter was high in saturated fat and contained no omega-3s. Fifty-eight percent of total calories came from fat. Two hours later, the team found the participants' arteries dilated 24 percent less than they were when fasting. Not good: high cholesterol and triglycerides levels can elevate blood pressure and lead to a heart attack.
"These results will positively alter how we eat on a daily basis," Dr. Nigam says.
Is that chicken nugget really worth being one step closer to a heart attack? It's certainly something to keep in mind, especially next time a craving for something greasy hits.
Stuck eating at a fast food restaurant? Don't worry, view these STACK articles to guide your order: