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Fuel yourself for exam success

The desire to succeed in our exams drives us into the library in our hoards. We spend hour upon hour a day trying to cram stats, definitions, formulae and the like into our over-stretched minds. If you are like me then you look for anything that could boost your mental capacity and make your revision more efficient. Here are some tips for increasing your brain power that have nothing to do with spending an extra hour at your notes.

We all know the benefits a healthy diet and exercise routine can have on our bodies but what is more interesting (especially at this time of year) is the effect it can have on our minds. The temptation is to gorge on tasty snacks as you revise and forego cooking and order a takeaway instead. But to increase concentration levels- waive the sweeties, the pizza and the tikka masala and satiate yourself on these grade-boosting foods instead.

Green Tea
High in antioxidants, this is a healthy (and legal) mood enhancer. It helps aid dopamine production in the body which is responsible for putting you in a more positive frame of mind. It also contains polyphenols which protect the brain from wear and tear and also caffeine.

Eggs are a key source of essential fatty acids which are needed by the brain but cannot be produced by our bodies. They are also a very rich source of choline which is proven to improve your memory- essential when revising. Also, a relatively cheap meal.

Omega 3 Foods
These are foods including oily fish such as mackerel, trout and salmon as well as walnuts, olive oil and kidney beans. Taking supplements is also effective. Omega 3 helps brain function and mood. It is also proven to improve concentration- handily lessening the time spent gazing out of the window and/or daydreaming.

Coffee and Dark Chocolate
These both contain caffeine, which, in small amounts is well known as a stimulant, improving concentration and energy. But it is important to have it in moderation and without all the junk piled into coffee shop coffees, like sweeteners and syrups. Also, at last a legitimate recommendation to eat chocolate! The best kinds are those with 70% cocoa solids although all (except white) have good effects on your brain function. They enhance your serotonin levels too; making you more positive and happier.

This is a no-brainer and the health benefits of drinking eight glasses of water a day is well touted. But, interestingly, a well-hydrated brain has been proven to improve performance by as much as 20% and improve your short term memory. When dehydrated, the body releases carteol which in turn causes adrenaline to be realised, causing the brain to function at a more basic level. It is also the only foodstuff allowed in the library. Win-win.

Almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts and many more are kind of wonderful. They keep your mind clear, your memory strong and stave off sleepiness. I’m kind of nuts about them…

As well as eating these foods avoid as much as possible foods high in fat and high in sugar. Foods high in saturated fats clog blood vessels, preventing the flow of blood and nutrients to the brain. The highs and lows of a sugar rush cause an overall fuzzy state of mind, not the best environment to revise in.

It really is a case of healthy body, healthy mind. Exercise during the revision period supposedly leads to better exam results. Although it can seem like a waste of time, the long term benefits out way this short term loss. Exercise increases your heart rate and subsequently increases your blood flow. Oxygen and glucose are delivered more frequently to your brain, improving its efficiency. It has even been shown to increase brain cell production. This doesn’t have to be high energy- a brisk walk would do the trick.
This is going to sound ridiculous but at your desk, stretch and wiggle your toes. Your feet are a complex part of your body- there are about 40 muscles there alone and moving them a little has a big effect. Research done into reflexology also states it has a positive knock-on effect on the rest of your body.


  • I P Freely says:

    Eight glasses of water = one giant puddle under my exam chair and the bothersome sound of my bladder exploding. Just sayin’.

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  • Hugo says:

    Brilliant. Green tea is the bomb – cuts cancer chances down by 20% also, great article. Excellent job, absolutely smashing stuff!

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  • Matt Sharp says:

    Good article, though the 8 glasses of water thing is a myth. You need to stay hydrated, but unless you’re doing loads of exercise or living somewhere warmer than the current winter-like state of York, you won’t need anywhere near 8 glasses.

    I’m also skeptical about the green tea claim of reducing cancer. There are some suggestions it could potentially have an effect on some cancers, but it’s far from clear that it “cuts cancer chances down by 20%”.

    The US National Cancer Institute says the evidence is ‘inconclusive':

    Cancer Research UK says there is ‘no real evidence':

    Still, drink green tea because it’s nice and relaxing :)

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  • Arthur says:

    I think Matt Sharp should win an award for the amount of times he has provided insightful comments on student pieces either in Vision or Nouse

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