09/18/2013 03:01 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2013

Academic Fuel for Performance -- From Mushy-Brain to Einstein Syndrome

Imagine if students looked at food the way athletes do -- as fuel for performance.

There's a reason athletes eat for performance. It gets them to the finish line fast. Food for performance makes sense. Just consider why Wheaties' marketing campaign relies on having the strongest Olympic athletes on the cover of the box.

Usain Bolt doesn't eat a stick a butter before the gun goes off, lightning strikes and he sets a new world record. More than likely, he eats a banana an hour beforehand. Or perhaps he eats oats or Wheaties. He most certainly does not eat McDonald's the morning before the big race.

How did society learn that fuel for athletic performance is normal? The answer: a billion-gazillian marketing dollars and a generation of Wheaties boxes and sports-related media. And, of course, anyone who has ran a 5k or marathon has learned his own lessons on what to eat before the run. Sorry to bring up any bad memories for my runner readers.


It's natural for our digestive system to reject poor food choices for athletic performance. Just try to eat a stick of butter before your next race. I dare you. Please, of course, send in any pictures of your mistakes. They will make me laugh.

It's not very natural, however, for our brains to recognize poor food choices for academic performance. We just can't really feel the difference -- what I call mushy-brain syndrome. When everyone else eats poorly and everyone has mushy-brain, we have mushy-brain society. Which explains Veruca Salt...

Groups like Alliance for a Healthier Generation lead the movement on this and with great results to show for it. It's finally becoming normal to recognize that poor food choices lead to the current obesity epidemic and mushy-brain syndrome.

Here are three quick tips on eating for academic performance:

1. Eat every few hours

Try to eat a small meal like an apple and a table spoon of almond butter or ants on a log or a handful of raw almonds between meals. This keeps the academic engine topped off.

FYI: No making fun of me for eating ants on a log. It's awesome. Here's the recipe.

2. Eat as close to the ground as possible.

Instead of lying on your lunchroom floor, try to eat something that hasn't been so overly processed that great-grandma wouldn't be able to make it for Sunday brunch. Think fruits, nuts, seeds and veggies.

3. Drink high-quality H20

What's up with the coke addiction (pun intended)? People are crazy about their soda-pop. I once witnessed a high-level VP in corporate America down 10 cans of soda during a 10-hour shift (nine diet, one regular)!

Water hydrates the brain, keeps your body in an anti-inflammatory state and lubes your academic engine. And it puts Coca-cola out of business, which may be a great thing for human evolution.

These three food options keep your insulin from spiking and result in a steady stream of energy.

Be careful, though. Too much healthy food leads to Einstein-syndrome. You quickly become too smart for your britches and the next thing you know you are riding your bike in circles with your hair looking like you just got struck by lightning.

What do you think? What food do you eat that keeps you in your academic prime?

Subscribe to Must Reads.
The internet's best stories, and interviews with their authors.