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# Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks

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Veritas Prep GMAT Instructor
Joined: 16 Oct 2010
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Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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06 Mar 2013, 21:09
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Most of us know that we should eat in the two breaks we get during GMAT to replenish our energy. An often asked question is the kind of snacks you should consume.
Check out this post by David which discusses this point: http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2013/03 ... at-scores/

Let me quote two important points he mentions in his article:

- Whether or not to consume caffeine varies from person to person, however, one thing that does not vary is that sugar before the test and during each break is an important part of your snack. Research reported in the New York Times indicated that making tough decisions (this is what the GMAT is all about!!!) leaves you depleted. The one thing that brings you back to life? A Sugary snack. 100 calories is enough but just make sure it is sugary!

- Please no experimenting with energy drinks! It is not energy drinks that you need – what you need (strangely enough) is sugar. In experiments done by psychologists (and reported in the New York Times) it is sugar that can take away the mental fatigue. About 20 minutes after having a sugary snack, participants were better able to make decisions again. So NO!!! to fake energy drinks that will just likely make you jittery. Now if coffee is your daily routine, then keep your normal routine, but if you do not drink coffee normally then do not do so on test day.

Here is the link to the NY Times article he quotes: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magaz ... d=all&_r=0
(A mighty long but fascinating read)

That's a silver lining to the GMAT exam - you get to break open your candies, cookies or cupcakes! (or you could go for the healthier fruit option - tangerines, cherries, grapes, mangoes, figs, bananas, pomegranates )
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Karishma
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GMAT Club Verbal Expert
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 09:23
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Expert's post
I always love your perspective on the GMAT, Karishma, but I have to respectfully disagree with your advice in this case.

Unfortunately, pure sugar is arguably the worst thing a test-taker can consume prior to a four-hour exam, simply because it causes a crash afterwards. Yes, your brain desperately needs sugars (usually in the form of glucose) to function, but to succeed on a four-hour exam, your brain needs a nice, steady supply of energy. Sugary snacks cause a quick spike in glucose and insulin levels... and then a very speedy crash.

(A fun cautionary tale: back when I taught high school, one of my students ate a massive bag of Skittles before his SAT exam. He confidently ripped through the first section... and then literally fell asleep during the middle of the second section. Oops.)

I can see how the New York Times article could cause a little bit of confusion, though. All of the experiments in the article mentioned glucose (a relatively pure form of simple sugar), but the article didn't fully explain that our bodies ultimately break all carbohydrates down into glucose. If you consume pure glucose (or fructose or dextrose or any other closely related simple sugar), minimal digestion is required, and the glucose will rapidly work its way through your body. You'll get a wonderful spike, then an inevitable crash. But if you consume balanced foods that contain a nice mix of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates, your body will slowly break them into glucose, and your brain will receive the steady supply of the energy it needs for a four-hour GMAT marathon.

The New York Times piece buried this little nugget deep in the article:

Quote:
A sugar-filled snack or drink will provide a quick improvement in self-control (that’s why it’s convenient to use in experiments), but it’s just a temporary solution. The problem is that what we identify as sugar doesn’t help as much over the course of the day as the steadier supply of glucose we would get from eating proteins and other more nutritious foods.

I hate to be the bad guy who discourages cupcake binges, but the sugary snacks are only useful if you need a very short-term glucose spike. The safer way to keep your brain consistently fueled is to eat foods that offer a nice mix of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates--a high-protein energy bar (such as Clif Builder bars or Think Thin bars or Balance bars) or a small sandwich on whole grain bread, for example. If you're familiar with the glycemic index (GI), then look for low GI foods for your breaks and pre-test meals.

Would it be possible to survive a GMAT exam on a diet of M&Ms and Jolly Ranchers? Sure--some people metabolize sugars more slowly than others, and some people will do just fine as long as they continue to inhale candy during their breaks. But for most of us, the best way to ensure a steady glucose supply to our brains is to avoid simple sugars, and eat balanced (and probably less appealing!) foods that contain a good mix of macronutrients.
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 11:54
An interesting dialogue so far between the two above members. We have an old thread on this topic that may (or may not) be helpful:

gmat-snacks-98462.html

Kudos [?]: 688 [0], given: 432

Director
Status: Gonna rock this time!!!
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 19:21
GMATNinja wrote:
I always love your perspective on the GMAT, Karishma, but I have to respectfully disagree with your advice in this case.

Unfortunately, pure sugar is arguably the worst thing a test-taker can consume prior to a four-hour exam, simply because it causes a crash afterwards. Yes, your brain desperately needs sugars (usually in the form of glucose) to function, but to succeed on a four-hour exam, your brain needs a nice, steady supply of energy. Sugary snacks cause a quick spike in glucose and insulin levels... and then a very speedy crash.

(A fun cautionary tale: back when I taught high school, one of my students ate a massive bag of Skittles before his SAT exam. He confidently ripped through the first section... and then literally fell asleep during the middle of the second section. Oops.)

