In Defense of Post-Workout Pizza and Bagels

No, it does not "undo" your workout.

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 free food.

Planet Fitness' Pizza Mondays and Bagel Tuesdays might sound like a wild idea, but it's really just the gym's "No Judgement Zone" tagline in effect. "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 Jessica Correa, then-senior vice president of marketing at Planet Fitness, in a press release. And the gym's website reiterates that it's completely fine to treat yourself every once in a while and that "moderation is key."

But this whole free pizza business isn't new: According to the gym, it started back in 1998 when the hot water heaters broke for a few days in the fourth club location in Concord, New Hampshire. 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's free pizza) so they spread the pizza love to all locations as a once-a-month treat. Now, each club serves an average of 5,500 slices per year.

Like the Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm (which essentially goes off when people are getting too aggressively fit, intimidating, or disruptive), the presence of free pizza and bagels might make it a bit difficult to be a fitness-loving 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. (Which, BTW, doesn't have to be the sole purpose of hitting the gym.)

So this whole free pizza thing is to foster a little #treatyoself vibe at the gym — a respectable cause. But whether or not you're a PF member who's tempted by the smell of melty cheese mid-workout, it begs the question: does eating pizza post-workout undo the work of the spin class, strength session, 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, making sense of calories is not as elementary as adding and subtracting. (Which is why counting them isn't the best approach to health and nutrition, just sayin'.)

Not to mention, working out improves your fitness whether you lose weight or not — and the scale need not be the sole motivation to hit the gym. 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. (That's why you should really reframe how you think of "cheat days.")

Yeah, it's not as healthy as a protein shake or feeding on 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. To repeat: You can't "undo" a workout! (And if doing that calorie-focused math problem equates to negative self-talk, don't do it!)

"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., the founder of Fit Fresh Cuisine. "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," she explains.

That's right — treating yourself to a slice on Planet Fitness' Pizza Monday (or grabbing a dollar slice on the way home) could be a net-positive in the long run. "Health is all about balance and the big picture," notes Berndt. "Staying active and enjoying your favorite foods in moderation can boost motivation and support a healthier and happier you!" she adds.

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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