What to eat during the week of a competitive examination?
April 18, 2013 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I have a ranked examination in less than two months and I have to give everything I have. What kind of food should I eat at lunch so I don't crash sometime in the afternoon and at dinner for a good night sleep?
posted by lite to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Complex carbohydrates, protein and fat. Don't go for pure sugar; that'll make you crash.

Are you allowed to eat during the exam? Smaller, lighter meals are better for keeping you going, I've found.
posted by xingcat at 8:11 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, everyone is different. I'll tell you what works for me.

Watch your carbs through the next two months. No sugar or wheat, only brown rice, natural oats and legumes, etc. Lots of Veggies, fewer fruits.

Good meats like, chicken, fish, beef, lamb, pork. Lay off stuff with nitrates or salamis. Cream, yogurt, cheese etc in moderation.

Drink lots of water, green tea, etc. No soda (that stuff is just awful for you.)

I have one lovely cup of coffee every day. I sweeten mine with stevia.

I find that my brain works a lot better and I have lots of energy with no afternoon crashes. I sleep pretty darn great.

I do drink caffienated tea throughout the day, it doesn't bother me. YMMV.

I walk every day during the week for exercise. I use a treadmill, you can use a street if you like.

I have breakfast meat in the morning, a big salad with cheese and protein on it for lunch, and meat and a veg at dinner (I do extremely low carbs, you can add a side of rice and beans, or peas, or soba noodles.)

Chipotle has a great salad or bowl for lunch if you like fast food.
Wendy's also has good salads and chili.
McDonalds Salads (with grilled chicken) are okay (not great, but food.)

Hang in there!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:12 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I carb-crash hard in afternoons, and specifically plan my lunches to prevent this.

SNACKS: string cheese, trail mix (trader joe's ABC mix (almonds blueberry cranberry golden raisin) is my all time fave), greek yogurt, beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit (don't go crazy, because of the sugar, but a few pieces are fine for me)

WHOLE-MEAL SALADS: I like dressing a huge plate of salad greens, then topping it with warmed chicken and beans. Examples:

chicken + cannellini or great white northern beans + artichoke hearts + pesto or lemon dressing

chicken + black beans + queso fresco and/or lime-pickled red onions + salsa mixed with greek yogurt or sour cream as dressing

You can add a cup of soup if you're one of those "salad is not a meal" people, but avoid potatoes and pasta, and storebought tomato soup has a TON of sugar in it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Avoid added sugar and caffeine, and try to snack on healthy stuff throughout the day and have a light lunch. Distributing nutrition across many meals instead of trying to stick it all into three of them means your body can process this stuff at a much more regular rate, which will even your mood and keep you from crashing.

At night, don't eat highly acidic foods; avoid tomatoes, onions, pickles, etc. If you want to have that stuff for dinner, wait a few hours before going to sleep.
posted by griphus at 8:18 AM on April 18, 2013

Basically what others have said already: lots of protein; high-fat is way better than high-sugar; snack during the test if you can get away with it.

But also: the day of an important test is not the right time to make huge dietary changes. Getting sleepy during a test is bad, but it's way better than learning that a new food disagrees with you and having to run to the bathroom, you know? This is a time when you want to be treating your body in familiar and predictable ways rather than experimenting.

I guess what I'm saying is, you should probably resist the temptation to be a perfectionist about this. Any low-sugar high-protein food that you already find tasty and digestible will get the job done fine.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:22 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Save your day's main carbs for dinner, it'll help you get sleepy for bed.

This is a week-long thing? Pre-cook, as best you can, a day or two before: roast or poach some chicken breasts and thighs, make an egg casserole so you can heat-and-eat slices for breakfast. Make or buy a frozen lasagna for dinners, with salad.

If you do not routinely exercise, the best thing you can do for yourself starting today is walk every day 30-45 minutes. You can do it outside if the weather as amenable, or do it on a treadmill (and use that time to treat yourself to an enjoyable non-subject-related podcast, audiobook, or tv show), but do it at least 5 days a week.

Also get in the habit of staying hydrated now. You don't want to be pounding water on the day, if you can't pee very often, but if you are well-hydrated going in (and catch up each night) you'll sleep better and think better. There are sugar-free electrolyte drinks, but they have artificial sweeteners that can be very hard on your system under stress, so you're probably just as well off taking a potassium supplement daily instead.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:32 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd try to stick to a fairly routine schedule of times when you eat, and remember not to skip breakfast. I think I feel better when my body can sort of predict when the next meal is.
posted by mermily at 11:49 AM on April 18, 2013

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