Guru Kate: Brain in top efficiency, Nix the coffee

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Graphic by Corey Beaudrie

What’s a good alternative to coffee to wake you up?

Dear coffee connoisseur,

Caffeine and its magical powers have been known of since the first coffee berry was harvested, dried, roasted and ground into the slurry of a morning latte. But regardless of the pious worship the drink enjoys, it is not the only option to start the day.

For one, coffee can be highly acidic, habit forming and, with the wrong mix-ins, can be half a day’s worth of recommended caloric intake. Consider a morning trip to Starbucks. You wait in line for 15 minutes, drool at the small cooler of pastries; order a triple choco-latte chai tea with soymilk foam (and sprinkles) and fluffy-crumble-coffeecake.

But little did you know that you just walked out with 1,500 calories, and food products that will actually cause you to fall asleep, rather than to be alert. The high simple carb content in the pastries gives you a prompt sugar rush followed by the familiar crash.

Even if you only walk out with a straight Americano, you’re still not doing your body nutritional justice. Not only is there no sustainable energy in that coffee, but there are also no vitamins or minerals to help your everyday bodily functions.

There are plenty of foods that you can eat before leaving the house that will keep you awake, maintain your brain and keep you satiated without adding unnecessary calories.

Try a mix of ham, lean sausage, smoked salmon, tomatoes and eggs in the morning. If an omelette isn’t your thing, go for a series of fruits. The high fiber will keep you full, and the vitamins will contribute to overall well being.

In addition, eating a large breakfast will keep you from making bad snack decisions at school or work. Remember to eat at least every four hours to keep from gorging yourself on something unhealthy just because it’s easy and cool.

All the best,
Guru Kate


What role does diet play in being a good student?

Dear savory scholar,

The food that you eat is the fuel that your brain has to work with, and therefore your diet will affect how well it functions, especially under studying and exam stress. Here’s a morning-of-the-final diet guide:


  • Eggs any way – avoid adding too much salt or cheese
  • Orange juice
  • Fruit cup/vegetable platter
  • Whole grain toast – whole grains keep you fuller longer so you’re not thinking about food when you’re supposed to be thinking about what Iran was called 3,000 years ago or how to derive a complex equation.


  • Small cut of meat/fish
  • Salad with protein component (nuts or beans)
  • Water/juice/milk


  • If you have exam following the meal, make it similar to lunch
  • If after your exam (but expecting one the next day), eat what you crave, except:
  • Simple carbohydrates
  • Caffeinated anything (including chocolate)
  • Processed sugars

NEVER have these:

  • Coffee (caffeinated OR decaffeinated)
  • Cigarettes
  • Energy drinks

If you’re too stressed thinking about your exams to keep to this diet, just remember to eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grain bread. Keep your stomach full and your noggin working!

Remember to hydrate as well. Carry around a water bottle, sip fruit juice (preferably 100% juice, without added sugar) and tote around a to-go mug of caffeine free tea.

One last thing, never ever have energy drinks or coffee (caffeinated or decaffeinated). Even decaf still has significant amounts of caffeine, which acts on a stimulant on your already stimulated brain. Give it a break already!

All the best,
Guru Kate