I can see how the New York Times article could cause a little bit of confusion, though. All of the experiments in the article mentioned glucose (a relatively pure form of simple sugar), but the article didn't fully explain that our bodies ultimately break all carbohydrates down into glucose. If you consume pure glucose (or fructose or dextrose or any other closely related simple sugar), minimal digestion is required, and the glucose will rapidly work its way through your body. You'll get a wonderful spike, then an inevitable crash. But if you consume balanced foods that contain a nice mix of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates, your body will slowly break them into glucose, and your brain will receive the steady supply of the energy it needs for a four-hour GMAT marathon.

The New York Times piece buried this little nugget deep in the article:

Quote:
A sugar-filled snack or drink will provide a quick improvement in self-control (that’s why it’s convenient to use in experiments), but it’s just a temporary solution. The problem is that what we identify as sugar doesn’t help as much over the course of the day as the steadier supply of glucose we would get from eating proteins and other more nutritious foods.

I hate to be the bad guy who discourages cupcake binges, but the sugary snacks are only useful if you need a very short-term glucose spike. The safer way to keep your brain consistently fueled is to eat foods that offer a nice mix of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates--a high-protein energy bar (such as Clif Builder bars or Think Thin bars or Balance bars) or a small sandwich on whole grain bread, for example. If you're familiar with the glycemic index (GI), then look for low GI foods for your breaks and pre-test meals.

Would it be possible to survive a GMAT exam on a diet of M&Ms and Jolly Ranchers? Sure--some people metabolize sugars more slowly than others, and some people will do just fine as long as they continue to inhale candy during their breaks. But for most of us, the best way to ensure a steady glucose supply to our brains is to avoid simple sugars, and eat balanced (and probably less appealing!) foods that contain a good mix of macronutrients.

Hi Charles and Karishma,
Many people recommend banana. I had a banana and papaya and I was normal during the test except that I was unable to control my anxiety.

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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 19:50
I brought a gatorade, granola bar and a banana into the test (put in locker). I had half the gatorade, some banana and half the granola bar during first break- finished gatorade and granola bar during second break.

I definitely experience brain fatigue and I think the sugar helped! As for GMAT studying breaks - creamy gorgonzola and baguette was my fuel of choice.
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 20:08
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Expert's post
No Sachin, don't eat bananas! Bananas are known to cause terrible anxiety.

Just kidding. In all seriousness, I think bananas are fine, though I would probably add nuts to the mix so that you have a better balance of macronutrients. Granola bars aren't too bad--there are enough fats and complex carbohydrates in most granola bars to prevent a sugar crash, especially if you're eating during both of your breaks. Having some sugar in your snack is fine, but I think that it's dangerous to go for a snack that's ALL sugar, unless you have a bizarrely slow metabolism.

Gorgonzola and baguette sounds awesome, though. But I wonder: would the proctors object if you brought a particularly fragrant cheese into the test center? I would be very impressed by anybody who gets kicked out of a test because of a stinky cheese violation.
_________________

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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 20:48
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@GMATNinja: That's certainly interesting to know. Thank you for your contribution. Though I would like to clarify here that I am not advocating a sugary snack binge - just a small 100 calorie sugary snack. It could provide you with a spike in alertness but not lead to a sugar crash later. A healthy, light but satisfying meal with a 100 calorie sugar component would help start the test at full alertness. After the first break, a small sugar kick - I might add here that you could take it along with some complex food just in case your system absorbs sugars very quickly - could carry you for the next hour or so and soon it would be time to take a break again. At this time, another little sugary snack (with some complex food) could carry you for the rest of the 75 minutes. Does that sound reasonable?

At the end of the day, ensure that whatever strategy you plan to use on the test day, you should try it out a couple of times on practice tests. As GMATNinja said, our metabolisms are different. We need to figure out what works best for us.
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Karishma
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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07 Mar 2013, 23:28
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BM wrote:
An interesting dialogue so far between the two above members. We have an old thread on this topic that may (or may not) be helpful:

gmat-snacks-98462.html

Bananas, almonds (kirkland signature roasted and salted), snicker bars and trail mix.. Not the best snacks for the GMAT.. They are the best snacks period.
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks [#permalink]

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08 Mar 2013, 16:08
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Yes, that absolutely sounds reasonable, Karishma! As long as test-takers don't get the feeling that they should go on a crazy sugar binge, it's all good. A little bit of dessert with a pre-GMAT meal never really hurt anyone.

And I wholeheartedly agree that test day is a terrible time for an experiment. It's all about figuring out what works best for you, since we're all wired differently.

I'm going to go eat some almonds now. Thanks for making me hungry, MacFauz.
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Beginners' guides to GMAT verbal
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How to go from great (760) to incredible (780) on GMAT SC | That "-ing" Word Probably Isn't a Verb | That "-ed" Word Might Not Be a Verb, Either | No-BS Guide to GMAT Idioms | "Being" is not the enemy | WTF is "that" doing in my sentence?

Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and other articles & resources
All GMAT Ninja articles on GMAT Club | Using LSAT for GMAT CR & RC |7 reasons why your actual GMAT scores don't match your practice test scores | How to get 4 additional "fake" GMAT Prep tests for \$29.99... in any section order

"Next-level" GMAT pronouns | Uses of "that" on the GMAT | Parallelism and meaning | Simplifying GMAT verb tenses | Comparisons, part I |
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Re: Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks   [#permalink] 08 Mar 2013, 16:08
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# Ideal Snacks for the GMAT Breaks

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