What To Eat For the Best Exam Results

What to eat for the best exam results is vital information if you have a Year 11, Year 12 or even a uni student in your household or family about to start prepping for exams.

All exams are important but the Year 12 journey is certainly at another level with all the expectations (real and perceived) that travel alongside the actual assessment.

This time of year auspiciously marks the beginning of mock exams for Year 12 students. The mocks are then followed by the real deal and they can be a true test of grit and determination in so many ways.

The thing is, studying and preparing for exams is SO similar to athletes preparing and training for an event or game.  If you are an adult with ever ‘useful’ hindsight, you know from experience that it takes discipline, tests of endurance, endless concentration and skill. 

That’s why the fuel going in needs to be full of the good stuff at the right time.

You may have done the prep and the studying to get you to the exam but have you considered what to eat for the best exam results?

Consider your day as a football game or any game you love. 

This means breaking your day into four quarters and the first quarter bounce down starts when you wake up.

First Quarter

Breakfast is key to exam success and your brain working at its best.

In fact there is good evidence to suggest that eating breakfast improves memory.   It is true that some people do not feel like eating in the morning but once again, it is can be a matter of training your stomach to take food.  When considering what to eat for the best exam results, good choices for breakfast include:

  • High fibre cereal (Weet-bix, porridge, natural muesli, Sultana Bran, Mini-Wheats) with milk and fresh fruit
  • Wholegrain toast with baked beans, spaghetti, tomato, egg or avocado
  • Pancakes with fresh fruit
  • Fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and yoghurt

Anxiety and stress may mean your stomach is doing gymnastics on exam mornings so if you can’t deal with any other breakfast options try a banana with an Up and Go or Sustagen drink. Avoid arriving at an exam with an empty petrol tank.

Second Quarter

The second quarter of your game starts at around the mid-morning break and this is an ideal time to take a physical and mental break. Your lifestyle will determine whether you are a three meal per day person or a ‘grazer.’ The term ‘grazing’ is so called because cows like to do the same thing.  You may not like to think of yourself out in the field chomping down on grass but ‘grazing’ here means snacking or having 5-6 ‘meals’ spread out over the day. There could be some perfect recipes for you right here.

Five tasty snacks to keep you alert and awake

Snacks can be a nutrition trap to students as it is so tempting to grab something quick and easy like chocolate, lollies, muesli bars, biscuits and cake, none of which will give you the long-lasting energy that you need to study for the rest of the day. 

Instead you could try:

  1. 200g tub of yoghurt (ideally no added sugar)
  2. Fruit bread with jam, honey or a little butter
  3. Toast or crumpet with a light spread of peanut butter or vegemite
  4. Fruit Smoothie with milk, fruit and yoghurt and a handful of oats
  5. Crackers with cheese.

Third Quarter

As every decent coach will tell you, what happens in the third quarter of a game will determine whether the final quarter is grand final material. Wondering what to eat for the best exam results in the afternoon?

Does caffeine give you a buzz?

Late afternoons can be tough in the energy department but try and avoid relying on caffeine to keep you alert and awake. 

Caffeine stimulates every organ in your body and in small doses can be a useful study tool but too much can mean over-stimulation of your nervous system, increased heart rate and erratic sleep patterns. 

Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea (to a lesser extent), cola drinks and energy drinks eg.  Red Bull, V, Lift Plus etc.  Energy drinks contain a mix of caffeine and sugar, which gives you an extra hit but they are equivalent to drinking a cappuccino, flat white or latte. 

Boost brainpower

Omega-3 fats are known to boost brainpower and should be an essential part of every students diet. Fish, shellfish and fish oils are good dietary sources of these fats and are found in particularly ‘oily’ fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon.  Canned, fresh or frozen fish are all good sources of omega-3 fats.  Try and include them 2-3 times per week.

Bugs

Probiotic’s are foods or supplements that contain live beneficial bacteria (bugs) that keep your gut healthy. Exam stress is one thing that can upset intestinal balance and probiotic’s may be especially useful during this time.  There are a number of sources of probiotic’s including liquids, yoghurts, capsules and powders.

