11

votes

Best "Brain Food" before a long exam?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 19, 2012 at 7:04 PM

I'm writing two 3-hour long exams beginning at 1 pm this Tuesday and Friday. So I am going to have breakfast and an early lunch.

I have read that fish is good for your brain, but is that true, and if so, is is something that would have an immediate effect?

My usual lunch is fish or chicken with a salad and some root veggie chips, and a couple squares of dark chocolate.

863fbe3ea7cacba9a77b19a09bf445cf

on August 21, 2012
at 05:20 PM

Yeah, I'm not convinced fasting is a good idea if you don't typically do it. And yes, raw oysters are associated with various types of bacteria and viral infections. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep, so that's definitely a good recommendation (i.e., finish your studying the night before the test rather than cram in the morning).

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on August 21, 2012
at 03:33 PM

I'm not sure that either hunger or the risk of food poisoning will help with long exams.

E95216c62a14d21c371fcbf2fed8469b

(1867)

on August 21, 2012
at 04:32 AM

15 min nap preceeded by a small cup of black coffee will work wonders for clearing the "cobwebs".

Ee04db68fcab556868524acb55ac5fd4

on August 21, 2012
at 03:08 AM

exactly, that's why this works best when in ketosis

E7e57f3e3a156df4072ca85d463f8ed3

(358)

on August 21, 2012
at 12:05 AM

If you have never used coconut oil, don't try it right before the exam - it gives some people diarrhea.

F15e0bae42dbf0b8cfc71e62902497b4

(2036)

on August 20, 2012
at 11:23 PM

however, if you are not accustom to fasting, hunger could be quite distracting.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 20, 2012
at 01:56 PM

What a great answer.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on August 20, 2012
at 12:09 PM

I wouldn't try anything unusual prior to an important exam. Stick with what you usually do.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on August 20, 2012
at 02:07 AM

@Rob - That's fair; I tossed the honey in for the shot of carbs, but I think a piece of fruit would work just as well, maybe a handful of blueberries would be a good choice. I know some actual squeezed oj can do wonders for me if I'm not feeling 100%, which before a stressful exam, most people probably aren't.

8838443ac82e9f98e4ae9daf80d50eb5

(896)

on August 20, 2012
at 01:19 AM

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=%2Fmp4%2FLJO190v1_WS

8838443ac82e9f98e4ae9daf80d50eb5

(896)

on August 20, 2012
at 12:35 AM

I go for bullet proof coffee with lots of coconut oil on really important mornings. I pair it with a protein (meat and/or eggs) so I don't get jittery. If I get the shakes, I'm pretty much useless and people would think I'm on drugs.

81348acb7b886e2b32ca915d250268f3

(1022)

on August 19, 2012
at 10:06 PM

Obviously different stuff is gonna work for everyone, but I'd agree with this, theres some good fat, some antioxidants, some vitamins and minerals, and a bit of carb. I'd say even have a piece of fruit just before you go in, my brain feels slow if I'm deprived of carbs.

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21 Answers

7
5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on August 19, 2012
at 09:43 PM

I would have to go with coconut oil, salmon, green tea, and honey. And personally fasting doesn't make me more mentally clear, if anything it just makes me hungry. I focus best when I am neither hungry nor stuffed.

E7e57f3e3a156df4072ca85d463f8ed3

(358)

on August 21, 2012
at 12:05 AM

If you have never used coconut oil, don't try it right before the exam - it gives some people diarrhea.

8838443ac82e9f98e4ae9daf80d50eb5

(896)

on August 20, 2012
at 12:35 AM

I go for bullet proof coffee with lots of coconut oil on really important mornings. I pair it with a protein (meat and/or eggs) so I don't get jittery. If I get the shakes, I'm pretty much useless and people would think I'm on drugs.

81348acb7b886e2b32ca915d250268f3

(1022)

on August 19, 2012
at 10:06 PM

Obviously different stuff is gonna work for everyone, but I'd agree with this, theres some good fat, some antioxidants, some vitamins and minerals, and a bit of carb. I'd say even have a piece of fruit just before you go in, my brain feels slow if I'm deprived of carbs.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on August 20, 2012
at 02:07 AM

@Rob - That's fair; I tossed the honey in for the shot of carbs, but I think a piece of fruit would work just as well, maybe a handful of blueberries would be a good choice. I know some actual squeezed oj can do wonders for me if I'm not feeling 100%, which before a stressful exam, most people probably aren't.

8838443ac82e9f98e4ae9daf80d50eb5

(896)

on August 20, 2012
at 01:19 AM

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=%2Fmp4%2FLJO190v1_WS

5
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 20, 2012
at 02:56 AM

My clearest/sharpest test day was when I had a whole turkey leg for breakfast. That was a good decade before even knowing what paleo was, I just had leftover turkey for breakfast with some salt on it and noticed that I felt awesome, super focused and calm at the same time. Salt perks me up too, almost as much as caffeine but without the jitteriness and added bathroom trips, so salting whatever you are having the morning of the test could help too.

