Today we have a very special guest post by my friend Caitlin Weeks. Caitlin is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant in San Francisco. Caitlin and I started talking last year about how taking care of yourself can help you find academic success (and not just get you looking and feeling better) and I am excited that she will be doing a series for the Bar Exam Toolbox on how to make sure you physically and mentally ready for the bar exam.
Today’s post is on what to eat during the bar exam to fuel your body for bar exam success! Without further ado …
Optimal nutrition for bar exam success.
Do you ever eat a good breakfast, but by 10 am you are looking for a snack? Feeling hungry before lunch is common but that is the last thing you want to happen when taking the most important test of your life. On the day of the bar exam it is vital to plan your nutrition as carefully as you choose your exam answers.
The most important consideration for mental clarity and performance is blood sugar stability. When test takers eat the wrong foods throughout the day they are likely to have energy crashes and mood swings, which will affect their ability to focus.
It all starts with eating a good breakfast. But what should you be eating?
On exam day, start by eating a great breakfast that will stabilize your glucose levels for many hours. The only foods that have minimal impact on blood sugar are healthy fats and proteins. Carbohydrate laden meals will have the unintended consequence of creating a rise and subsequent crash several hours later. These fluctuations will send well-prepared students on a blood sugar roller coaster that will affect concentration. Feeling the need for a sugary sweets or mocha coffee drinks is the worst-case scenario during a long testing session.
Normal fasting blood sugar upon rising is about 80 mg/dl and two hours post-meal blood sugar should be 120 in healthy people. Between the range of 80-120 mg/dl is where we all feel and function optimally. Eating a hearty breakfast that is well formulated will keep your body humming along for many hours of mental agility.
Optimal bar exam day breakfast choices:
- Eggs cooked in butter with bacon
- Grass fed steak and organic eggs with butter
- Eggs, pancetta and sweet potato hash
- Broccoli Frittata
- Chicken sausages and sautéed onions and mushrooms
- Eggs Benedict, Canadian bacon over tomato slices
- Spinach scramble with cheddar and avocado
- Poached eggs, lox, red onions and capers
- Denver omelet (ham, green peppers and onions)
- Huevos rancheros (sans tortilla)
The breakfast choices I recommend will keep you on target for 4-5 hours so you can focus on one of the most important tasks of your life (passing the bar exam) instead of the next sugar fix.
What about lunch?
- Fish or chicken over salad with olive oil and lemon juice
- Bunless burger with avocado and bacon
- Cobb salad with eggs, bacon and avocado
- Burrito bowl without the chips/tortilla/rice
- Eggs salad with crudités
What if you are staying at a hotel and don’t have the benefit of a full kitchen?
Many people have the added challenge of staying in a hotel before the bar exam. If this is the case, planning ahead is a necessity. Call ahead and find out if there is a continental breakfast that has some protein options like eggs, and bacon/sausage. If possible, reserve a hotel with a kitchen, such as Residence Inn. If nothing else, there will probably be a mini fridge.
Make a trip to the grocery store the day before and stock up on cold cuts, cheese, boiled eggs (available at many stores), rotisserie chicken, bagged lettuce/spinach, avocados, unsweetened full fat Greek yogurt/ cottage cheese, salami, pancetta, sliced veggies, nuts, and seeds, and foil packs of tuna/salmon. Carry a lemon and travel size bottle of olive oil to make your own dressing. You can pack a small cooler to munch on these items for lunch as well.
Hold on a second, where are the healthy whole grains?!?
So called “slow carbs,” like bread and cereal, which we are conventionally taught have a low glycemic index will actually shoot you in the foot during test time. Two slices of whole grain toast will spike blood glucose levels higher than eating a teaspoon of pure table sugar. What goes up must come down, and in a few hours, that bowl of bran flakes or high fiber bread turns most people into hungry, cranky, and tired airheads.
Your plan for success.
Can you drag through the test on soda, candy and energy drinks? Most likely, yes. Will you feel much better during the exam if you have nutrient dense meals that keep blood sugar and concentration on track? Absolutely. It can seem overwhelming getting ready for the big day but planning your nutrition is a critical to success and should not be overlooked.
Caitlin Weeks, BA, NASM, NC, HLC. Caitlin is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant who specializes in working with women to improve health and vitality. Caitlin also uses her experience as personal trainer to create functional exercise programs. Her site www.grassfedgirl.com is a great resource for healthy recipes and optimal lifestyle information.
Thank you, Caitlin! Feeding your body is definitely an important part of bar exam success.
(And of course, you should consult a trained medical professional before making drastic nutritional changes).
If you have any additional questions for Caitlin, leave them in the comments. Stay tuned for more recommendations from Caitlin in the coming weeks.
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Image by Caitlin Weeks.