The Revision Diet – What should you be eating and drinking at exam time?
As the nation stirs itself from its post-festive torpor, for many, thoughts will be turning back to revision and exam preparation. It’s also, of course, a time of year when the majority of us are thinking of adopting healthier lifestyles to atone for the holiday excesses. Here are some suggestions for managing your food and drink intake during revision.
If you’re studying and the pressure is hotting up, there’s an added incentive to eat and drink well and to exercise properly – after all, nutrition experts agree that what you put in your body can make a real difference to your revision regime. Eating a healthy, varied diet involving different coloured foods beats overpriced supplements and over-the-counter vitamins hands down.
Here are some other suggestions for a healthier approach to revision time:
Don’t skip meals
When you’re busy, it can be all too easy to give lunch a miss – but resist that temptation! Regular eating helps maintain blood sugar balance and ensures your brain has the fuel it needs.
Many of us are no stranger to the all-night work crisis complete with coffee pot. But, while caffeine increases alertness, it’s possible to develop a tolerance to it. It can also interfere with blood sugar and raise levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. So, while no one would deny you your morning cuppa and everyone reacts to coffee differently, it may be worth reconsidering how much you consume. Work out how you react to caffeine, try not to drink it after lunchtime, and aim to restrict yourself to no more than a couple of cups or 200mg of caffeine a day.
One study from two London universities found that staying hydrated could boost attention by up to 25%. Even drinking just 25ml enhanced concentration in tests. As an added bonus, memory and mood also improve.Here, we take a look at how best to manage your food and drink intake during revision. Click To Tweet
Nutty snacks and berry boosts
They’re nature’s very own convenient fast food, but nuts and berries are also worth their weight in nutritional gold. Blueberries, for example, are high in antioxidants, which are reckoned to protect the brain from oxidative damage. Better still, even when frozen, berries don’t lose their nutrients, so you can get hold of them available all year round. Try to avoid coated nuts, though, as they will have added oil, sugars and salt.
Dark chocs away!
Who hasn’t reached for the chocolate to get through a study marathon? But, in fact, you could be doing yourself more of a favour than you realised – provided you stick to the dark varieties. The darker the choc, the less sugar it contains. Try to opt for a cocoa content of at least 80%.
There is some evidence that dark chocolate can help in terms of lowering blood pressure and boosting blood flow thanks to its polyphenol content.
These can help you to feel fuller for longer. Think porridge (which, of course, releases energy to keep you going all morning), oats in other forms (such as Bircher Muesli), wholemeal bread and brown rice. Meanwhile, buckwheat is another good example – it is rich in magnesium, which can have a calming effect.
Thus, the perfect revision-blasting lunch could include some of last night’s leftover rice, pasta or couscous salad, or perhaps a bagel or wrap, or a grainy salad with veg and canned fish such as mackerel. Throw in some green leaves and perhaps a handful of seeds.
Equally, if you eat food that’s too rich in protein and carbohydrates, it could leave you feeling sleepy, which may explain that post-lunch slump in energy. An amino acid, tryptophan, helps serotonin production, leading to tiredness. You’ve probably stopped consuming leftover turkey by now anyway, and we all need a certain amount of carbs and protein, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
Exercise and Sleep
Finally, regular bouts of physical exercise also improve attention and enhance connections between brain cells, while stimulating fresh brain cell growth. Plus, sleep boosts cognitive functioning and restores energy, as well as increasing focus and attention span. So don’t skimp on either as you look to maximise energy and focus while powering into your revision for 2020.
Happy new year!
This article was written for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health.