Drink yourself smarter – Study Tips #4
What you drink can be just as important as what you eat, how well you sleep and what you listen to for enhancing brain activity, so next time you go to the kitchen to make a brew, we want you to consider what effects the liquids you consume will be having on your work performance.
Many of us drink tea, coffee, orange juice or even a can of cola to get us going – and keep us going – thinking of them as ‘fuel’. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most effective way to perform at your peak. On the other hand, it’s not very realistic to say “don’t drink any of these before exams”, so here are a few interesting facts about beverages to keep you in the study zone.
Can drinking water make you smarter?
The answer is yes. It may not be deemed the most exciting one of the bunch but this liquid is easily the most beneficial for your cognitive functions – pretty obvious when you consider the brain is made up of 85% water. Water provides the brain with the electricity it needs to function – essential when studying for those demanding exams.
How much water should you drink each day?
Not drinking enough can drop concentration by as much as 13% and short term memory by around 7%. Your hydration levels could help you remember that one last answer – and the difference between passing and failing, perhaps?
The ideal amount is about 1.2 litres; roughly six 200ml glasses. Another rule of thumb is listening to your body – drink when you feel thirsty. Try to pace it throughout the day; so that when you have a full reserve of water, you will be more focused, experience greater clarity, increased creativity and be able to think faster.
What does dehydration cause?
It causes you to think slower and impairs brain function. Sugary drinks in particular are culprits for this through a series of chemical reactions in the body. When levels of circulating glucose drop, the initial sugar-high from a fizzy drink will turn into an energy crisis for your brain. The neurons in your body cannot store glucose like body cells can, so after an hour or two you’ll feel the need for another sugary boost.
Carbonated soft drinks also decrease the amount of pure water you can consume which leads to further dehydration. The same goes for fruit juice.
Tea and coffee and caffeine
Approximately 165 million cups of tea and about 70 million cups of coffee are consumed every day in the UK alone, so should you be one of the crowd? According to a study on newscientist.com, coffee can increase short-term memory. Subjects who were given 100 mg. of caffeine were found to perform better on a short-term memory and concentration test than those without. They also contain antioxidants which are good for general health (in moderation of course).
How much is too much?
Although low levels of caffeine can aid brain function, consuming too much may actually diminish memory by increasing nervousness and anxiety. The boost will also be short-lived and like many drugs, the more you take it, the less effect it will have. They are also diuretic and so you will need to consume more water to balance the amount of liquids displaced in your body.
Is Green Tea good for your brain?
Studies are still developing, but scientists have discovered green tea extract contains antioxidants that can improve the ability to learn as well as altering levels of brain enzymes to combat Alzheimer’s disease. Keep an eye on this very interesting, emerging research topic.
Our Study Tips series will explore how you can eat, drink, sleep, listen, exercise and study your way to exam success.