Give your brain a boost during exams with an intelligent diet

Specific Health Concern 26 June 2017

Stress, fatigue, a delay in your revision planning, discouragement… all of this is not going to be an issue for you this year! Say it loud and clear: “This year, is MY year!”. Help yourself out over the stressful exam period by optimising your diet two weeks before D-Day, eating food that will boost your intellectual capacities while helping you remain zen. In order to help keep your studying rhythm, recipes should be simple, while you take breaks regularly throughout your revision sessions to eat as well as drink consistently!

Drink water every 30 minutes

When revising hard, people often forget to drink. However, even slight dehydration can considerably reduce your intellectual capacities. The fatigue experienced becomes magnified and cognitive functions such as memory and attention span are reduced. Bear this is mind, and take regular breaks.

Make the most of these breaks by drinking a good gulp of water or another suitable drink before starting again.
 A good rhythm would be25 minutes of concentration > 5-minute break for hydration After completing 5 cycles, it is time to take a well deserved food break.

What about other drinks?

Rule number one – avoid sugary drinks! While they may initially give you loads of energy, this phase doesn’t last long and is quickly followed by a strong bout of exhaustion. This is known as the dreaded “whiplash” effect. This phenomenon is accentuated when sugary drinks are consumed on their own, with no food consumed alongside them.

In regards to stimulants like coffee, strong brews of tea or caffeine and taurine based drinks, the reality is they accentuate dehydration and disrupt sleep.

Alcohol also acts to dehydrate you, as well as have a negative effect on memory.

Drinks to avoid:  sodas, syrups, alcohol (apart from 2 glasses of red wine per day), coffee and strong tea (maximum 3 per day, and not after 4 pm), energy drinks with a caffeine and taurine base.

Drinks to embrace: still or carbonated water with citrus fruit peel, fruit juice and diluted vegetable juice.

Eat 2 or 3 meals rich in magnesium, omega 3 and vitamin B

Your brain feeds exclusively on sugar in order to function, hence the desire for sugary items when you are revising. Avoid this desire, and incorporate foods with the following minerals and vitamins:

  • Fats with omega 3 – these increase the speed of the passage of information through the brain’s neurones.
  • B group vitamins – these help in the memorising process (B1 and B3), while others have an anti-stress effect (B5, B6 and B12). When these vitamins are combined with magnesium, their benefits are increased tenfold.
  • Phosphorus – this plays an essential role as it enhances the activation of the group B vitamins.

The aim is to try and include foods which include these elements which will help your brain function well without bringing on the familiar post-meal fatigue.

Foods to avoid: cooked fatty food (cakes, fried food, food coated with breadcrumbs, sauce dishes, fatty meats, etc.), ready-made meals, cooked meats, cheese, processed products, sauces.

Foods to include:  a minimum of one raw fibre (raw vegetable and/or an entire raw fruit); a slight amount of protein (fish, legumes, eggs, white meat); a cereal product preferably whole and cooked for a short time to al dente (bread, rice, pate, quinoa, sarasin, maize, potato, etc.); olive oil for cooking and for seasoning that are rich in omega 3 (nut, linseed, colza, etc); milk products (yoghurt, white cheese, etc.).

A few snack options

The snacks are like a mini breakfast. The aim should be to combine them throughout the course of the day while taking advantage of the variety available.

Foods to avoid:  crisps, sugary items, cakes, sliced bread, crackers, buns, sticky cereals, pastries, cakes, cereal bars, e

Foods to include:  nuts like hazelnuts and almonds (make sure they have no added salt/sugar etc.); dark chocolate with 70% cocoa; yoghurt or white cheese; honey; fresh and stewed fruit; avocado; unsliced bread baked with a mixture of flour, oat bran and oatmeal; fluffy cereals.


And save your festive, sugary, alcoholic recipes for post-exam celebrations! 


Good luck!