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Old 05-07-2006, 02:12 PM   #1
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Brain food?

My sis has a week of important exams, doing 5-hour tests every day, and I wanted to give her some tips. I happen to know a lot of great survival tips, but what to eat is definetly not one of them. I used to stop by Burger King before school to stock up on food, and put small notes on the inside of the burger wrapping. Well, I wondered if anybody here knew what kinda food and drink would be the best during a hard exam. Should you feed on carbs, gels, bars, like an ironman triathlete? Or is it better with stuff which is taken up more slowly into the blood? Any braniacs here who can help out on this fuelling aspect? I sup it is too late to give any learning tech help now.. If anybody has some good cheating advice, she might be interested in that as well.

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Old 05-07-2006, 03:43 PM   #2
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The best would be a small portion of complex carbohydrate and some protein. THe brain runs on glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, but if you eat only carbs you will experience a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash, which will make a person sleepy and groggy.

If you pair the carbohydrate with a good source of protein and make sure the carb is non-refined, "good carbs", then the person wont experience the wild fluctuations in blood sugar and they will have sustained energy to get through a few hours.

A good pairing would be some cottage cheese and an apple, a tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread, some peanut butter on a multigrain bagel or a piece of fish and some brown rice.

Also avoid too many stimulants like tea, coffee and so-called 'high energy' drinks as well as over-processed foods like crisps and biscuits because again, this will provide a temporary energy high, followed by a crash.
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Old 05-07-2006, 04:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grumblebee
Also avoid too many stimulants like tea, coffee and so-called 'high energy' drinks...
While I agree with much of the above, this particular statement I disagree with. Caffeine has been shown to increase mental alertness for periods of activity and thus may actually prove useful during an extended exam...at least if she can consume DURING the exam.

I'd say one source of caffeine about a half hour prior, another about 2 hours later, and then again 2 hours later should help her get through with maximum alertness. I wouldn't make those sources too heavy on the caffeine, but something in the realm of 80 - 160mg each should do well (these could be Red Bulls/Rock Stars, simple cups of coffee or even just straight up 100mg caffeine pills like Wake Ups).

I'd also suggest going with sugar free versions of the above to avoid the sugar crash mentioned by grumblebee. So get S/F Red Bull, Diet Rockstar, sweeten coffee with Splenda, etc... I've found that this type of nutrition, paired with the complex carbs/protein (I'd avoid fat as I personally find this makes me sleepy - so I'd skip the peanut butter) has helped me power through exams with no reductions in alertness.

I'd skip the cheating, too. I've seen too many people get flat out kicked out for that kinda bunk.
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Old 05-07-2006, 05:35 PM   #4
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While some caffiene *may* possibly have some benifit for some people, there is a possibility of it making her jittery/nervous and unable to focus on the test. I know that for me, 1 can of "RockStar" or "RedBull" makes my hands shake and I cant concentrate. Maybe I am just overly sensitive to caffiene, but why risk it? It's better to stay hydrated with water, get plenty of sleep the night before, and consume good, healthy foods.

That's a lot better then loading up on caffiene, IMO.
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Old 05-07-2006, 06:06 PM   #5
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Fair enough, I wasn't taking caffeine sensitivity into account. You're right that a good healthy diet and good hydration will help her maintain alertness, providing that she's already accustomed to such. Personally, because law school exams are so important, I still add the caffeine into the mix to help me maintain alertness, even though I eat well and drink lots of water. I'm not very small, so the relatively small amount of caffeine in Red Bull doesn't affect me too much (it's only about the same as in a small cup of regular coffee, whereas RockStar contains twice as much - then again, the can is twice as big). I just used the WakeUps (100mg caffeine pills) instead of expensive and heavily processed drinks during the last day or two of exam period when I was finishing off a paper.

On the same token, I virtually limit caffeine to exam period because I don't like to use it if it's unnecessary. I do agree with the principal of your post, though.
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Old 05-10-2006, 04:33 PM   #6
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I am not sure if my suggestions will help but I usually drink sports drinks, like powerade or gatorade to stay hydrated. And I like to eat those powerbars for energy. Those things along with breakfast in the morning and a good meal at night usually keep me going.
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Old 05-10-2006, 06:29 PM   #7
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A big bowl of muesli or porridge in the morning in fantastic. Use rolled oats (not quick oats), a bit of unprocessed wheat bran, dried or fresh fruit and some nuts or seeds. Mix with your choice of milk and a big dollop of natural yoghurt.

The fruit and grains have fibre so they help you feel fuller for longer (hunger is one of the worst distractions), the protein in the grains and nuts (as well as some of the fats in the nuts/seeds) will also contribute to feeling fuller.

This is my food of choice every morning, but it served me well through the many exam sessions I have been through.
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