Did you know that one simple trick to boosting your SAT score lies not in memorizing math equations or vocabulary, but in knowing the right foods to eat before the test? By eating right, you can ensure your brain has the energy to stay alert throughout the SAT, helping you perform at your highest potential. Any student preparing to take the SAT should carefully plan what they eat the night before, the morning of, and during the breaks built into the test. Here’s a guide to what the right foods look like.
The night before the test:
The night before you take the SAT, you want to give your body large stores of energy it can use as fuel for the next day. The best foods are protein and complex carbohydrates (grains like pasta, rice, and bread). You want to use the same logic as athletes who host large spaghetti dinners the night before a big meet. They’re storing up on carbohydrates to burn the next day, so that their bodies and their minds can work efficiently and with as much energy as possible. The night before a test, you should consume a full meal rich in some type of complex carbohydrate and in protein. Protein can come from many sources, such as meat, eggs, or legumes. Fish is especially powerful because it provides omega-3 fatty acids, which improve brain function. The fish highest in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel, and cod. After your protein and carbohydrate packed dinner, you want to get a good night’s rest. Your body needs time to process the energy in this food to use tomorrow, and you definitely don’t want to show up to your test drowsy!
The morning of the test:
The best thing you can do for yourself before taking the SAT is to eat a healthy breakfast. This will ensure that you arrive at your test alert and energized, and it will prevent you from getting distracted by hunger. The ideal breakfast is moderately sized and composed of whole grains, protein, and fruit. Again, you want to provide your body with complex carbohydrates (like oatmeal, cereal, or toast) to give you a source of consistent energy, but make sure not to eat too much of these! They require time to process, and often lead to a dip in energy for a while after you consume them. Good sources of protein are eggs or yogurt, and fruits will provide the simple sugars your brain can start using right away. Eating a moderately sized, balanced breakfast will jumpstart your brain without risk of drowsiness.
Also, make sure to drink water! A glass of water does more to wake up your brain than caffeine, and it has the added benefit of improving your concentration. If you normally drink tea or coffee in the mornings, it’s fine to do so before the test, but if not, the extra caffeine can shock your brain and may cause anxiety or jitters. It will provide energy but not concentration! Instead, go for an apple or a banana. Apples are high in fructose, which is proven to wake up the body better than caffeine, with the added benefit that you won’t suffer a crash in energy later. Bananas contain tryptophan, which is a chemical that helps calm nerves and reduce anxiety.
During the test:
There are three breaks built into the SAT, during which you may stretch and eat a snack. You should use these breaks to remember to drink water! Staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do at this moment to keep your brain active. In a high-stress testing environment, our bodies and minds are often so much “in the zone” that we can forget about thirst. Counter this by remembering to drink some water during each break no matter what. In terms of snacks, try to consume foods that will satisfy your hunger and are sources of instant, short-term energy. Now is not the time to fill up on carbohydrate-rich snacks like crackers or granola bars, as these could make you drowsy. Insted, opt for some nuts, which are high in protein and very filling, or fruits, which provide simple sugars your brain can use immediately.
Students spend countless hours studying for the SAT, but all this effort is wasted if you feel groggy and distracted while taking the test. By simply planning the correct foods to eat before and during the test, you can ensure you’re performing to the best of your ability. Knowing what to eat is a powerful tool to boost your score, and it should be an essential part of every student’s SAT study plan.