Avoiding brain drain

It’s a common trend among college students to live a “grab and go” lifestyle, eating when they feel incredibly hungry, and eating whatever is available. Not only is this not economically sustainable, but it also wreaks havoc on the brain’s ability to run at optimal speed. If you want to be the best student you can be, it starts with the fuel you put in your body.

Think of the body like a car; if the oil is changed regularly and has a clean tank, it’s going to run more smoothly and more efficiently. Your body is just like that; feed it clean energy and it will perform better. This doesn’t mean that you’ll instantly get A’s if you start eating a more healthy and balanced diet, but your focus and cognition will improve dramatically to increase your potential to earn those A’s.

The cornerstone to avoiding brain drain is to eat breakfast every day. Students who eat breakfast on a regular basis have better memory and attention over students who tend to skip. Breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and sets the pace for the rest of the day. Focus on eating a whole-grain cereal with some fruit. Don’t eat too much though; if you weigh yourself down, especially with carbs, it hinders more than it helps you. Skip the pancakes and go for the oatmeal.

Eat five to six small meals a day. If you stick to the big three, your body devotes too much energy to digesting and not enough to your brain. Eating at regular intervals helps keep nutrient and energy levels more stable, curbing the temptation of empty-calorie snacks. Prepare small meals to have on hand ahead of time. Designate one day a week where you cook two to three entrees that will last you a couple days each. If you don’t know what to cook, look up healthy and fast recipes.

If you don’t like to cook, you can stock up on bean soups and pre-made sandwiches along the lines of peanut butter, tuna, chicken salad or cold-cuts. Avoid eating snack foods or convenience foods all the time. They have little nutritional value, and do very little for brain power beyond a very short burst of energy.

With that said, snacking goes a long way. Snacking helps you study. If you’re smart while you snack, you may find that you retain more information. Try to get two food groups, like both protein and complex carbs, into your snacks to balance the nutrients and keep your blood sugar level stable.

Some smart snacks include a banana or other fresh fruit with peanut butter, cheese and whole-grain crackers, veggies with hummus, a handful of nuts with some cranberries or raisins, a hard-boiled egg, or a protein-rich nutrition bar.
Coffee gets a bad reputation, but in reality is a natural antioxidant that boosts brain power and enhances focus. Studies have shown that up to four cups a day is beneficial. If coffee isn’t your thing, green tea is also an excellent choice for a caffeine boost with the added benefit of antioxidants.

Blueberries and other fruit are absolutely fantastic. They are made up of clean energy, so you don’t get the spike and crash that follows eating refined sugar like in a candy bar.

Chocolate can actually play a significant role in boosting brain power as well. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which improves focus and concentration. Don’t overdo it though; your body still needs a vast array of other nutrients.

If you follow this advice, along with getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and sleeping eight hours a night, you will find that your brain will work better for longer. At least give it the ol’ college try; you have nothing to lose.