My gym, and many others like it, take their commitment to their members’ health and fitness seriously, offering a total lifestyle approach to wellness. The facility I belong to, for example, has a spa, an athletic wear shop and a small restaurant that sells healthy eats like hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, salads and low-sugar protein bars. If I never left, I would surely be in the best shape of my life. But not all gyms share the same health-minded ethos. Recently I visited a one of the biggest gym chains in the country only to find their snack bar stocked with cookies, candy and fruit snacks (yes, seriously). In reality, it was more of a candy store than a post-workout nutrition hub — and unfortunately, this snack display isn’t a rare exception to the rule. Other Eat This, Not That! staffers have visited gyms that sell 800-calorie smoothies masquerading as health drinks. Unless you’re training for a marathon, you don’t need anywhere near that many calories post-workout.
To increase contract renewals, many facilities use their retail space to slow their member’s results. The heavier members are, the more compelled they'll feel to continue working out. As unethical as this is, the tactic is extremely effective. As I looked around the gym, I noticed far fewer people in peak physical condition than at my home facility. Though this cannot be blamed on the snack bar alone, the gym is an undeniable factor to their member’s softer physiques — and experts agree.
“While having sugary beverages and foods on display at a gym may not seem like a big deal, simply seeing these treats can derail one’s weight loss goals,” says personal trainer and diet expert, Jay Cardiello, NSCA. “Many people believe everything inside a gym is good for them, which isn’t the case. Gyms that sell junk food are tricking people into believing that these foods are healthy and it’s doing their clients a major disservice.”
New Jersey-based nutritionist and personal trainer, Kristin Reisinger, MS RD CSSD agrees. “After completing a workout, people often think that they’ve earned a treat — and fitness professionals are fully aware of this. Selling candy near the gym exit increases the chance they’ll indulge,” she says. “What’s worse, providing unhealthy snacks in a gym fuels misinformation and confuses consumers. Processed junk isn’t what your body needs before or after a workout. It won’t help you see results,” she adds.
While severing your ties with your current, candy-filled facility may not be feasible (gotta love those contracts), coming prepared with your own post-workout snack, is. And it’s an easy way to kill the allure of the junk food display. Not sure what to pack? Check out these Trainer-Approved Post Workout Snacks, and stash a few in your gym bag.
And weigh in on our Facebook page: What unhealthy triggers have you seen at your own gym? How to you stay on the path toward weight loss success?
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