Eggs make my brain foggy, and make my belly a bit queasy, so if you have any sort of reaction to eggs I couldn't recommend those.

I don't think the omega 3 effect from fish would be immediate. When it is called brain food, I think that is because it has the building blocks for your brain to support it over time. So if you haven't eaten fish all quarter, eating a ton of it now isn't going to do much.

But the thing that really helps the most is sleep and actually knowing your shit. So study early and often, and don't forget to sleep.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 20, 2012
at 01:56 PM

What a great answer.

4
F7cf9588bc47db8b3b7ddeb5172a9311

(455)

on August 20, 2012
at 11:06 AM

I'm in my last year of high school and we had Dr Michael Carr-Gregg lecture us about good study habits. He talked about using diet, exercise and sleep patterns to maximise our brain power. His top brain foods were:

  • Blueberries
  • Eggs
  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • Yoghurt
  • Avocado
  • Fish (or an Omega 3 supplement)

He also had a bunch of other tips that are best summarised here: http://www.vicparentscouncil.vic.edu.au/index.php/student-wellbeing/exam-survival

My personal opinion is that you should, based on past experiences because your exams are quite soon, choose the foods that you know you react well to. Everyone responds differently. Some do their best in a fasted state, some after a large meal, some having eaten a carb-rich meal and some snacking periodically every few hours before. I wouldn't be experimenting with new foods at this point in case of an adverse reaction. If you usually have caffeine, have caffeine, but if not, now is not the time to see how it goes. As for the above foods, I agree with Carr-Gregg in that they have been shown to improve brain function. Eggs and blueberries in particular had an immediate effect when eaten for breakfast on the day of an exam. Of course, there is also the placebo effect.

Play it safe. Perhaps try different foods and processes after the exams are over for future referene. The most important thing is to be well-rested and to know your stuff. Good luck!

3
C40ce8fc4392ea8ee1f8194f40540307

(110)

on August 19, 2012
at 10:32 PM

I went to law school and had lots of days like this. Taking some mints into the exam with me helped me to stay alert during the exams. Also, on study days try taking a 15 min nap. No longer! That's was my brain food. Naps. Hope that helps.

E95216c62a14d21c371fcbf2fed8469b

(1867)

on August 21, 2012
at 04:32 AM

15 min nap preceeded by a small cup of black coffee will work wonders for clearing the "cobwebs".

3
Dfeb3c1ef269c5dc03154d1689c14373

(716)

on August 19, 2012
at 08:48 PM

Best brain food is coffee. Cheers

2
Da12b342d4959f5bd776c0f00b072a6c

on August 20, 2012
at 01:37 AM

Eggs and butter as in 'quiche'. My slightly befuddled, 93 YO father commented on his mental clarity one morning recently after completing his morning crossword.

He usually eats low cholesterol food but the quiche had been provided by a neighbour the previous evening at a social gathering. He is a retired MD and it is a bit difficult persuading him that cholesterol containing foods need not be avoided.

1
Ee04db68fcab556868524acb55ac5fd4

on August 20, 2012
at 03:01 AM

What I would do? Fast for at least a good 12 hours. Digesting food is the single most energy consuming function of the body. The brain needs access to 25-30% of the available energy your body has at any and every given moment. In my opinion if you want to concentrate on a task more efficiently, I would direct all your energy towards that task; whether it be physical, such as working out, or mental, such as studying or taking an exam. But that's just what I would do. And the best way to have access to a steady supply of energy during a fast is on a ketogenic diet, but more specifically in a state of ketosis.

Ee04db68fcab556868524acb55ac5fd4

on August 21, 2012
at 03:08 AM

exactly, that's why this works best when in ketosis

F15e0bae42dbf0b8cfc71e62902497b4

(2036)

on August 20, 2012
at 11:23 PM

however, if you are not accustom to fasting, hunger could be quite distracting.

1
7296570c2094f073260067dae5e79133

on August 19, 2012
at 11:50 PM

I would recommend shellfish and more generally the epi-paleo rx that can be found at http://jackkruse.com/brain-gut-6-epi-paleo-rx/

1
724ac8ed9ddc603e87adf6cfb901a8d8

on August 19, 2012
at 07:19 PM

Personally when I eat sushi (sashimi, no rice and only teensy amounts of tamari & wasabi) I feel calm and clear for a couple of hours afterwards. The calm is the most obvious to me...as if I could sit and meditate awhile and not get distracted. Maybe you can do an experiment one day before your exam?

0
F875e256c95519d551a1b692f25e7abc

on March 25, 2013
at 11:29 PM

Regardless of carb intake, if you flood your liver with medium/short chained SFA, you'll produce ketones, and assuming you tolerate the source(coconut oil for me), you'll have a nice supply of brain (and heart) energy for your exams.