Pump the Iron

Iron is essential for getting enough oxygen around your body and this is obviously important during study and exam time! 

The best sources are liver (there are very few lovers of this one but you could try reduced fat pate if you are not keen on the actual liver), lean red meat, breakfast cereals and legumes (baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans etc) and to a much lesser extent chicken, fish and leafy green vegetables.  Include some fruit or vegetables, which contain Vitamin C with your iron-rich food and this will assist with absorption.

Liquid refreshment

Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids while studying to avoid brain drain.  There are no rules that say you have to drink eight glasses of water every day but regular intake is the key.  Water will always be the best choice but you could mix this up with some coffee, tea or Milo (but not mostly Milo with milk) for a change in pace.  Avoid getting stuck into sugary drinks like soft drinks, cordials and energy drinks. Yes, they increase blood sugar levels but oh so briefly and are a sure fire way of getting tired quickly. 

The Final Quarter

If you know what to eat for the best exam results,  you will arrive at the 3pm time spot in the day feeling energised and ready to tackle the final quarter or evening segment of your study game. 

If not, your brain and body might want to have a rest or start looking for the lolly jar.

A successful nutrition game plan will mean your body and brain will perform at their best not just for studying but also for the grand final, your exams.

Good luck and go get ’em!

 

Grain Fed vs. Grass Fed Animals – Does It Make a Difference?

You are currently looking at a fluffy coo (as the Scottish say so well) or cow as the rest of us know them.  You can see that he or she is standing in pasture and it is highly likely that the moment after this image was taken, fluffy coo bent down to have a nibble on the grass.

So What?

Over recent years, you may have noted that some of the meat and dairy products we buy are labelled as grass fed. There has certainly been media coverage about grass fed and grain fed animals and the positive benefits of one and the negative impact of the other.

Despite this, for the wider population the differences between grass fed and grain fed animals are most likely not at the top of the list of priorities when it comes to purchasing and choosing food.

To be honest, delving into the world of grass fed and grain fed animals has been relatively recent for me too. Let’s not forget that what we don’t know, we don’t know.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

In the world today, the vast majority of animals bred for food are not feeding on the land at all but are kept segregated and fed on subsidised grain, manure and industrial food waste. Of course, this has a significant impact on the nutritional quality of the animal.

Both herbivores such as cattle and sheep and omnivores including pigs, turkeys, ducks and chicken are natural grazers too and thrive when grass fed.

Grass Fed Nutrition

Just like humans, how animals are raised and whether they are grass fed or grain fed directly impacts the nutritional quality of that food.

In comparison to foods from grain fed animals, those from grass fed animals are known to provide the following benefits:

  • Lower levels of total fat (including saturated fat) and as a result fewer calories
  • Healthier levels of omega 3 fatty acids (the ones your heart loves)
  • Healthier ratios of omega 6 (the balance of these with omega 3 is important to your heart health)
  • Rich in caretenoid’s including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene (those antioxidants that mop up those damaging free radicals in your body)
  • Higher levels of Vitamin E (handy helper for our immunity and heart health)
  • Higher levels of the fatty acid Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Regenerative Farming

Aside from the nutritional superiority of grass fed foods, grazing animals and grasses have an important place in regenerative farming too. The environmental impact of growing crops to feed grain to animals is huge and directly affects our land, our resources and our ability to feed the human population too. 

Regenerative farming systems, which utilise animals to graze on grasses can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. This means a return to the soil where it belongs, potentially reversing the impacts of climate change. This is just the beginning.

Once you start looking – there is just SO much to learn about grass fed vs. grain fed animals.  If like me, you are keen to learn more just click here for an enlightening read.

Buying Grass Fed

I am always on the look out for producers that are growing food that is sustainable, nutritious and environmentally friendly.  

