We’ve all been there. Late at night, staring at a pile of books, with months – maybe years – worth of notes littering your desk and falling on the floor, covering your bed, your walls, and generally sapping your energy away. There’s the strong temptation to reach for a can of almost pure caffeine (with heaps of added sugar) and think that, whatever this may do to your body in the long term, it’ll focus your mind and you’ll hopefully achieve the almost impossible: revise, retain and regurgitate everything you’ve studied for in a single exam.
Below we suggest healthy alternatives to caffeine boosts. These benefits will help you not only for your studying, but will prepare you for a lifetime of healthy brain activity.
According to the NHS, these are the potential risks associated with energy drink consumption:
- caffeine overdose (which can lead to a number of symptoms, including palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions and, in some cases, even death)
- type 2 diabetes – as high consumption of caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity
- late miscarriages, low birthweight and stillbirths in pregnant women
- neurological and cardiovascular system effects in children and adolescents
- sensation-seeking behaviour
- use and dependence on other harmful substances
- poor dental health
- somewhat ironically, given their association with sportiness, obesity
Here are our healthy solutions to improving cognitive function without putting your health at risk:
- Juices and Smoothies – Dark green vegetables such as spinach, parsley and kale are a great source of B vitamins, this helps our body run at a peak metabolic rate. With the best source of energy coming from whole foods, you should combine your new high metabolism with a diet full of vitamins and nutrients to feel fuelled all day long.
- Green Tea – Although this contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee, it is much healthier by decreasing risk of heart disease and cancer. There’s also evidence that green tea helps improve mental clarity and performance, perfect for those hardcore revision sessions.
- Water – Dehydration is closely linked to fatigue. Make sure you drink plenty of fluid every day. Of course water is the best since it contains no sugar or calories.
- Tidy your room and especially your desk: A tidy desk is a tidy mind!
- Have a study plan – There’s nothing worse than realising the night before an exam that you’ve not opened a single book on the subject for weeks. Not only that, but you’ve partied so much that the lack of sleep is desperately clamping your eyes shut while panic sets in. Have a plan, get a calendar and allocate sufficient hours to studying for an exam or writing an essay.
- Turn off distractions – leave your phone to a side on vibrate, these technological wonders might enable us to access any information about any subject in the universe as well as keep in touch with anyone you’ve ever known and more, but they come with the price of being extremely distracting. Ignore it and focus on your studying.
Beau Scott from Cardiff Sports Nutrition says numerous studies have repeatedly shown that a good diet and regular exercise can have a positive impact on our productivity levels.
Actively striving to achieve or maintain a good level of health and fitness can benefit our efforts to study in a number of ways; a healthy diet that is rich in vitamin and minerals from a varied diet as well as high quality multi vitamins improve the body’s immune system – less illness means that productivity levels will not be decreased, giving you an advantage over other students who are spending time recovering from illness, particularly as the cold weather draws in.
Regular exercise leads to a greater expenditure of energy, and in order to meet these demands your body will increase your metabolism to make more energy freely available. Exercise enhances your body’s efficiency at using glucose and oxygen as energy both to the body, and more importantly, the brain to keep you concentrated and performing.
Take advantage of London’s many parks and gardens to go for a healthy jog to focus your mind before hitting the books for a super productive study session.
Enlist your flatmates
Make the most of your fellow students by helping each other revise. Everyone learns differently and sometimes sitting in front of your work for hours on end just won’t have any effect whatsoever. Make flashcards with your flatmates and test each other over the kitchen table – it’ll be a different study environment and might just be the trick to retaining those last nuggets of information.
So, instead of relying on sugary energy drinks, take these steps to wake yourself up instead!