Is it better to gobble or nibble?
May 1, 2014 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Sweets, that is. From the person who just ate an entire bag of Easter chocolate (which doesn't bother me, it's a rare occurrence) - I'm curious. Is there any scientific reason why "bad" foods like fats or sweets are better consumed spread out over time rather than consumed all at once? Assuming the same quantity of total consumption. Google has no answers except "don't eat lots of sweets."

For example, if I buy a pie every Saturday, would it be healthier for me to gobble up the whole pie that day, or to divide it into seven slices (or more!) and eat it once (or more!) a day all week?

My very basic knowledge of biology thinks it should be the same, but I'd love to know if I'm missing something!
posted by celtalitha to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you don't tolerate sugar well (diabetic, prediebetic, etc), a lot of sugar at once is going to be bad for you and make you feel really crappy. Eating just a little sugar at a time over a couple days will be much easier for your body to handle.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, speaking from personal experience, eating an entire bag of Hershey's kisses in one day wreaked havoc on my innards and I felt really sick for hours afterwards. I think I hit the bathroom quite a bit that night. An excess of anything is never really good for your belly or your body, so I vote for taking it easy so that whatever you are eating actually tastes good going down and you won't taste it coming back up - or feel it much going out.
posted by HeyAllie at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2014

I sometimes plow through half a bag of Dove chocolate and will feel sick afterwards. Your blood sugar is going to skyrocket (and then crash) with a larger dose.

The only positive I can see to consuming it all at once other than instant gratification is maybe less strain on your teeth? Dentists say to finish sugary drinks, never sip if you're going to have them at all so that the sugar doesn't stay on your teeth as long/as frequently. I assume a similar principle applies to solid sugar.
posted by rawralphadawg at 1:09 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

don't ask metafilter, ask your gut, in the literal sense, your small intestine, colon, rectum and anus. how do they feel about processing a kilogram of easter chocolate all at once? IT IS BETTER TO NIBBLE.
posted by bruce at 1:10 PM on May 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you spread them out over 7 days, then you are not tempted to eat more sweets on the other days. If I ate a bag of chocolates all at once, I doubt I'd refrain from eating any more chocolates for the rest of the week.
posted by musofire at 1:13 PM on May 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Eating three-quarters of a box of chocolate truffles in one sitting ten years ago did wonders for my subsequent chocolate truffle consumption, in that now I can only eat one or two before I start feeling nauseous. Lord, that was a bad afternoon.
posted by Liesl at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Eating a "bad" food in a larger quantity is going to be hard on your digestion and your body (if it's "bad" then what it does to your body is "bad" regardless of how you're conceptualizing it. It is not fortifying or nurturing it) because of the sheer load is more to deal with at once. I say this also thinking we (with our typical diet, rushed eating, etc ) abuse our digestion constantly regardless of whether we are getting indigestion or heartburn or whatever. Also from the blood sugar perspective, you're going to create a higher rise in blood sugar by eating a high sugar (or glycemic load) food all at once rather than in dispersed proportions. On the contrary however, I have read that from a dental hygiene perspective the worst thing to do is to eat your sweets in a dispersed manner. What this does is repeatedly change the PH level of your mouth (thus promoting cavities). Whereas if out eat your pie all at once, then it takes your mouth 20 minutes to restore PH. If you eat your pie in 8 separate sittings, you go through this process 8 times (meaning the ph in your mouth changes regardless of the quantity of sugar you're eating).
posted by Blitz at 1:15 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that sugar impacts your liver in some similar ways to alcohol. Make of that what you will.
posted by moira at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2014

A friend of mine, J, who does research on lipid metabolism let me know that your body can absorb ludicrous amounts of lipids at once. We had another friend, V, who had thought that if he ate lots and lots of lipids at once, his body wouldn't be able to process them all at once and he'd be getting away with eating some lipids and not having them metabolize. J is right and V is wrong.

So no real advantage to eating lots of fat all in one sitting.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:22 PM on May 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

So no real advantage to eating lots of fat all in one sitting.

Except for sometimes you can win a t-shirt that way and get your photo on a wall.

Otherwise, ditto the other answers.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:43 PM on May 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Disclaimer: I'm not a dietician or a doctor. I am an endurance runner with a crazy-fast metabolism. I understand that you're not talking about using an entire bag of Easter candy as marathon fuel (but wow, if your stomach can handle that!). Still, your question brought to mind things I've heard and read about the rate at which a body can absorb different kinds of sugars. Here's some info from Triathlon's website:
How many carbs you can ingest is limited by the rate of absorption from the intestines into the bloodstream. Peak rates from a single carbohydrate (i.e. glucose) appear to be around 1.2 grams per minute.

