Exam Prep: Fuel Your Performance

Exam times are upon us and we have to remember it’s a marathon not a sprint. Similar to athletes in competition it is important that we focus on consistency of your routine and that is also important when it comes to our fuel. We have often heard the terms brain food and mood and food and it is crucial to be aware that the brain needs fuel as well as the body and it needs a lot of it!

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The main fuel for the brain is Carbohydrates as they are broken down into glucose which is the main fuel for the brain. If you have ever experienced Hangry (Mums and Dads do you recognise that coming in from school?!!). So small and frequent meals and snacks when you are studying are  important. Wholegrain options are great as they are broken down slowly. Wholegrain cereals, breads, pasta and rice and other options such as fruit.

If you find you are nervous on the Morning of an exam or this is something that has happened in the past and it impacts your appetite or you feel sick this is not unusual. Nerves slow down digestion and this is a very real issue for athletes as well prior to competitions, matches or races. Options to help with this is to start the night before. First breakfast (supper time), this could be your cereal or bagel which you might normally have and then on the morning you might have a smoothie (liquids are often easier to tolerate when you feel like this). The added benefit of this is that it adds to your fluids and helps with hydration.

Fluids and hydration are really important. Exam weather might start and therefore it will be warmer and we need to make sure we are drinking enough. Drink regularly through the day and add in other drinks such as sugar free dilute squash if you are someone who doesn’t like water. Fluids help with concentration and also when it is warmer we sweat more and therefore we are losing more fluids. There is a link with carbohydrate usage as well (cramps in athletes often because of fatigue linked to sweat losses but also running out of carbohydrates which makes the muscles tire).

Routines are important during exam and competition time especially when it comes to sleep. It might be very tempting to attempt an all nightery but sleep will help you process all the information and help with your focus. Food can help with sleep as well. Avoid caffeine towards the middle of the afternoon and energy drinks will not give you real energy and can sap it in the long term. We have seen that some foods can help with sleep. The simple kiwi can help with getting to sleep. A couple of kiwis maybe with some yoghurt about 2 hours before bed will help increase some of the hormones that are responsible for helping us sleep. Not only will it do that but you are starting your fuel from carbohydrates for the next day. You are ahead of the curve.

It is also important to enjoy food and eat some of the foods that you really like. You might want to meet your friends for a chat after the exam and a hot choc and some banana bread might be exactly what is needed. See this as recovery. This time is all about context. There is no such thing as good or bad foods and some of us might stress a little to much about this or feel guilty. Don’t do guilty and enjoy it and see it as helping you through this marathon.


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