Three hours is a long time, so I'd wary of preparing for a sprint, when you mostly likely are headed for a marathon. As others have mentioned, don't do anything radical that could backfire -- like give youself bladder or bowel distress during the exam. I once flunked a huge exam this way!

0
C7023fb2a4aaad9af27da49332c41ac1

on March 25, 2013
at 08:11 PM

I remember reading that the brain needs a constant supply of glucose. During my prepaleo days I'd constantly snacked on carbs when studying and during the test! I was younger so no ill effects till now I guess. I would NOT suggest fasting. Eat but don't stuff yourself to keep a constant supply of nutrients. Over stuffing will direct blood flow to the stomach and make you sleepy.

0
Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on August 21, 2012
at 02:49 AM

Fasting would be best. It increases BDNF. If you choose to eat nothing is better than raw oysters and a great night of sleep before the exam. Sleep also improves BDNF which dramatically improves cognitive performance.

863fbe3ea7cacba9a77b19a09bf445cf

on August 21, 2012
at 05:20 PM

Yeah, I'm not convinced fasting is a good idea if you don't typically do it. And yes, raw oysters are associated with various types of bacteria and viral infections. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep, so that's definitely a good recommendation (i.e., finish your studying the night before the test rather than cram in the morning).

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on August 21, 2012
at 03:33 PM

I'm not sure that either hunger or the risk of food poisoning will help with long exams.

0
Medium avatar

on August 20, 2012
at 09:24 PM

Agree with the fasting recomendations! I fasted for at least 16 hours before all of my final exams and passed them all. My mind was the clearest it ever was and I wasn't as stressed/shaky as usual. Don't do this for the first time on an important exam though. See if it works for you for a small less important test first. Also gender seems to matter, I read fasting makes women smarter I guess for survival and all that, I'd have to find the link to the article tho..

0
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on August 20, 2012
at 07:17 PM

  1. Bananas
  2. Chocolate (no sugar added)
  3. Nuts
  4. Dried fruit.

(That's when you have to study for the exam)

Good luck! (or break a leg, whatever works for you).

0
A913bf93cf3bb8351481414d1218c441

on August 20, 2012
at 05:49 PM

This is what works for me. Coffee while studying, plenty of sleep the night before, green tea with honey and lemon, handful of nuts and blueberries for breakfast (I'm not much of a breakfast person, but I'd hate to get hungry during a long exam), salad with a good amount of protein and fat for lunch. I think having a routine is as important as what the routine consists of.

0
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on August 20, 2012
at 01:56 PM

Brains. Especially if you are taking a Zombie exam.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 20, 2012
at 11:39 AM

Coffee

Chew gum

Also have a high protein shake as your pre-exam meal.

0
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on August 19, 2012
at 08:22 PM

Hi, Renee. Here is what I do.

  1. Fasted- I focus much better when fasted. If I had to eat something, it would probably be some blueberries.

  2. (best option): Provigil (medafonil) + 2 l-tyrosine capsules. Provigil requires a perscription, so if you cannot get that, I would (and have done) this...

  3. (second best): bodybuilding pre-workout supplement. I am not kidding, they contain many ingredients to help increase blood flow and focus. Typical ingtredients are tyrosine, l-arginine, creatine, citruline, and caffeine. The one I have taken before exams is called Cellucor C4. I'm not kidding. Costs only about $20 for 15 servings. It is better than adderal.

Hope that helps.

Oh and yeah, fish would be beneficial to brain health, but I don't think this is the case in short term. More of a brain protective effect over the long run and a brain progressive effect in infancy. Over the long run, if you want to keep your brain healthy, exercise and eat blueberries, seafood, seaweed (iodine), possibly walnuts, and green vegetables.

0
Da3176a9f674f5d04c26935bde3cfc92

on August 19, 2012
at 07:45 PM

Well, omega 3's tend to have a enhancing effect, just like eating eggs (a choline-source, that is a brain enhancer as well). Just make sure to eat like 5 of them before your exam.

Furthermore, you could try to do your exam in a fasted state (I achieved my best grades this way). This ensures you think clearly, very clearly. You also could add some caffeine in the form of green/white tea (only works if you aren't a caffeine junk :P), for the extra focus.

Make sure you avoid carbs entirely in your breakfast. You don't want to have a blood sugar drop.

A last tip: Try to eat greens the day before your exam. A LOT OF GREENS. Like a few pounds of broccoli, spinach, kale etc. This will promote many hours of clear thinking the next day.

0
963322f175cdd4c5f7d52cc372b3a167

on August 19, 2012
at 07:34 PM

Salt water taffy!

-1
A0f4df8c88121215274de609c752354c

on January 16, 2013
at 01:33 AM

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