A healthy body is a healthy mind, which is why food and drink matter when it comes down to your performance during an exam. As well as sticking to your revision plan and getting enough sleep, it is important to stay hydrated and nourish your body with the right food groups. Read on to discover the brain boosting foods and drinks that that will prepare you mentally for the big day!
Preparing for an exam can be mentally challenging for students of all ages. Therefore, it is important to do everything you can to feel tip-top on exam day. Exams require intense concentration, memory and quick response time. What you eat and drink before and during your exam will greatly contribute to your performance.
A brain boosting breakfast
It is no secret that breakfast is the meal that sets you up for the day ahead. If you are in a silent exam room, the last thing you will want is a grumbling stomach. For a stable blood-sugar level, eat a breakfast that is rich in slow-release carbohydrates, with a side portion of protein and omega-3 fats. Slow-release carbohydrates are found in rolled oats, muesli and wholemeal bread. Foods such as milk, yoghurt and eggs are packed with protein to help you feel fuller for longer.
Experiment with these balanced breakfast ideas on your revision days. Which ones are helping to keep your mind sharp?
- Porridge oats with mixed berries, drizzled with honey and chopped almonds
- Baked beans on wholemeal toast
- Oatmeal, banana, berry and chia seed smoothie
- Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on wholemeal toast
- Boiled egg, rye bread and cottage cheese
Snacking for stamina
Healthy snacking during your exam will maintain your blood-sugar levels and increase your focus. Replace sugary snacks such as cereal bars and chocolate with dried fruit, high-fibre fruit, nuts and seeds. High-fibre fruit such as bananas, apples and pears release their energy slowly, ideal for maintaining stamina. Nuts and seeds will give you a punch of protein, keeping your belly full while the clock ticks. Bring a box of bite-sized snacks to graze on during your exam.
Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative the night before your exam. Tiredness will affect your memory and concentration, plus you won’t be able to think promptly under pressure. What should you eat and drink to make sure you sleep soundly the night before your exam?
Avoid caffeinated food and drinks for at least four hours before bedtime, or longer if you are sensitive to caffeine. If you usually have trouble sleeping, try a warm glass of milk or chamomile tea shortly before bed to help you drift off.
If you don’t fancy being woken up during the night by heartburn, eat a light dinner within 3 hours of going to bed. Avoid bulky, acid-forming foods such as white rice and pasta. Save high-fat, greasy comfort foods such as pizza as a treat for after the exam.
Wholegrains including brown rice, bulgur wheat and whole-wheat pasta increase blood circulation to the brain and enhance your memory.
Don’t leave out your leafy greens, which are a good source of iron. Iron deficiency will leave you tired and unfocussed – not what you want on the day of your exam. Recharge your brain with a generous helping of broccoli, spinach, cabbage, brussels sprouts or kale. Raw carrots, asparagus and bell peppers are also fibre-rich, brain fuelling foods. Fibre helps you to release energy more slowly.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as mackerel, lake trout and herring, enhance your brain’s level of functioning. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can get your omega-3 from spinach, soybeans, walnuts, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. You can easily top-up your omega-3 levels on the days before the exam by taking a daily supplement.
Try one of these wholesome, brain enhancing meals the night before your exam:
- Smoked mackerel with brown rice, steamed leafy greens topped with pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of flaxseed oil
- Super-firm fried tofu and steamed kale, with whole wheat pasta and a spinach side salad
- Grilled herring sprinkled with toasted walnuts, bulgur wheat with steamed cabbage and carrots
- Broccoli slaw salad with flaxseed, edamame beans and quinoa
It is very important that you stay hydrated before and during your exam. Dehydration starves your brain and kills your concentration. You don’t want to end up with a headache, feeling foggy or lethargic during your exam.
Dr Chris Pawson, from the University of East London, believes consuming water may have a physiological effect on thinking functions that lead to improved exam performance. Moreover, he says water consumption may also alleviate anxiety, which is known to have a negative effect on exam performance. 1
If you’re not a huge fan of plain water, try drinking coconut water instead. This potassium-rich drink full of natural electrolytes is believed to be more hydrating than plain water.2 Herbal teas and milk will also quench a thirsty mind. However, steer clear of caffeinated drinks which can leave you dehydrated, anxious and jittery. The same goes for energy drinks and fizzy pop – all will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash. It is also best to avoid alcohol altogether the week before the exam.
Start preparing for the big day
Not only will a brain-boosting diet help you on exam day, but it will also help to fight illness, manage your weight and regulate your sleep. For best results on the big day, start experimenting with these meal suggestions in advance to see which ones work best for you.
Don’t forget to pin the infographic to your Pinterest board and share it with your class mates. Good luck!