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In Defense of Post-Workout Pizza and Bagels

ICYMI, Planet Fitness locations give away free pizza on the first Monday of every month and free bagels on the second Tuesday of every month—that's right, a gym that gives away pizza. As wacky as it may sound, it may be responsible for the gym chain's crazy growth, according to Business Insider, and, well, they have a good reason for it:

"At Planet Fitness we believe it's realistic and okay for people to enjoy a slice of pizza every once in a while in moderation," said Brian Zehetner, director of health and fitness at Planet Fitness. "We're a Judgement Free Zone and community through and through, and we whole-heartedly believe that it's a-okay to treat yourself in moderation, especially as you're working toward your individualized health and fitness goals, whatever they might be."

But this whole free pizza business isn't new: It started back in 1998, when the hot water heaters broke in the fourth club location in Concord, NH. As a thank-you for the members' patience while the heaters were fixed, the PF team ordered pizza for everyone on-site. Needless to say, it was a hit (hello, it is free pizza) so they spread the cheesy-pizza love to all locations as a once-a-month treat. Now, each club serves an average of 5,500 slices per year. (What wasn't a hit at PF: catcalling in the gym. Not cool.)

Like the Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm (which essentially goes off when people are getting too aggressively fit, intimidating, or disruptive), the free pizza and bagels make it pretty difficult to be a fitness-obsessed human trying to get their workout on. (Just imagine walking into a gym that smells like cheesy, saucy goodness.) On the flip side, it does make a whole lot of people (who might otherwise steer clear of the gym) feel more comfortable sweating in a supportive, snack-providing environment—even if it is a little contrary to weight-loss goals. (That's why they're also supporting anti-bully orgs.)

So this whole free pizza thing is to foster a little #treatyoself vibe at the gym—we can def get behind that. But whether or not you're a PF member who's tempted with the smell of melty cheese mid-workout, it begs the question: does eating pizza post-workout undo the spin class, strength sesh, or long run you just did?

Abso-effing-lutely not.

While at its core, the simple equation for weight loss is calories out > calories in, that doesn't mean that your health is as elementary as adding and subtracting. If you go crush a heavy lifting workout, noshing on pizza afterward isn't going to nix the strength gains you just made. Ditto for improving your endurance during a run or aerobic exercise class, or getting more flexible during yoga. (And, for real, you need "cheat days.")

Yeah, it's not as healthy as a protein shake or feeding on clean whole foods to fill your post-workout nutrition needs. But that doesn't mean you're undoing anything—even if the calories you just ate in pizza equal more than the calories you burned on the elliptical while watching Friends. We repeat: YOU CAN'T 'UNDO' A WORKOUT.

"When you train hard, it's only natural to reward yourself from time to time, even if that means post-workout pizza," says Sarah Mattison Berndt, M.S., R.D., nutrition advisor for Complete Nutrition. "Although a savory slice provides extra calories and isn't the cleanest recovery fuel, noshing on pizza isn't going to nullify all of your hard work if you aren't doing it all the time. In fact, it may help you to feel more satisfied and ditch feelings of deprivation that could otherwise build up to a blow-out."

"Health is all about balance and the big picture," she says. "Staying active and enjoying your favorite foods in moderation can boost motivation and support a healthier and happier you!" (However, that doesn't change the fact that diet is the most important factor for weight loss.)

If Planet Fitness wants to bring people together with a "non-intimidating, welcoming environment" that happens to include pizza, they should feel free to do so. After all, literally nothing brings people together more than free food.

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