End-of-Semester Energy


With the end of another semester creeping up it’s essential – and increasingly difficult – to stay awake and stay focused throughout the day. Whether it’s studying for a test, finishing homework, or finalizing a project, it’s hard to buckle down when passing from the Thanksgiving food-coma to Christmas freedom.

As some recent research shows, what we eat can keep us awake for these hard days as well as fight off weight gain from holiday binges. The key? Protein.

It’s been shown that choice of food affects activity of so-called ‘orexin’ neurons which secrete a stimulant in charge of wakefulness, and that inactivity of these cells can lead to narcolepsy and weight gain.

Specifically, glucose – an abundant carbohydrate – serves to depress orexin activity. This paired with the typical insulin response can lead to the sugar-crash that has rendered more than a single unsuspecting soul slumped over a table. Amino acids found in sources of protein like eggs promote orexin neuronal activity, which stimulates wakefulness and calorie burning. Furthermore, protein prevents glucose from suppressing orexin activity.

On a long day it’s important to eat appropriately. If you get a bagel, peanut butter beats jelly. A sugar-loaded mocha from Starbucks may taste good, but a coffee with milk will leave you caffeinated without the sugar crash.

By Chris Iversen