T Nation

Exam Time Nutrition

Exams are coming soon at my school, which means it’s time to start studying and cramming.

Problem is, I usually eat all sorts of crap during exam periods because I’m too busy to spend any time preparing foods. I usually end up eating tons of junk food, microwave dinners, fast food, or sometimes no food at all.

I’m thinking this time around I’m going to at least try to eat somewhat healthily during exams. I was thinking I might stock up on cottage cheese and frozen fruit, maybe get a meal-replacement product for my study sessions at the library.

Do you guys have any other/better ideas?

I know how you feel, my diet sometimes get shaky around exam time, and the nights of absolutely NO sleep then going to work don’t help either, but…

I’m a big fan of turkey breast, great stuff…just slap 5-6 slices in between some whole wheat/grain bread and you’re good to go; peanut butter’s easy to carry around too

[quote]zylog wrote:
Exams are coming soon at my school, which means it’s time to start studying and cramming.

Problem is, I usually eat all sorts of crap during exam periods because I’m too busy to spend any time preparing foods. I usually end up eating tons of junk food, microwave dinners, fast food, or sometimes no food at all.

I’m thinking this time around I’m going to at least try to eat somewhat healthily during exams. I was thinking I might stock up on cottage cheese and frozen fruit, maybe get a meal-replacement product for my study sessions at the library.

Do you guys have any other/better ideas?
[/quote]

Good luck on your exams. I have a lot of experience with this. You’ll want healthy, convenient food that you can eat without preparation or even much attention. You should also be able to just throw it in a backpack and go if you’ll be leaving your residence to study or will be at the school most of the day. Examples include: protein bars, beef jerky, nuts (convenient ones not sunflower seeds in the shell), some fruit (such as apples, bananas, pears, but not oranges).

Most likely you won’t be fully satisfied by only foods like this and you’ll want a hot meal. If you go with fast food make wiser choices and justify it with some convenient body weight exercise like pushups and your physique should maintain through exams. If you need to pull an all nighter try to get by with green tea, black coffee, and/or Spike instead of soda.

Oh I almost forgot. Have a big-ass shake for breakfast. It is convenient and an easy way to get in 1000 calories to start the day.

I’d suggest eating a fairly balanced diet, making sure not more than 30% of energy comes from carbs at any given meal. The last thing you want is to get sleepy when you need to be studying.

Another good thing would be to increase your consumption of red meat (even fattier pieces), whole eggs, oats, spinach, and some fruit. I’ve always found eggs in the morning to help me, coincidentally its one of the best sources for choline (a necessary dietary component of neurotransmitters).

I’m an engineering student, and I’d say that the two biggest pointers I can give someone for exam week is to get enough sleep and to eat breakfast. I’d rather be unprepared and rested than to be ‘prepared’ and unrested, but I guess it just depends on how much logical thinking you have to do (as opposed to regurgitating stuff you memorized).

One of my ‘things’ is to eat a banana right before each exam. Power banana, away!

Stock up on LOTS of fish oil.
It’s brain food.
I use it all the time.
Not only can it make you smarter,but also help you pay attention in class.
It’s been shown to be more effective than ADHD medication too.

Good luck.

Remember that creatine helps focus after a long night of no sleep as well.

In addition to what the others have said, I would recommend eating light or nothing at all immediately before the exam. Just as you wouldn’t want to eat immediately before exercising, I believe that eating immediately before an exam will have negative consequences. Surprisingly, your brain uses a substantial amount of blood flow when you are really concentrating and having a full gut can only diminish the supply to your brain as your body works to digest the food.

Therefore, you must time it so that you aren’t hungry/low on blood sugar, yet have an empty stomach during the test.

I also highly, highly recommend a Spike or two (one for me works just fine) about 30 min. before the exam. Between my first and second year of school, my grades jumped dramatically and I attribute much of this to using Spike during every single exam my second year. The results have been so unbelievable that I would equate Spike to mental steroids; I’m not kidding!

[quote]Cthulhu wrote:
Stock up on LOTS of fish oil.
It’s brain food.
I use it all the time.
Not only can it make you smarter,but also help you pay attention in class.
It’s been shown to be more effective than ADHD medication too.

Good luck.[/quote]

Agreed. All cells have a fatty membrane to protect them. DHA, in fish oil really helps brain cells. I personally have a noticably enhanced memory that I attribute to fish oil.

[quote]Big Dan wrote:
Oh I almost forgot. Have a big-ass shake for breakfast. It is convenient and an easy way to get in 1000 calories to start the day.[/quote]

Yeah get a blender if you don’t have one and make some shakes. Easy way to get at least 1000 calories. There are plenty of recipes on this site. Just do a search.

bags of nuts