In Western Australia, Wide Open Agriculture is one of them. They are doing marvellous things including selling regeneratively raised grass fed beef and lamb through their food brand Dirty Clean Food

These guys are all about nurturing soil and regenerating our land and I like that.  A lot.

Animal welfare and minimising stress is at the forefront of how they rear their beef and lamb too. Tick.

Dirty Clean Food is currently producing grass fed beef and lamb for the West Australian market and are available online (a big sorry to those who are not residing in the Sandgroper state). Watch this space.

It Is Your Choice

I know that some of you reading this are either vegetarian or vegan and I respect your choice.  I love eating plant based food too.

There are many things we can all do to improve our world, including what we choose to eat and how it is produced.  

Choosing a way of eating that includes both animal and plant based food or solely plant based food is your choice. Let’s respect each others choices and acknowledge that there is more than one way of nourishing our bodies.

Being mindful and curious about where our food comes from and choosing wisely as a result is one thing we can all do regardless of what that food is.

 

Performance Podcast 22 August 2019

Julie Meek’s Performance Podcast from  22 August on The Morning Show on 6PR 882 AM Talkback Radio with Gareth Parker. Catch up on information, news and tips on all things performance and nutrition.

If you enjoyed listening to Julie’s Performance Podcast, please subscribe to the series here 

Performance Podcast 26 June 2019

Julie Meek’s Performance Podcast from 26 June on The Morning Show on 6PR 882 AM Talkback Radio with Gareth Parker. Catch up on information, news and tips on all things performance and nutrition.

If you enjoyed listening to Julie’s Performance Podcast, please subscribe to the series here https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/performance-podcast-with-julie-meek/id863710606?mt=2

Pesto Power – How to Make Pesto the Italian Way

Pesto is one of those delicious combinations that you can almost taste just thinking about it. Think pungent garlic, pine nuts, fresh aromatic basil, parmesan cheese and olive oil. This combination can be combined to create a pesto that can be added to pasta, gnocchi, soups or slow cooked delights.  I’m not sure whether the Italians add pesto to the same things that I do but it just adds so much flavour!

I am about to head over to Italy in a few weeks to run my annual Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat, so pesto has been on my mind. To be honest, food is often on my mind but that is a career hazard I’m afraid!

My favourite recipe for pesto is straight from the “Food for Thought’ cookbook (which is only available when you come to Italy with me) by Yoga in Italy

This recipe uses basil as most pesto recipes do but at the moment, my garden has been completely overtaken by Italian parsley. I try to throw it into anything and everything but I just can’t use it all.  This got me thinking about whether parsley would work as a substitute for basil.  It does.

Parsley is full of fibre, Vitamin C and has a handy knack of freshening ones breath.  However, once you add the garlic into the mix, scratch that benefit!

Traditionally, pesto is made using a pestle and mortar, which avoids bruising of the herb leaves but if you don’t have time to do that, use a stick blender instead.

Ingredients

50g fresh parsley (or basil)

90g parmesan cheese

30g pine nuts

1 fresh garlic clove

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Rinse and dry and fresh parsley gently. Remove the larger bottom part of the stalks if you don’t want to be blending the pesto for 10 years.
  2. Put all ingredients except the oil into a large mixing bowl and at low speed start blending, stopping often to avoid overheating the ingredients.  Slowly add a little olive oil at a time until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  3. Spoon mixture into an airtight jar and cover with a thin layer of oil before sealing with a lid and storing in the refrigerator.
  4. Pesto is best eaten fresh but can it can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for use later.

 

 

Legs Up the Wall – The Daily Yoga Pose for Instant Calm

Legs up the wall may seem like an odd phrase, but for me these words conjure up a feeling of calmness. Legs up the wall is one of the handful of yoga poses that I actually felt comfortable attempting when my LONG journey into this age old activity began several years ago.

Although the popularity of yoga continues to grow worldwide,  many people perceive that yoga is something potentially difficult and boring and would rather get stuck into a boxing session or other high cardio activity. Once upon a time this was me (although I do still love running, walking and stair climbing) but after finding my groove with yoga, I now understand that it is one of the best workouts available to us all.