However, when different types of carbohydrates are combined—most commonly glucose and fructose—the rate can increase to about 1.75 grams per minute, almost a 50 percent increase. This is because fructose and glucose use different transporters that absorb faster into the bloodstream, delivering energy to your muscles quicker.

Consuming a mixed carbohydrate sports drink or gel rather than a glucose-only drink allows you to use carbohydrate at a faster rate, and the sugar blend reduces feelings of stomach discomfort. Most sports products will use a mix of carbohydrate sources.
It's not just about how much of each component of that bag of candy your body can process, but the rate at which your body can process it (including the rate at which your digestive system can cope with it). I agree with what others have said upthread about a sugar spike and crash being a cause for concern. Some have mentioned potential tummy issues (the sugar may irritate your GI tract and give you the runs, or the excess of carbs--especially if you don't drink enough water--may constipate you). Also, most processed foods, even sweets, have a lot of salt in them. You need salt, but not all the salt all at once.

I hope that's helpful. Again, I'm totally not an expert. I just know what happens to my own GI system after hours of eating endurance fuels (mostly sugar). It's not sexy.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 1:49 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fascinating, excellent points. For the record, it was a smallish bag, and I have an iron stomach. I'll feel mildly queasy if anything.
posted by celtalitha at 1:56 PM on May 1, 2014

Experiencing rapid rises in blood sugar along with the subsequent insulin spikes appears to be a factor in increasing risk for diabetes/ metabolic disease.

I am not your doctor nor a diabetes expert. However based on everything I've learned on the subject, I've tweaked my eating habits according to what seems least likely to lead to diabetes (it runs in my family.) I try not to eat tons of sugar all at once, especially not in the AM (so . . . not donuts) and I avoid soda. If I am going to eat something sugary, I'll eat it AFTER something else, once (in my mind) my insulin levels have had time to rise slowly to an appropriate level. So, dessert. In your pie example, I'd choose to spread it out over seven days, and after meals. This sort of goes along with the idea of glycemic index which has its problems but I think it's useful as a way to start thinking about these things.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 2:14 PM on May 1, 2014

I also have an iron stomach and no diabetes issues, and I think it's just a bad idea FOR ME to eat a lot of sweets at one sitting because I will totally do it again, so I end up consuming more empty sweets calories than I would if I only had a little at a time. So, if it was like "eat all these candy eggs on Tuesday and no sweets for the rest of the week" I don't know that I would really have a problem with that, but the problem is it's usually more like, "eat all these candy eggs on Tuesday and the have a banana split on Wednesday and Thursday is Office Bagel Day and then I really love the flan at the fancy restaurant I'm going to on Friday..."
posted by mskyle at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2014

My understanding is that sugar impacts your liver

Maybe, but my understanding is it's the pancreas that's really suffering. It makes the insulin you need to process that sugar, and apparently it can only make so much, over your lifetime. Once it gives out, you're diabetic and hence need to get your insulin from an external source.
posted by Rash at 3:11 PM on May 1, 2014

All at once may be better for your dental health. With soda, even diet, a hygienist once told me it is better to drink your soda all at once and then follow it with water. Sipping keeps the acid on your teeth longer.
posted by soelo at 4:35 PM on May 1, 2014

Apart from the blood sugar aspect, I'm wondering about calories in vs calories burned. If I ate a whole pie on Saturday and it was, say 1800 calories, I wouldn't be able to burn that off before it was stored on my ass. If I ate one 300 calorie piece a day, I could compensate for that off in my workout.
posted by Beti at 6:17 PM on May 1, 2014

You know why they are "better" consumed over time? Because your palate gets "fatigued" from any one thing. Try it with dinner sometime. The first bite of any rich, delicious food is often the best bite. By the end of your steak or pie, you're kind of over it. Diminishing returns on the joy of food.

I know that isn't what you were asking about but it is worth considering. :)
posted by amanda at 6:51 PM on May 1, 2014

seconding the teeth aspect. My take-away from my last dentist visit was that mouth PH depends more on length of exposure to sugar, rather than quantity of sugar. If so, better to gobble than snack.

shoot, i guess I should stop eating Double Chocolate Kellogg Krave while gaming...
posted by rebent at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2014

« Older When should I sleep?   |   Need some relationship advice in regards to giving... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.