Food is the fuel for our body, so in the same way you wouldn’t put sand in your petrol tank if you want to extract peak performance from your engine, you should look at what you are putting in your body to ensure your best performance on the day of your driving test.
Good food and drink
Hydration is essential. Water is easy to absorb and will not cause you any stomach upsets. It staves off dehydration. When your body is mildly dehydrated (1-2% water loss) you will first experience thirst, then you will get one or more of the following: a headache, constipation, dry mouth, tiredness and it can impact your mood. Athletes can suffer a performance loss of up to 30%. The effects of driving dehydrated.
In a mild or temperate climate like most of New Zealand, the body loses between two and three litres of water a day. Some of this will be replaced from your food; the rest has to be provided with liquids.
Drinking too much water is not good as you may need to go to the toilet during your test and that will be distracting.
Foods that help the brain
Foods with essential fatty acids such as walnuts and fish will help your brain function effectively. Proteins will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Vegetables and fruit
There is good water content in fruit and vegetables plus fibre, vitamins and minerals. For example, apples can provide a welcome boost in energy and alertness, and carrots have plenty of vitamin A which helps with eyesight.
Bad food and drink
Lollies, soft drinks, chocolate and biscuits may give you an instant energy boost but it’s empty. Once all that sugar hits your bloodstream it sends your pancreas into a state of emergency, and it gets burned quickly leaving you feeling lethargic afterwards. Fruit is a better option if you want something sweet.
After a meal of fatty foods (especially one that has a large protein content, too), you will feel sleepy as your body tries to digest it. If you’ve had this for lunch and your test is in the afternoon you’ll also have to contend with the circadian rhythm which makes you feel drowsy mid-afternoon. Your reaction times won’t be as good and you could have a fogginess in your brain that makes it harder to recall facts. Dehydration will make this worse.
If you are driving in your test feeling you need to hold in your wind, that’s a distraction. And there’s the risk that if you let it out the driving instructor might feel compelled to end the test early! Try to avoid foods you know give you gas, and that includes foods that give you bloating or stomach pains because they will also distract you.
It’s a good idea to avoid foods that make you smell. You really don’t want to give your driving instructor any reasons to want to exit the car prematurely. In your culture it might be OK for you to eat lots of garlic or heavily spiced food, but if your examiner is not used to this, supervising you in your test will be an ordeal.
You should not drink any alcohol before your test. There is a zero tolerance for drivers under 20 years old when it comes to alcohol. Any intake of alcohol impairs your judgement. Alcohol and drug limits.
What we recommend
We don’t recommend changing your coffee, tea or soft drink habits on the day without testing it first. Withdrawing from those can cause you headaches and irritability.
If your test is in the morning make sure your breakfast is substantial and healthy and avoid the temptation to snack on sugary snacks in the morning. Natural muesli with fruit and yoghurt, or eggs on wholemeal toast work well. Drink enough fluids to combat the dehydration you will have suffered overnight.
If your test is in the afternoon, for lunch you can try a salad with salmon or tuna, or a rice meal (preferably brown rice) with vegetables and good quality protein.