Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The "Smart" Diet (Food For Final Exams)

Well, final exams are over, and I don't like to brag, but I did quite well.  I believe such grades were earned, as I  studied hard and made sure to manage my time efficiently (or as efficiently as possible while still maintaining my sanity).  Yes, all in all, I'm quite pleased with my grades, and god does it feel good to be done with these piles of work.  It's as if all at once, the pressure's been lifted.  The lid's off the pressure cooker, ya know what I mean?

Anyway, before I start rambling, I'd like to bring up an important concept relating to my success in this year's final exams (and school year in general).  It's actually a concept I talk about quite frequently.  Could you guess what it might be?  If you said "food," or "diet," you're right.  I relate a lot of my success this year to my study habits, but feel that credit should also rest in what I've been putting in my belly.

How, you ask, does food have ANYTHING to do with academic success?  Well, unlike a lot of articles which just spout off fact after fact and tout study after craftily worded study, I'm just going to tell you about my personal experience.  I mean sure, I'll say that you'd be crazy not to think that food has an effect on your brain. Nutrient dense food does wonders for cognitive ability, leading to better memory, lower stress levels, and greater confidence.  Good food helps you stay happy, healthy, and ready to take on the world (or a nasty, brutally complicated exam).  This isn't any secret, yet so many people fail to accept the fact that a healthy diet can keep them successful when they need to be.

Did I personally do anything special to my diet in preparation for exam week?  Well, the changes I made weren't initially geared toward the exams themselves, however I soon realized that they worked great for cognitive ability as well as physical prowess.  You see, on my Olympic lifting training program, I work double sessions in the gym multiple times per week.  This week, being pretty much empty other than an 8 AM exam every morning, I decided I'd go even harder on the double sessions (as the only other thing I had to do each day was study.)  To support this brutal attack on my body, I made sure I was getting another hundred or so calories ON TOP of what I had already calculated to be a 200 calorie excess.  I've been stalling out recently on weight gain, so I figured it couldn't hurt anyway.  I made sure these calories came from clean sources such as almonds and egg whites, as well as a few more veggies on my plate.  So far, such diet programming has been working beautifully for my workouts, and I've been maintaining strength despite increasing squat volume considerably.

This caloric excess also did WONDERS for my level of alertness, stress (low), and energy.  That healthy food pushed me through extra study sessions as well as extra squats, and a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, whey, and peanut butter woke me up and got me going each and every morning.  To put it bluntly, I felt, and still feel GREAT!

And one more little nugget of useful information:  heavy brain work burns a lot of energy.  Yeah, you heard me right, you're burning more energy than you think just trying to remember that darn equation for energy stored in parallel inductors.  Ever feel drained after a big test?  Like it's time for a nap?  Well, you're drained because you've been working hard as heck.  The bottom line is, my body needed those extra QUALITY calories, especially this week, in the face of the final test of knowledge.

Note to students:  Those "care packages" or "study packs" your college offers to your parents to buy for you are full of absolute junk.  Dum-Dum lollipops will NOT help you pass that final, and will likely send you on an aggressive sugar roller coaster that will leave you either too hyper to think or too monotonous to care about which bubble you're filling out.  And all that chocolate?  It won't help your brain grow, but it sure will grow you out of those jeans.  

So what's my advice to you?  If you've got tests coming up, don't be afraid to eat hearty meals of clean food.  I would suggest heaps of complex carbs, as well as plenty of protein and fats from sources such as nuts, milk, and fish.  You do NOT need to be waking up a completely drained wreck, unable to focus and unable to think about anything but how hungry you are for lunch.  Keep yourself fed with "premium fuel," 'cause hey, you wouldn't put anything but the best in an expensive sports car right?  Your body is the fastest, sleekest, most valuable car you own.  Fuel it as best you can, and you'll not only see your lifts increase in the gym, but your grade point average climb as well.

Good luck on finals to all my fellow college students.  Eat well and let's start this summer right!!


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