With exam season coming up it seems fitting to talk to you about maintaining a healthy outlook on your diet and exercise routine and to realise that nutrition and revision really go hand in hand. I know firsthand how difficult it can be staying focused on being healthy while you’re consumed with work, and all you look forward to after revision is to sit down with some junk food. But it is honestly true that staying healthy and fit helps you out. With revising especially, you often feel like you’re not really accomplishing anything because you’re constantly drowning in textbooks but if you’re able to be productive outside of revision time you actually feel more motivated.
I know that if I can’t tick things off a list with revision then I can do it in other ways like making my morning juice, drinking my 8 glasses of water a day, and following an exercise programme. This seems silly but doing small things like this that help keep you on track can keep you focused on work because you feel productive and like you are making progress.
We all fall victim to the belief that we don’t have time during exam periods to stay active and healthy but it doesn’t take much more effort to make sure you stay on track, and with summer right after the exam period, you don’t want to do anything to lose that bikini body!
As for a morning juice or smoothie, I have a few suggestions:
- a fresh juice
- nourishing smoothie
Either of these in the morning is a perfect way to incorporate some fruit and veg into your diet, and it’s the perfect way to kick start your day of work.
Flaxseeds are a perfect source of omega-3, which can be an alternative to taking omega-3 tablets in the morning. You can also add them to your porridge instead.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fibre, and for me I like the crunch it adds to my smoothies! The fibre in chia seeds help to promote digestive health and, like flaxseeds, they also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for brain health.
My recommendation is that if you can incorporate these two into your diet each day (only 1 tbsp each needed) then it can help to improve brain function and allow you to concentrate for longer.
Breakfast time seems to be the ideal window where you can get as many nutrients into your meal as possible and be more disciplined with yourself, and since it’s the start of the fresh day you may feel more motivated at this point.
I know that some people just don’t want to eat in the morning and even a smoothie is too much. Well, fear not because I have a solution….fully focused coffee. Nutritional consultant and Pharmacist, Owen Bain advises this is beneficial in keeping your mind focused and, therefore, helping you to cope with revision. What you do is take a shot of coffee, add a teaspoon of coconut oil and a teaspoon of butter (I use lactose free but grass fed butter is recommended as a good fat. The butter stops you getting that high then crash from the caffeine) and whizz together either in a blender of Nutri Bullet. The result is a frothy coffee and tastes amazing.
It would be a huge waste of time to tell you to try not to snack much during those long days of revision, mainly because I know it seems like one of the most exciting parts of your day whilst you’re working!
It is actually much better on your digestive system to fit in two smaller snacks between the three main meals to keep your body fuelled and your digestive system active.
So here are some snack suggestions:
Hummus and veggies:
I like to use carrot or cucumber sticks to dip with hummus but there are other alternatives of course like celery or peppers.
Store-bought hummus is of course good, but if you do have time to make your own then I strongly recommend it. My favourite is this recipe:
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Juice of 2 lemons
100g of Udo's Choice Ultimate Oil Blend
Ground black pepper
Put all ingedients into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Serve with pitta bread, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks.
My advice is that if you can upgrade to healthier snack foods then this will make a huge difference, since snacking when working is pretty essential.
From my experience of trying all these different healthy energy bars I’ve found Nom bars to be my favourite by far. All they are made of is coconut oil (yes!), cacao nibs and oat bran, so it is a really simple recipe but one that keeps you going in between meals. The cacao nibs are really high in antioxidants (one bar has more than the equivalent amount of blueberries!) and they are a great source of theobromine, a natural stimulant that produces the same effect as caffeine.
There are of course alternative health bars such as Luna bars, Lara bars and Cliff bars, however my suggestion is to give these a try for a little pick-me-up!
This may seem like such an unhealthy option, but I have a recipe with only a few ingredients that makes this so healthy and fills you up.
1 banana (mashed up)
1 egg (beat)
1 scoop of protein powder (I use a chocolate-flavoured vegan one)
a splash of almond milk
This recipe will make two small pancakes, but it’s the perfect quantity for a snack and one to avoid over indulgence.
Add all the ingredients together in one bowl and mix together.
Then I add some Lucy Bee coconut oil to the pan and pour out two small pancakes, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side.
I would categorise lunch and dinner under the same heading as they shouldn’t really vary too much in terms of their quantity. Dinner is usually the opportunity to relax after a day of revision and eat as much as you can, but if you can limit yourself and try to ‘eat clean’ it will make you feel better in the morning. For me, I find that loading up on food at dinner makes me feel more tired the next day and less motivated.
It’s important to keep looking at food in your mind as fuelling your body, and not simply filling you up. This is so important during exam periods too, and overloading your digestive system with any processed foods is going to use up more energy and make you feel more tired for working.
If you can, aim to incorporate 2 or 3 vegetarian meals into your weekly dinner schedule to give your digestive system a break. One of my favourite recipes is stuffed mushrooms with lots of veggies on the side.
In this recipe you need:
Cut out the centre of the mushrooms to make room for your ingredients.
Add the chopped onion and garlic to the cut out mushroom.
Add Lucy Bee to help the mushrooms, onion and garlic cook faster.
Place the mushrooms into the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
While that is happening, steam some broccoli and any other veg you use.
Cut up the avocado and place on the plate.
Poach two eggs for 2 minutes.
Take out the baked mushrooms and place a poached egg in each one.
Add Himalayan salt and ground black pepper and the rest of your veggies.
This is a filling meal but one that will provide you with all the nutrients you need. Anything to relieve the work that your digestive system has to do is worth incorporating into your diet, since you will need all the energy you can get for the long hours of revising.
Obviously with all the sitting around revising, your body gets to feel a bit sluggish so I try to get in some exercise every day. It definitely helps to keep me motivated and more focused on my work. You’ll need to find what works for you in terms of when to exercise – I prefer after I get up and before I start to work but that may not be the case with everyone. The other thing is what exercise you do. I prefer going on the cross trainer and then doing some floor work (and it means I can catch up on some tv at the same time!) but you might prefer to go for a run, have a swim of power walk. My advice is to do whatever it is that you enjoy as you’ll feel better for it and will want to do it again tomorrow.
Exercise is ‘good stress’ and really is worth the effort – if for no other reason than thinking of that beach body again!
I don’t know about you but I definitely feel so much better after a workout – happier, more motivated and definitely more focused.
The most important thing to get from reading this is that being healthy and active can still be achieved with a heavy revision schedule, and it is such a confidence boost to be able to feel like you’re accomplishing things all the time, whether that be a workout or cooking a healthy dinner. What I hope you guys realise is that healthy eating during these times shouldn’t be seen as a burden and a chore, but something that actually helps you to stay focused and succeed in achieving your goals!
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Hi I’m Hannah, Lucy’s friend, and I run the Lucy Bee Twitter account alongside Lucy. I’ve been a long time lover of coconut oil and have seen how perfect it is to use in my cooking, particularly as someone who is lactose intolerant. If you have any questions, you can reach me on the Lucy Bee Twitter!