What Happens to You When You Eat Unhealthy for 5 Days

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Did you slip up on your diet this weekend? If so, don’t worry; it happens to everyone. Has your weekend of indulgence followed you into the week? Sure, a few days of uninhibited eating may not hurt you, but according to a recent study, it may take less time than you think for fatty foods to throw off your muscle development.

According to a study conducted by the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, after just a few days of eating a fat-filled diet, muscles begin to process nutrients differently. This change could lead to long-term problems including weight gain and obesity. Despite the common misconception that a few cheat days won’t hurt your body or muscles, Matt Hulver, associate professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise, and his team found that the change in nutrient absorption can happen in just five days.

“This shows that our bodies can respond dramatically to changes in diet in a shorter time frame than we have previously thought,” Hulver said in the study. “If you think about it, five days is a very short time. There are plenty of times when we all eat fatty foods for a few days, be it the holidays, vacations, or other celebrations. But this research shows that those high-fat diets can change a person’s normal metabolism in a very short timeframe.”

The study was conducted by changing the diets of healthy college-age students, and observing how it affected their muscles over time. During the study, Hulver and fellow researchers fed the students a fat-filled diet, including sausage biscuits, mac and cheese, and extra butter.

According to the study, a normal diet consists of about 30% fat. Throughout the study, the students’ diets involved about 55% fat, despite their overall calorie intake remaining about the same as it was prior to the study.

The research team collected muscle samples from the students to see how the body metabolized glucose. The research showed that the way in which muscle metabolized glucose was altered. Despite the fact that the students did not gain any weight, this change led the researchers to believe that continued eating habits could lead to serious repercussions.

The study found that when food is consumed, the level of glucose in the blood rises. Muscles use the glucose to either break it down for energy or store it for later use.  When there is excess glucose, metabolism can be altered, and since muscle usually makes up a pretty significant portion of body weight, this alteration can lead to major consequences.

According to the study, “the muscles’ ability to oxidize glucose after a meal is disrupted after five days of eating a high-fat diet, which could lead to the body’s inability to respond to insulin, a risk factor for the development of diabetes and other diseases.”

Although you may not think about what a cheat day (or five) will do to your muscles, this research only further confirms the idea of creating and maintaining not only a workout routine but also a proper diet to support your habits. It demonstrates how breaking healthy patterns may be your biggest downfall when it comes to maintaining your health and fitness.  

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