Fueling for Finals

Hi Bulls!

With finals just around the corner, I want to share some important tips to help you conquer them! When I think about fueling the body, the following things come to mind: honor your hunger, eat foods with staying power, and maintain hydration. Let’s break it down and talk about how each one aids in providing optimal energy and focus during finals.  

Honor Your Hunger

The first (and most important) tip I have for honoring your hunger is don’t skip breakfast! During an overnight fast, our bodies experience a form of food deprivation from the depletion of energy stores. So, when we wake up, they need replenished with breakfast. However, if we don’t eat (or only consume something like coffee) we will not be filled, often leading to over replenishment later. This happens because when we are overly hungry, our bodies don’t recognize hunger/fullness as easily, causing us to eat more food than we want or need. Not only will this cause you to feel uncomfortably full, but not honoring your hunger right away can also lead to difficulty concentrating, headache, light-headedness, irritability and more. If you are to the point of experiencing any of those signs, you are overly hungry. Honor your hunger before getting there, and generally, don’t go more than 4 hours without a meal or snack.

If you are not a breakfast person, I encourage you to dig deeper on why that may be. You might be someone who ignores hunger pangs or just drinks a morning coffee instead. Either way, it can be troublesome because you aren’t truly replenishing your energy stores and won’t be in your best functioning mindset for finals! A good place to start is with a small amount of something that sounds good in the morning. Some people love a warm muffin and others want eggs. What sounds good to you?

Eat Foods with Staying Power

Although there is nothing wrong with low-calories foods and beverages, they may not be the best choices to give you the substantial “staying power” you need to get through finals. Foods with staying power are those that are the bulk of a meal or snack, the ones to help satiate you. These foods include sources of fuel (complex carbohydrates and fat), as well as fiber and protein since they take longer to digest and help keep you full.   

To help create STRESS-FREE meals with staying power, I recommend meal preparation. And no, I don’t mean where you spend your entire Sunday making meals for the week. Although that’s fine, too! I take the stress out of meals by using a few minutes out of my day to think about what food I want to eat for the week. I usually do this prior to going to the grocery store. When I engage in meal preparation, I ask myself the following questions: What am I in the mood for this week? What do I have in the house? Are there foods I like? Are there staple foods with staying power? Are there nourishing and satisfying foods? From there, I write down a few meal and snack ideas and get what I don’t have from the grocery store. I also always try to keep staple foods with staying power on hand, and will often prep those ahead to make my life easier! Some of my staples include: eggs, nuts/nut butter, avocados, deli meat, bread/tortillas, sweet potatoes, and oats.

Meal preparation is an ideal way for me to ensure I have foods that both nourish and satisfy me. Not only that, but it takes the pressure off of thinking about what to make, which can lead to grabbing something I don’t want or skipping a meal altogether. If you struggle with this, see the “Fueling for Finals” handout provided at the bottom of the page.

Stay Hydrated

It is especially important to stay hydrated during finals, a time when optimal focus is vital. Typically during this time you would be out and about on campus, making it is a lot easier to stay hydrated. However, it may not be the first thing you think of when sitting at home. In addition, this is probably a time where you are consuming more caffeinated drinks. Although caffeine has positive health benefits, consuming excess amounts can also have some negatives. One of caffeine’s characteristics makes you urinate more frequently, which can lead to dehydration if fluids aren’t replaced. So, enjoy your favorite caffeinated drink, but just remember to replenish with water. If you need more energy, consider getting some rest or eat something with staying power! To learn more about caffeine, coffee, and tea, click here. Moreover, being aware of the early signs of dehydration is an important part in preventing it. Some of the most common signs include excessive thirst, fatigue, headache, and dark urine. For more information and tips on healthy hydration, click here!


Fueling your body properly is important always, but especially for optimal energy and focus during finals. Start by honoring your hunger with a breakfast full of staying power, a glass of water, and hot cup of Joe! To help alleviate stress with creating meals, I have provided a 2-page Fueling for Finals handout. On the first page, you will find a “MyPlate” graphic with general guidelines for creating meals with great variety and staying power. On the second page, you will find some of my favorite balanced meal ideas! Along with the handout are some at-home demo videos (see below). Each recipe can also be found on the Recipes page.

  • Chocolate Chip PB Overnight Oats – demo video
  • Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins – demo video
  • Breakfast Hash with Eggs – demo video
  • Tomato, Spinach, & Shrimp Pasta – demo video
    • Tomatoes are the May produce of the month. For nutrition information and more recipes featuring tomatoes, check out the Produce of the Month page and click on ‘May’!

If you would like extra support fueling for finals, please do not hesitate to reach out! I am available to all USF Dining meal plan holders.

– Sierra

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