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Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
Posted: January 11, 2012

It's midnight, and after reading the same paragraph for a third time, it becomes apparent that an extra boost of energy will be needed in order to complete the assignment.

This is the challenge that many students and business professionals face on a daily basis. Retailers line the shelves with countless brands of energy drinks, pills and candy that can often be tempting when eyes begin to glaze over during a late night work or study session. Although these sugar and caffeine-laced snacks may seem like a smart solution, it's best to avoid these products and reward your brain with healthier alternatives.

Chips, sodas and candy provide a quick burst of energy, but that vitality level is not sustainable. These items are composed of rapidly absorbing simple carbohydrates, which deliver glucose to the brain, but only generate a brief moment of alertness. These foods can also cause anxiety, frantic behavior and shorter attention spans, which ultimately stimulate the brain and generate activity, but don't necessarily result in increased productivity.

Although glucose is needed to stimulate the brain, the human body operates at a higher level when receiving a steady flow of glucose and slow absorbing complex carbohydrates. These slow absorbing carbs are abundant in foods such as apples, almonds, grapes, carrots, pretzels, whole grain cereals, celery and peanut butter.

To illustrate the concept of fast absorption versus slow absorption, imagine cooking a frozen piece of meat in a skillet with the temperature gauge turned as high as the stove permits. The meat would quickly change color and appear to be cooked on the outside, but the inside would still be frozen. That is exactly what happens when unhealthy snacks momentarily deceive the brain by delivering a surface level jolt of energy, but fail to provide the nourishment necessary for longer lasting stamina. Conversely, heating the food on a medium temperature setting for a longer period of time allows the meat to cook evenly due to a steady flow of moderate, but consistent, heat. Utilizing this same principle for energy levels, consuming healthier snacks allows the brain to focus and perform at its highest capacity for longer periods of time.

When evaluating the level of focus, concentration and mental stimulation required to study for the CPA Examination or work long hours during tax season, it's best to help your brain work smarter…not harder.

"Smart Study Snacks" Kelly Hammer 1/16/11
"Upgrading the College Diet" Camille Rogers 12/3/09

Other Suggested Reading

5 Foods That Will Make You Smarter

Brain Foods That Help You Concentrate