I won’t lie and say that it has been all unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t and yoga and I have had a long history of shared emotions running both hot and cold. For many years I loved the idea of yoga but the actual reality of being able to do it, did not align with my physical (in)capability.  The turning point for me came with the right teacher, which then led to calm and acceptance of what my body could do, not what it couldn’t and the balance of these two is ever-changing believe me!).

In fact, I could never have imagined that today I would be running Yoga and Wellness Retreats in Italy!

We will get to legs up the wall in just a moment but there are three things I have learn’t through my yoga adventures, applicable to anybody trying to change any aspect of health and life that might just be handy to you right now:

What we want or need is not always available to us

I will never forget a yoga class that I attended some time ago when the teacher asked us to align ourselves into a position that looked even trickier than usual to me.

While we were all silently attempting the impossible (to me), the teacher announced that this particular pose was ‘not available to him today.’ I had to smother hysterical laughter at this point because for me, it was never going to be available, that day or any other. But you know what? We all have days when a particular behaviour, skill or practise is simply not available to us and sometimes we just need to accept it.  This doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that investing your energy in something else that IS available to you and achievable today is a wiser choice. Plus, what is not available to you today might just be there for you tomorrow.

There is always turbulence in our lives

A howling easterly wind roaring around outside scattering dust and leaves every which way is one kind of turbulence but there are many ways disruption and distraction turn up in our lives.

The turbulence that we experience in our day-to-day lives can obviously be a lot more serious than a strong wind. It could be problems with your family, friends, health issues, financial concerns, job insecurity, moving house, relationship breakdowns or any one of life’s stressful events. All of these and more, represent turbulence. Quite often, turbulence or a shake-up in our lives is just what we need to take the first step toward real change for our physical and mental well-being. It is possible and often vital to acknowledge the turbulence and do it anyway.

Use your edge

A few years ago I was standing in line waiting to order in a cafe and noticed an interesting quote scribbled along the front of the coffee machine.  The author was anonymous but it simply stated,

“If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room.”

To me, living on the edge has a negative connotation.   However, renowned Yoga Master and author Erich Schiffman, talks about ‘the edge’ in another way in relation to stretching in yoga. Schiffman explains that, “If you don’t go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for opening. Going too far, however, is an obvious violation of the body, increasing the possibility of both physical pain and injury. Somewhere between these two points is a degree of stretch that is in balance: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. You can experience this balance in every posture you do. This place in the stretch is called your edge.”

But what about applying that edge to other aspects of our daily life, where we tend to remain within a familiar but limited comfort zone by staying away from both our physical and mental edges? Schiffman suggests that staying within that zone would be fine, “Except that as aging occurs these limits close in considerably. Our bodies tighten, our range of movement decreases, and our strength and stamina diminish. By consciously bringing the body and mind to its various limits or edges and holding it there, gently nudging it toward more openness with awareness, the long, slow process of closing in begins to reverse itself. The range expands as the edges change.”

Legs Up the Wall

What is this legs up the wall you say?  

This yoga pose would have to be one of the most accessible to us all and can be achieved anywhere and anytime as long as there is a wall.

I could explain to you in writing how to do legs up the wall but it would much easier and less confusing for you all if you watch Adriene in action here as she demonstrates this pose perfectly.

Legs up the wall is an excellent restorative pose that improves circulation and is instantly restful for your legs, feet and lower back.  It is also such a wonderful pose to do just before you go to bed for a restful sleep or even during the night if you wake up and can’t back to sleep.

It is also perfect during the day if you are at work and need to take a breather – close the door and take just 10 minutes to regroup and reset before tackling the next part of your day.

Resting in this position will greatly improve the flexibility in your hamstrings and is a stealthy way of getting some meditation in your day too – you can’t go anywhere else at the same time and it puts you in the perfect mindset to do so.

What about you – are you willing to try or are you already a master of the legs up the wall?