Should I eat cake all at once or spread out over several days?

13 December 2016

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Question

Is it better to eat high-calorie food like a cake or a pack of biscuits all at once or spread out over a few days? Does the body rid itself of the unneeded energy by excreting it rather than storing it when you eat high sugar/fat food? 

Answer

Luckily for Kane, Giles Yeo is in the know...

Giles - So this is obviously the Christmas question, right? I think we've got to think about...all calories are equal from a physics point of view. I know I'm surround by physicists but, from a physics point of view, the problem is how you get at each of those different calories. If you actually eat all of a pack of Oreos or something like that in one go, the chances of you having the chance to try and burn it off is, obviously, small in one day.

Whereas if you divide that exact same pack of Oreos, assuming you don't eat a pack of Oreos every day, of course, and divide it out over seven days then you have a greater chance of burning that bulk of energy off. So it doesn't make a difference if you access all the calories, but it does make a difference because you obviously have more chance to burn it off.

Chris - Kerstin.

Kerstin - Is it true that the time of the day when you eat it matters at all?

Giles - Yes, that actually is going to be true as well. Because, as you know, we evolved in day and night and the thing about being alive is our brain actually tries to predict the things that are going to happen including when you're likely to eat and when you're likely not to eat. And because we have evolved with no electric lights, to actually eat when it's light and sleep when it's dark, we are most metabolically active in the daytime rather than at nighttime. So, like I said, all calories are equal but clearly you're going to be burning slightly more of it if you're more metabolically active.

Chris - Would you absorb all of the calories - if I did eat an entire packet of biscuits in one go are they all going to get absorbed or is my gut going to say I just can't cope with all of that and, assuming I don't throw up, is it just going to waste some of those calories?

Giles - Mmm. No I think it you're eating something like a chocolate biscuits, which is going to be highly refined on carbohydrates you are going to absorb it all, and the stuff that you don't burn immediately is going to be converted to fat.

Chris - So don't do that then.

Giles - Christmas comes but once a year!

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