What to Eat the Day of Your SAT or ACT.

What to Eat Before & During the Test?

A guide to which foods are the best to eat before you take your big test and why. 

By: Camryn Corbin, Senior Educational Studies Major at Rhodes College 


Whether you a breakfast hater or a breakfast lover, it’s extremely important to have a well-balanced meal before the test. 


Preparation for the test doesn’t end with studying. The ways you prepare mentally and physically have proven impacts on boosting your test performance. So eating breakfast before is just as important as the preparation spent studying months prior. The SAT and ACT can be about 3-4 hours long depending on the specific tests you’re taking, and your brain must have the proper nutrients to keep your energy and focus sustained. It’s imperative to eat a complete meal that will provide you with the right nutrients that will support your brain during such stimulation.


Now what you eat is dependent on the type of person you are and the type of routines you already have in place. There is no need to eat a huge feast beforehand if you rarely ever eat breakfast in the morning. Keep things similar to what you’re already used to. If you’re a nervous test taker and tend to experience an increase in anxiety when taking such high-stakes tests it best if you refrain from drinking coffee the morning before. Drinking coffee before will only elevate your heart rate and can limit your ability to focus in such controlled settings. However, if you drink coffee regularly, having a cup the day of the test would be beneficial as your body is already accustomed to the addition of caffeine in your daily routine. 


For the actual meal, foods enriched with carbohydrates and proteins are the best bet for optimal performance. Carbohydrates provide the brain sugar which is the main fuel it needs to properly function. Foods that are rich in protein increase mental clarity and concentration. Some foods that meet the mark on all three are: steel-cut oats/oatmeal, low-fat milk, eggs and eggs with toast, yogurt with fruit/nuts, and whole-grain cereal. 


It’s also helpful to have fortifying snacks to eat during the breaks. Some energizing snacks are trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, greek yogurt with berries, and carrot sticks with cream cheese or hummus. Trail mix with nuts is high in protein and the dried fruit contains natural sugars that make a great combination for snack time on the day of the test. The protein within greek yogurt is double that of regular yogurt plus greek yogurt has fewer sugars. Berries and other fruits are a great addition to the yogurt as their slow-burning sugars will keep the brain from crashing. Carrot sticks, or any veggie, with hummus, which is high in protein, is always a solid snack for maintaining energy. Be mindful that the break is brief, around 10 minutes, so all your snacks should be small. And refrain from drinking any extremely sugary or caffeinated drinks because they can also cause a crash during the test. 


So on the big day be sure to eat something that is fulfilling and prepare a snack the night before so you’ll be ready to go in the morning. If breakfast isn’t your thing or you find yourself in a rush that morning still try to grab a banana or some yogurt and take it on the go. Solely relying on iced coffee won’t keep your brain stimulated during the test. Remember that you’ll be taking the test for a while so it’s important to get a good meal in your system in the morning and have snacks packed, and with some healthy food in your system you will have the right fuel to have a focused mindset during the test. 


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